By Kyle Austin
John A. Byrne has made a lot of noise this year as Executive Editor of BusinessWeekand Editor-in-Chief of BusinessWeek.com. Most of which have been tied to its online efforts. BusinessWeek.com has made several initiatives this year to create more user engagement and interaction on the site. Earlier this year it launched “In Your Face,” which highlights the most poignant comments on the site and highlights the readers that posted them (even with a picture). Then it launched “Dialogue with Readers” which posted the back and forth conversations between BW editors and readers.
Finally in April, Byrne announced “What’s Your Story Idea,” an initiative that allows BW readers to propose story ideas to BWwriters and editors. Byrne and Shirley Brady, who he hired as community editor, personally review each story idea and respond to it. The ideas have spawned several feature stories for the magazine including a story on rising health care costs by Catherine Arnst and a story (actually 3 different ones) on state investment funds by Chris Palmeri.
Last week the initiative led to a reader shaping the cover story on oil (kind of). In a post on the initiatives’ blog, Byrne attributed the angle of the story to a reader named Penny. Although the story was already in the works by David Carey, Penny’s comments helped solidify the angle and the title:
“Now I have to concede that although John Carey’s excellent story is pretty much what Penny suggested, it was already in the works before one of our readers brought the idea to our attention. The working title for Carey’s report had been “The Virtues of Expensive Oil.” The final headline: “The Real Question About Oil: Should It Be Cheap?.” So this is a case, as the cliche goes, of “great minds thinking alike.” Proves to me the value and importance of our readers and how their ideas are as good or better than the ones we hatch in the office.”
So besides creating additional interaction between readers and writers, are the initiatives creating more traffic for advertisers to target? Byrne posted some interesting numbers on this in a post on July 24:
“In the first six months of this year, traffic to our reader comments is up an amazing 117%. Reader comments, meanwhile, are up a remarkable 79% in the same time frame.”
Compete.com sheds some more light on the success of the initiatives this year. Its stats for BusinessWeek.com note that unique visitor traffic for the year is up 108%, with 2.6 million unique visitors in June alone.
With this early success, look for more initiatives from BusinessWeek in the future that allows readers to shape future issues. In addition, other business publications like Forbes and Fortune will likely follow suit with their own online initiatives. These direct lines (through these new channels) to the editorial staffs of major business outlets is something that PR consultants must leverage, by working with their clients to propose bigger picture stories that they could potentially fit into.