Monday, May 7, 2012


Monday, May 07, 2012

Online startups, or “digital-first” sites, are experimenting with a variety of ways to engage with their audiences. From feedback to reader-generated stories to events, it is often with the goal of “converting” an audience member into a contributor of time, expertise and funds.

This week we attended the launch of the latest issue of MAS Context, a smart, Chicago-based online publication founded by Spanish architect Iker Gil back in 2009. The new issue explores the concept of ownership from a variety of angles – from a photo essay on new model homes in suburban subdivisions throughout the world to mapping public versus private spaces in Manhattan to a young woman in Portland (where else?) who has documented every purchase she has made since 2006. Studio Gang Architects hosted the release party, with the goal of sparking discussion around ownership among Chicago’s design community and its potential if approached in new ways. Recent MacArthur-honoree Jeanne Gang presented their project included in the "Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream" exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art proposing creative solutions to a formidable situation: how to use design and rethink zoning to stimulate entrepreneurship and sustainable growth in Cicero, an inner-ring suburb of Chicago hard hit by loss of industry and the foreclosure crisis. Some 40 young designers networked, strolled through the studio, then enjoyed the presentation and Q&A that followed.

So what are best practices in engagement? Are there practical tools that practitioners should know about to measure audience involvement? How are the best sites staffing up to engage with readers? At the end of the month, the American University-based J-LAB will release a McCormick-funded survey of digital news sites and lessons learned. Watch this space for more…

–Mark Hallett, senior program officer

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