Using Community Feelings to Surface Content

Content rich sites are limited in their ability to show the breadth and depth of their offering. Digital newspapers, like WSJ.com and NYTimes.com, are always rotating the stories on their home pages to lead users deeper. It’s a matter of figuring out what breaking news will be of the greatest interest to their audience.

That last line is important. Exposing content is generally an editorial decision. That is changing, however, as news sites begin to seek ways of displaying what people are most viewing or emailing. We are rapidly moving towards balanced exposure of amateur and professional interests. One way of distinguishing between professional and amateur has been found by the NBC affiliate in Washington D.C.

The NBC Washington station has done an excellent job of using social commentary to surface articles to its home page that may or may not be the same choices as the editorial staff. Like other media outlets, they are interested in what people are reading most. But they go beyond that simple metrix to mine and surface how their readers are feeling about a news piece.

Its ingenious. Next to every article, you can rate how you feel about the subject matter. Your rating is tallied and the percentage for each feeling category is displayed right next to the article. You read the pulse of the community in real-time. No need to call your neighbor to poll them on how they feel. You already know how your community is reacting.

Also, these feeling ratings are a fantastic marketing tool to generate interest in the article. It’s a crazy, smart feature that I will definitely copy for a future project. I love it!

1. Here’s the home page. Notice the first sentence under the site’s identity. They used a script font to distinguish it from the rest of the content throughout the site. Script suggests hand written = people powered… nice design decision.

Note the copy below the header… “Locals are laughing…” It’s a hot link to the news article.

NBC Washington Home Page

2. At the news article, you now see all prior readers’ feelings. Note that you can do this without logging in… no membership required, just anonymous polling.

News Article

3. The polling tool shows the current sentiment before you indicate yours. It encourages participation. Once you make your choice, immediate feedback is provided and you “feel” your voice has been recorded.

The Emotion Poll Tool

Make your feelings known!My selection is registered without a page refresh. It shows what I voted for, and encourages me to share it. Brilliant.

Imagine this same concept being used for policy oriented issues that are digitally distributed in the form of news articles, PR releases, videos, white papers, etc. Immediate feedback in an easy to use format. Get ready for the new democracy!!

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