BusinessWeek Online Banks On Reader Engagement; Adds Editor To Manage Efforts

This story was written by David Kaplan.
Most magazines have adopted some form of online community aspect by this point. But John Byrne, BusinessWeek Online editor-in-chief, feels most efforts haven't really gone beyond the introduction of reader comments on stories. Aside from making comments appear more prominently across the McGraw-Hill (NYSE: MHP) site's channel pages and stories, Byrne wants to elevate some of the most prolific commenters to the level of regular contributors like former GE CEO Jack Welch and CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo. Eventually, he told paidContent, some will be assigned opinion pieces to write"we'll pay them, just as we do any of our other columnists" and will also be brought into the editorial process, even helping to plan stories for the magazine. More about the plans in a blog post on BW's site.

To help coordinate reader-reporters into the mix, BW.com has just hired Shirley Brady for the new post of engagement editor. Brady recently wrapped up a seven-year run at now-defunct CableWorld, spending her last 16 months there as editor of Cable360.net. Brady, whose sister Diane is a BW vet, will oversee new sections such as Dialogue with Readers, which is intended as a forum for conversations between reporters and editors and readers. Byrne: "She will be involved in all key editorial decisions and is charged with thinking up other initiatives related to bringing the readers' voice to bear on our coverage." More about BW's engagement focus after the jump.

-- Talent pool: The moves follow other recent moves BW.com has taken, such as its recent partnership with LinkedIn, which allows the community's members to be updated when a company they're associated with is mentioned in a story. Byrne also plans a digital newsletter focusing on readers' journalism. Byrne: "We can do this because many of our readers are CEOs and business leaders, who are already at a prominent level. Our audience knows their subjects intimately. It makes sense to make that knowledge part of what we do."

-- The brand value of citizen-j: Aside from tapping the talent of outside experts, Byrne expects brands to find the prospect of readers' involvement an intriguing prospect as well. "This is about recognizing that citizen editors and citizen journalists have value. If you're reading something and you're thinking about what you've read, you're going to the trouble of sending in your thoughts, what's a more meaningful definition of engagement? "


By David Kaplan

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