One of the things that I truly love about having my own blog is the opportunity to experiment. This site has become my own personal laboratory where I can try out new ideas. If I read of something and want to see what it can do, I try it. And if it works I keep it; if not I chuck it. I think it’s an approach that benefits my readers and can help to grow traffic.
As of today, for example, you’ll notice a “listen” button appearing on my blog (it’s above this post if you’re at my site). This is functionality that I’ve seen on sites like Jerusalem Post. Simply, it converts my blog posts to audio files that can either be heard through an embedded player or downloaded to an mp3 player or even added to an iTunes playlist. I know you’re thinking that it’s going to be one of those creepy, computerized voices, but give it a listen — not too bad, actually pretty good. This is thanks to technology from Odiogo and best of all, for bloggers, it’s free.
I’m using this example not just to highlight a new way to enjoy my own blog, but also to hopefully illustrate the importance of experimentation and innovation. Sadly, at many newspapers experimentation and innovation have been replaced with process and stagnation. And, I would argue, at those papers both the employees and the readers suffer.
Employees are more likely to find satisfaction and enjoyment in an environment in which experimentation and innovation are embraced and as a result, will generally perform at a higher level. Readers and visitors to your site will benefit from a better site, better content and/or better functionality and as a result traffic to your site will grow.
I understand, that a newspaper’s website is not like a personal blog. Not everything that is free for me to use on my site is free for a commercial site and that it is not as easy as deciding to add functionality and just doing it. But it shouldn’t be as hard as it currently is. I have colleagues at newspapers where they wait for months for permission to add a Digg or other social networking buttons or where changing positions of elements on the homepage requires a discussion by a committee.
As an industry, I think this really needs to change. We need to be more nimble, more aggressive; we need to be quicker to act and even quicker to react. We need to stop being afraid of new technologies and start embracing them. We need to trust our employees and give them the room to work. Success for us online, would not be a bad thing — it is likely the only way to save our industry.
So take some time and listen to some of my other posts thanks to Odiogo and think about how your paper, your site can better embrace experimentation and innovation.