Conceding that layoffs have created gaps in its coverage and that younger people don’t necessarily like getting information from newspapers, The Cincinnati Enquirer is turning to local bloggers and various social networking sites on the Internet for help.
Top managers at The Enquirer recently approved a new “social media strategy” for the paper that involves making staffers break news regularly using Twitter, as well as promoting special sections using the micro-blogging service.
Also, Facebook will be used to a greater degree in an attempt to lure more people to The Enquirer’s main Web site, and newspaper managers will ask some longtime independent bloggers if they’d like to link their blogs to The Enquirer’s network in exchange for advertising help.
During the process, The Enquirer will winnow down its voluminous list of in-house blogs and jettison ones that are unpopular or rarely updated.
The strategy is the centerpiece in The Enquirer’s plan to reinvent itself for the Digital Age, and was outlined in a recent 25-page memo by Social Media Editor Mandy Jenkins that was distributed to all Enquirer and CiN Weekly editors.
“Some of you and your reporters have been buzzing about higher management's expectations for social media in the newsroom of late and I wanted to keep you in the loop,” Jenkins wrote. “The attached social media strategy was approved just this week and we will begin rolling it out as soon as possible.”
Most of the changes are supposed to be implemented by late April.
Among its goals, the plan includes gathering all of the newspaper’s existing social media properties onto a single page. Editors hope to create an “eye-catching and easily understood page” on Cincinnati.com that will include all Twitter accounts, its Facebook page and more. The page also will solicit public submissions to some extent.
Another goal involves getting reporters, bloggers and other editorial staff aligned to promote themselves and their work in social media networks and raise their public profiles.
“You are responsible for promoting your own brand,” the strategy states. “You are more than just a reporter for The Enquirer, you are a hub of information and a local expert in your field — now act like it.
“Engage with readers not only as a blogger/reporter, but as a fellow commenter,” it continues. “Do this on our site and other sites where your content can be found. Engage readers where they are.”
Additionally, staffers are urged to use social book-marking sites like Delicious “to collect info and spread your knowledge.”
Other goals include creating a social network for local bloggers using Ning or similar software, and creating a photo blog modeled after WindyCitizen.com.
More interestingly, The Enquirer wants to create another news site that doesn’t use the paper’s name, in an attempt to lure users who don’t like the newspaper. It would be modeled after ChicagoBreakingNews.com.
“Create a local blog/site without our branding for breaking Cincinnati news,” the strategy states. “Post news items as we hear about them from reporters, what we see on other news sites, blogs and more.
“We still get news traffic, but we can get it from those who find our site difficult to maneuver or those not inclined to reading The Enquirer at all,” the strategy adds.
And one staffer — Marianne Cafaro — will have the sole duty of luring more young professionals (YPs) to use The Enquirer and its Web sites.
Further, the newspaper wants to align itself with independent bloggers as part of its “blogger pull plan.”
“Feed in local blogs not only to supplement our content, but also to fill content holes (particularly in entertainment),” the strategy states. “Offer them links and prominent placement (in story spots, section fronts) in exchange for a partnership.”
The Enquirer lists several blogs it would contact including Who Dey Revolution, Red Reporter, VisuaLingual, ReverbNation, Each Note Secure, and the Cincinnati Blog.
It continues, “We don’t have the greatest relationship with the blogosphere, but we want it to change ... Float the content sharing plan: Let’s work together because, as they know, we don’t have the people we used to and they have something to offer. We need bloggers in certain areas in particular to start our trial. This may include an option for ad-sharing if they are interested.
“See if they have interest in displaying a public badge on their site (if so, we’ll have to create one),” the strategy states. “It shouldn’t be unexpected if they do not want to publicly align with us.”
If successful, The Enquirer would expand the effort.
“Build a Cincinnati blog clearinghouse that can list all local blogs,” the strategy states. “Open this up for user submission by the bloggers to get into this clearinghouse. Take a look at Cincy Beacon’s blogroll for ideas on presentation.
“Very long-term: Use these connections with local bloggers to seek out new bloggers to blog for us on needed topic areas (like the idea of creating a liberal blog for our Web site to counterpoint Bronson).”
There’s always a silver lining to any cloud.