Thursday, May 15, 2008

are you bold enough to let users take over?

No magazine is an island seems to be the feeling at Budget Travel magazine, which has just published an issue generated almost entirely by its readers, according to Folio magazine. Editors posted calls for ideas for specific articles and got 2,800 in-depth pitches from readers; eventually, more than 300 readers contributed and only one article was staff-generated. In a blog post, BT's editor-in-chief called the experiment "neither cheap nor easy," adding:
But the limitations also brought out our creativity. For 20 Tips, we normally have an illustrator illustrate a few of the tips; for this issue, we got readers’ kids to do the drawings. For the Budget Travel Upgrade, we tracked down our longest running subscriber—William Herndon of El Paso, Texas—and brought him to New York for a night at the opera. Instead of the standard service Q&A, we turned the tables: Readers answered our questions. Better yet, we took their advice (with photos to prove it).
In the Folio article, the editor notes, “In the it or hate it, an editor’s role will be to lead a conversation, not deliver a monologue.”BT offers a great case study for organizations and companies that do their own publishing: What can you usefully turn over to your customers, constituents, donors or readers? How can you do it in ways that expand interest and, perhaps, give you new information you couldn't otherwise collect from that audience? Can grant recipients write an application guide for a foundation, or customers help a product line brainstorm new uses that will bring in new buyers? Might longtime donors explain what earned their commitment? Can the recipients of your services talk or write about what they get from it? Capture that content and share it!

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