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Monday, January 28, 2008

Radio NZ gets it right, again

I posted the other day about Radio NZ adding news feeds on Twitter, which I think is a great move. There are quite a few US and UK news feeds available, but as far as I'm aware RNZ is the only New Zealand news organisation providing feeds to the Twitterati. So well done them.

But they deserve a mention for more than that. I noted a couple of kinks in the service and decided to email them my thoughts using the contact email they provide on the website. Their webmaster replied with a friendly, detailed email two days later (it was a weekend after all.) Spot on. Now there's someone who understands customer service and the value of community.

Community, like it or not, is the future. Digital citizens are not happy just looking at your news website and using your services in a static way. They want to be able to engage. To tell you what they think of your service, to make suggestions (which are sometimes very good), to talk to each other about news stories (and your service). If you don't give them the chance to engage, they'll give up on you eventually and go somewhere else. These ideas are well articulated in a couple of books I've read recently, if you're interested: The Cluetrain Manifesto and Wikinomics. The Wisdom of Crowds also comes highly recommended.

The kinks I mentioned in my previous post were that you seem to get the same stories repeated across the day, which gets a bit tiresome and clogs up your Twitterbox.

RNZ explained that the stories are only repeated when there has been an update, although the headline may not have been rewritten. They plan on improving the system to amend this, and another issue related to linking back to stories from Twitter, but there's a bit of work involved:

"The current publishing software was designed to meet our needs when we built the site 3 years ago. But the software interface between our newsroom system and the website CMS was written in-house (in Perl), so we can easily change the way it works to create a 'publish stories once' news feed. There are some other non-trivial changes we'd have to make within the CMS to accommodate this and also ensure that urls to updated stories remained the same over the life of a story."

Glad to know there's a will and a way. Other news organisations should take a leaf out of RNZ's book: engaging with your audience works. I had a quibble, RNZ made it possible for me to get in touch with them, I did, they explained the situation, I'm happy with the explanation and remain a happy customer. Simple, really.