Monday, December 11, 2006

innovate, innovate, innovate

While driving in to work today I caught a story on NPR by Jenny Lawton about an on-line company called Threadless. The interesting twist on the usual business story is that the company is essentially a community of people with a common interest who vote on and purchase t-shirt designs that people submit to the site. The company is able to track what people are interested in, listen to their consumers and follow what their customers want. Sound like a familiar wishlist mainstream media?

While this model does not necessarily directly translate to media web sites, the title of the story, 'Online T-Shirt Company Builds a Community and Business,' does convey an important lesson. Threadless is not only succeeding because they have an interesting business design and approach, they are also succeeding because they are nurturing a community that not only contributes to their product but interacts with their web site.

The passive, consuming model of newspapers, where the paper disseminates information, is eroding faster than many in our field would care to admit. Providing forums or on-line communities on squidoo, local blogs, or other means of interaction are all ways that current news organization can help nurture communities that not only consume their product, but influence it. Letting people inform organizations about interesting people or stories in their area, give feedback on stories, blogging about local issues, are all ways to pull people into community.

The bottom line is that newspapers, internet news organizations, TV, and radio need to innovate, experiment and not be afraid to try something new. Media companies should not be afraid to build a community of customers and provide their news in multiple formats for people to utilize. It is time for journalism to become more responsive, participatory and customer/consumer orientated.

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