Lessons learned / Writing skills

Reader-generated content features.

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I have two minds while writing this post. Let’s start with the positive. Working on a magazine and talking to your readers who love it can be really fulfilling. Hearing all the ‘we LOVE your magazine’ and ‘it helps us loads!’ comments on either Facebook or by email always gives me that warm fuzzy feeling.

Those are the people you want to ask when you’re looking for reader-generated content for a feature. Because receiving real-life experiences that you feature and case studies will be relatable to your readers and well-received. It gives the feature more weight when mixed with both editorial and quotes.

In my case, a specialist magazine written for parents and teachers means that content from parents is almost vital to the publication and we don’t go one issue without it.

Sometimes they’re eager, other times it’s like you’ve asked them to donate a limb.

Rather than getting stories come to you (without readers realising they’re doing you a huge favour), you have to search for them yourself, send off cold emails, get few replies, and clutch at straws with that one person who has emailed back but seems really disinterested. Asking them to ‘give an overview of their event which sounded fantastic by the way’ and you get one word answers. Asking them to explain how they have found X to find they reply with ‘it was fine’. Or really wanting to talk to that one reader who has done something really amazing and finding they just won’t get back to you. You raised £20,000 at your last event? Fantastic. But after email, phone, Twitter, and Facebook and still no reply… it gets frustrating.

But in the end, journalists always pull through somehow because we know how much input from others really does enhance a feature. After all, those reading your magazine read it for a reason, because they fit into your target audience. Parents fundraising for their school desperate for new ideas will love the opportunity to read other school’s fundraising ideas and experience.

So I know it’s worth those one-worded emails back and forth to tease out some sort of story… So after my half-rant… nothing changes. Reader-generated content is needed in certain magazines, and for those comments who tell us how fabulous the magazine is, it’s worth it.

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