How The Christian Science Monitor is helping readers bridge the gap between content & action
Screengrab from The Christian Science Monitor’s “Take Action” website.
The Christian Science Monitor has a legacy of reporting not just on global problems, but on effective solutions.
It’s part of The Monitor’s mission, says social media coordinator Samantha Laine. It’s also what positioned the 107-year-old publication to launch a new effort — the Take Action initiative — that encourages readers to be part of the solution.
The initiative focuses on five global issues: environment, education, conflict resolution, disaster relief, and human trafficking. After clicking on those one of those topics from the Take Action landing page, readers are directed to four types of content:
- Articles for learning more about the issue
- Prompts for starting conversations (online or off)
- Links to organizations addressing the issue
- Contact information for U.S. Congress members
These pages also can be found by clicking on “Take Action” buttons on relevant articles across The Monitor’s website.
“I think there’s a huge need to really highlight the good and the progress that’s happening around the world. Take Action takes that a step further,” Laine told ivoh. “It’s basically inviting people into that story of progress and hope.”
Take Action launched last September, and it’s still in an early stage, said chief strategy and marketing officer Susan Hackney.
There have been wrinkles to smooth out. For instance, until recently, Monitor articles that related to the five topics didn’t link to Take Action pages within the text.
But even as the kinks are worked out, interest is evident. Take Action has received more than 25,000 visitors since last fall, according to Hackney. Many visitors arrived at the page directly from the main navigation bar.
The initiative grew out of an audience study in which The Monitor’s readers expressed a desire for the kind of information Take Action provides.
“One of the things we found about our audience is that they cared about progress, ways that the human condition could be changed, having an impact, and they cared about news that might help them in ways that they might take action,” Hackney said.
After that audience study, a team formed to develop something that would tap into those qualities. The team brainstormed topics that had well-documented problems as well as interest from both sides of the aisle. Since no new staffers were added for the project, the team also concentrated on areas where The Monitor’s existing reporting was strong, such as the environment. That topic has received the most traffic of the five Take Action issues, according to Hackney.
“We’ve definitely identified the right goals to be focusing on and recognized that there’s interest,” she said. “We have enough data to keep working on it. We don’t have the right data yet to say what’s the most important thing to put more resources behind to make this go to the next level.”
The next level means getting Take Action in front of more people, but for Laine it means something additional: audience interaction.
The Monitor has tried hosting Facebook chats related to events on Take Action topics, and found mixed results. Assessing those results is part of the current research and brainstorming phase for the staff members involved with Take Action.
“If you’re not genuinely reaching people or hitting that heart string,” Laine said, “there’s not going to be engagement.”
Her interest in moving others to think about their role in the world precedes her work at The Monitor. As an arts and entertainment reporter for Boston.com, her last interview question was always, “Why does this matter?”
People were usually surprised, she said, “But ultimately, it forced them to pause and think, ‘Why am I doing what I’m doing?’ and ‘How does it serve the people around me?’” Putting those same questions to the audience was an easy jump. “I’ve always seen a need for that in the news,” Laine said.
Hackney sees that need, too.
“I feel like it’s the right time. It feels like there’s this desire by people to not just be passive readers of the news. When they hear something important, not to just read it and move on with their lives,” she said. “If they can learn even a little more about the issue, or see a place where they can actually go, it’s more positive than not.”
Related stories: “Audience Engagement: Moving Beyond the ‘Like’ Button,” by ivoh trustee Michael Skoler | “How Ideal Impact is bridging the gap between journalism and social good,” by ivoh freelancer Mike Wallberg