Numbers don't lie, so there's no denying the rapid decline of readership among newspapers large and small. Traditional Media, the newspaper business in particular, has been bringing a knife to a New Media gunfight for years now. Every major U.S. paper, save for USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, lost at least a quart of blood when a six-month circulation report was released last week (New York Times article here). Smaller papers have fared even worse, with some deciding to completely shutter their print editions. The Kentucky Post, for example, ended 126 years of ink on January 1st with the launch of KYPost.com, offering user generated content, citizen journalism and a variety of local-focused news from professional journalists and wire services.
Traditional Media is in a sprint to upgrade and integrate the online with the offline, the Brick with the Click, to capture the attention of consumers as they migrate to an ever expanding menu of choices. Newspapers and Radio stations and their TV counterparts are launching blogs, podcasts, video streaming and all sorts of new media offerings in a frantic effort to be relevant. And if I could offer one suggestion, for all of them, it would be this: Embrace the Suggestion Box.
No, not the wooden or acrylic box that still spends a lonely life on the counter of small businesses across the nation, waiting for someone to fill out and drop in a post card sized piece of paper with thoughts about the good, bad or ugly that just occurred. And no, not a typical e-mail link on a website contact page that lets you send your thoughts into the abyss, never knowing if anyone read them, or gives a hoot. No, I'm talking about an online Suggestion Box, a new product from SuggestionBox.com, a creative startup based in San Diego (profiled recently on Techcrunch).
Stick with me on this, because what I'm proposing goes far beyond the simple idea of people submitting simple ideas. SuggestionBox.com is obviously aimed at businesses ... at really any organization on the planet, from local government to barber shops to restaurants to schools to hotels to non profits to you name it. But ideas have the potential to be interesting and compelling news and content, the kind that is especially interesting to radio station listeners and newspaper readers, since it orginates from them, and offers them a chance to showcase their creative genius and potentially disruptive ideas.
Imagine if a radio station decides to integrate a SuggestionBox.com Suggestion Box on its website. It can be done quickly and inexpensively (about $50 per month, unlimited suggestions). Doesn't require software integration or major IT work. Just a simple widget dropped on the website that enables and channels ideas to your hosted Box.
The Radio station can chat it up on the air, inviting listeners to take part in a new creative community of 'problem solvers and idea people'. You can ask for ideas to make the radio station better. You can ask for ideas to make the community better. You can hold a contest for best Green Ideas. You can reward 'best idea of the week'. You can do humorous things. You can position your station as the 'community idea hub', where great ideas are collected, voted on, improved, and implemented. When people submit an idea, they become part of your SuggestionBox community, and since the whole process is transparent, they can track the progress of their suggestions and see what others think. Businesses will love this as well. They'll want their own SuggestionBoxes, and an idea ecosystem will emerge, with the Radio Station at its center. Web traffic will surge, as will ideas to the station, its advertisers, and the community.
Whether a radio station website or a newspaper website, ideas submitted to their SuggestionBoxes have the potential to become news content to be promoted and celebrated. All of a sudden, you're not just regurgitating the same boring news that every other media outlet is spewing. And by unleashing a consumer idea river, you'll likely see a jump in other user generated content (citizen journalism, blogs, pictures, video).
SuggestionBox.com is a great choice, for one, because it has such a great brand. It is exactly what it says it is, it's instantly recognizeable, and from what I can tell so far from my own experience (I've dropped several suggestions in), it's simple and intuitive to use. It can be used by organizations large and small, and it's affordable. Yes, you'll have to manage the ideas, so it takes people power on both ends to make this work.
So for the community newspaper that's struggling, what better way to ignite passion with your readers than to get their ideas flowing. The Radio station that's trying to drive web traffic and create community offline in addition to on-air. You have an opportunity to embrace Open Innovation with a cutting edge SuggestionBox.com Box, stoking a vibrant, transparent, interconnected conversation with consumers that could open up countless ideas and possibilities. It's an affordable and intelligent way to jump in the Web 2.0 water. What are you waiting for ... the competition to do it first?