What would you do?

The preamble

When I was at school, during the holidays I’d sometimes go and stay at friends’ houses. We’d get listen to music, play sports, get drunk, chase girls and for a lot of the time, watch TV.

One of my friends, James Biddle, had a dad who’d always keep us thinking. I remember one day we were watching an ODI and he came into the living room and sat down with us. After about five minutes he asked me “What would you do if you were captain?”

I was a little thrown but managed to come up with something about getting the bowler to put the ball in a certain spot and change some field placings. I got the feeling that Bidds got asked that question a lot.

Because the answer isn’t the point, the point is to always be thinking about how you would deal with a particular situation. In the same way as the salesman should always be closing, a worker in the knowledge based economy should always be thinking.

Cue Glengarry Glen Ross clip:

The Point

As a blogger, I often write about what’s happening, what I think about things and, sometimes, what I would do. I think that’s pretty much the same as most other bloggers you read.

But for the most part, nothing we talk about actually happens. It’s just more content for Google to index and sell search-based advertising against.

Anyway, now all social media commentators have the chance to shape the way one extremely esteemed offline publication’s online presence.

The Economist is bringing its Web site into the Web 2.0 space with “Project Redstripe”. The project team’s mission is to “develop truly innovative services online” – at least they’re starting big!

So, get over to their Web site and their blog and tell them how to run their business.

What would I do?

First off, I love The Economist. I don’t read it as much as I’d like, mainly because we don’t get it in the FH/iStudio office and partly because it’s expensive, but whenever I do, it’s funny, knowledgeable, insightful and slightly subversive.

There are clearly some incredibly smart people at the magazine but very few of the articles are bylined. In an era of transparency and of letting people all the way into your lives (ahem Twitter cough), that seems a little crazy.

So that’s the sea change that The Economist probably needs to undergo but what would this mean for you, the hopefully loyal reader?

Some tactics:

I want to read (when I can afford it) what these guys have to say, but I also want to hear their thoughts on the story. What interviews did they do that didn’t make the final cut? Danny Bradbury is great at doing this. What information did they find that was just mind blowing? What stories people are tracking?

Another thing I’d like to get is a view behind the curtain. The Economist was (last time I saw it explicitly mentioned in an article) pro the war in Iraq and pro legalisation of drugs. Why? Explaining the editorial policy would be great; drive engagement and all that great stuff us social media zealots spew at anyone who’ll listen.

All of this is based on the basic social media stuff – blogs and podcasts and maybe an insight into the del.icio.us pages the writers are using. Football365 just launched a new podcast (no permalinks so they have some work to do on it) that does pretty much all of the above; why not The Economist?

Comments would be a good thing too.

Mark Evans has been saying the newsroom is changing for a while, but the problem is that in this case, The Economist is not a newsroom. It already does the things Mark proposes: less news, more analysis, perspective and context.

So the question is how to change the game. Clearly The Economist’s prize asset is its content and how to sell advertising around it. The above ideas would all generate a huge amount of page views around the excellent product but what technical advance would revolutonise journalism?

Watch this space to find out what they would do, but use this space to let us know what you would do.

If I can indulge in some comment-whoring, I’d love to hear from my blogging journalist, and ex-journalist, friends Mathew and Mark

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