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Thursday, February 21, 2008

FastCompany puts the community into journalism

The beatbloggers talked to Ed Sussman at about how they went about developing a robust community on their site (using Drupal). FastCompany is a business magazine that looks at innovation, technology, management, leadership, social responsibility and worklife balance.

FastCompany members have the opportunity to blog on the site, ask questions, answer questions, suggest questions and suggest stories, as well as more usual elements such as voting in polls and commenting on stories.

Unusually, their contributions appear on the homepage alongside stories and blogs written by journalists and experts. I've never seen journalism and community so closely entwined before.

The interview is an interesting read with some good advice in it. The piece opens with this quote:

"When editors are going to assign a story we typically think about different elements that go into it; who is the writer, who is the photographer, do we want a video or a podcast or any kind of poll? Now we ask an additional question: what is the community aspect?"
On how journalists' job change:
"For some it doesn't change at all, for others it changes a lot. There are some people who are long-form feature writers, who will remain long form feature writers. They are not going to be moderating groups, but they will probably answer a lot of questions and messages about the stories they write and engage in more personal conversations.
"Some of our journalists, like Charles Fishman, write six or seven features a year and turn out a book every year and a half. Thats still what he is going to do - but he will engage with our audience in a much more direct way.
"Other people have totally new jobs: The senior editor at the website became senior editor / community director. She is in there answering as many questions as she can that need to be answered. She is working full time with the community."
On members microblogging:
"I call it a microblog because it's not just an answer to a question, you can click on their profile and anything they answer whether it's a question or a comment or a blog post. If all they do is answer a couple 'fast talk' questions a month, in essence, they are blogging in a guided way, answering questions which our journalists are posing to the community.
"In fact, you can subscribe to their feed externally or internally, so you can follow all the content on our site. There are people already who are answering every single question and they seem to like that a lot more than blogging. I also like the fact that our editors are in there mixing it up with them."