Crowd-sourced commissioning: Community for publishers isn’t all about commenting

Long-form Science/tech journalism start-up Matter has been consulting subscribers over what to write about next.

I’ve been blogging quite a bit over the last few days about the communities on media websites, whether it is the closing of the BBC Archers message board, or the comment threads underneath articles at the Guardian. Building relationships with the audience isn’t always about given them the opportunity to post blobs of text however, and Matter have recently taken an interesting approach.

Matter is the science/tech journalism start-up founded by Bobbie Johnson and Jim Giles, who publish a slow but steady stream of long-form journalism about “the future”. They recently opened up a small consultation with subscribers as to which stories they should be commissioning next.

The survey was done using All Our Ideas, and simply presented subscribers with a couple of story idea options. They then expressed a preference for one over the other. There was also an option to freely submit additional ideas.

It was a very light-touch consultation, and the experience was beautifully optimised for mobile consumption. I got the email invitation and expressed a few preferences all on my phone in the space of a few moments.

There’s an interesting point about digital publishing pricing structures here too. At merely $0.99 monthly, I’m happily subscribed to Matter, but I’m one of those probably puzzling subscribers who has never read any of the pieces. In my head I’m happy to keep funding the site, and having a small say in their editorial direction, whilst having all the content theoretically on my “to read on holiday” list.

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