Here’s an idea: Use one of the web’s more superficial trends — the selfie — to drive a deeper level of user engagement with a news website.
The gist: With a simple click of a phone from an arm’s length away, readers can insert themselves in the story, and with some organizing and encouraging, can potentially become loyal participants in a local online news community.
Five ideas on how selfies can be worked into news coverage:
1. Political News:
— Clay Aiken (@ClayForNC) April 26, 2014
Selfies have fundamentally changed the way politicians interact on the campaign trail.
As The Washington Post points out, candidates must field multiple selfie requests, prompting at least one candidate, former American Idol star Clay Aiken, running for Congress in North Carolina’s second district, to offer to take them himself to save time.
Consider tracking a candidate’s selfies and placing those on an interactive map to illustrate a candidate’s campaign trail. Cover when politicians agree to a selfie (and when they decline) or chart which campaign events generated the most selfies. Another idea: Ask readers to provide hashtags on candidate selfies (#aikenselfie perhaps?) to help you better track them.
Take a look: See how the Business Insider has followed political selfie trends.
Looking for audience engagement? Have followers send a selfie from a newsworthy event with a promise that the best submissions would be featured in the newspaper or website. Encourage followers to use a hashtag when they post to Instagram or Twitter so reporters can track the selfies.
Take a look: See how the Daily Post runs a weekly selfie contest.
3. Sports Events:
Fans are no longer focused on snapping a picture of their favorite player at sports games. Instead, it is all about capturing yourself in the stands. Reporters could capitalize on sports game selfies by running a collection of fan selfies on their news outlet’s Pinterest page.
Then a news outlet could use fan photos to tell an ongoing news story about what goes on in the stands during sporting events.
Take a look: See, for inspiration, how Yahoo! Sports “Trend Tracking” story of the day highlighted how Minnesota Gophers fans set their sights on taking their own selfies, instead of capturing Austin Hollins’ game-changing dunk.
4. Entertainment News:
[Above, an Instagram photo that recently ran in the The Daily Mail, of British singer Lily Allen with Kanye West at this spring’s Met Gala at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.]
News outlets could consider gathering multiple selfies in their coverage of a museum gala, a theater opening, or a charity event.
Whether the selfies are collected at the event, or solicited from the attendees, reporters could create intriguing records of the communities of people who come together on social and cultural occasions.
Take a look: See the collection of celebrity selfies the Daily Mail collected from the Met Gala event.
5. Graduations and Other Life-Changing Events:
[Above, a photo from Cleveland.com’s coverage of selfies from a recent graduation ceremony at Kent State University.]
Recently a number of schools have banned selfies as students walk across the podium to get their diplomas. But what about soliciting selfies of the local graduating class of high school students, or the players on the winning soccer team, or the leads in the local theater group? What about collecting selfies taken by wedding parties?
Reporters could create captivating records of the emotions local community members experience during major life changing events by running a collection of selfies taken at these events on their news outlet’s web page at the end of each month.
Take a look: See how cleveland.com is running an ongoing feed of graduation selfies submitted by its followers this year.