There’s a lot of interesting experimentation going on in this story as various news sites try different ways to keep readers engaged and interested longer editorial features. But the one that sparks my imagination the most is the one from The Washington Post, which teased a story in advance of publication and asked readers to sign up to be alerted by email when the story was live.
An approach like this solves, at least partially, one of the biggest problems that have emerged as we shifted away from first direct site visits and then consumption via RSS, whether through a reader or something that masked the technology like MyYahoo. Namely, the fact that we’re dependent in a social discovery paradigm on happenstance. If we aren’t looking at Twitter we’ll miss the story. If enough people don’t share it on Facebook, we’ll miss the story. And it may be something we’re going to be super-interested in.
But with this “Coming Soon” approach where people take the positive action that yes, they’d like to read this when it’s published, the issue of awareness is minimized. A list of what’s coming down the pike in the near future can be promoted via social, sure, but also via an existing email list, making people aware that X story is coming soon and asking them to sign up for it. Then when it’s published they’re again alerted via email.
This is behavior that people are already trained to engage in. We sign up for beta access to social networks and apps, we get alerts when new features are added to products we’re using and so on. And we *like* being teased before release. It works on the audience. If it didn’t, movie studios wouldn’t be increasing their usage of 15-second teasers announcing a full theatrical trailer is coming a week before it’s released.
There is, of course, the potential for these alerts to become smarter over time. If I keep signing up for alerts about stories dealing with movie marketing, Cubs baseball or other topics I’m interested in then the system managing these alerts can make sure I get anything related to those going forward. But that needs to be in addition to stories that I *should* know about like those covering politics, environmental issues and so on. Basically, it can’t get so smart in anticipating what I’m likely to ready that it stops sending me stories that I need to read based on an editorial judgement.
However this is implemented I think there’s a lot of upside in the reminder era of media. With everyone’s attention more scattered every day it’s more important than ever to be prodded about something we may be interested in or didn’t have time to finish.