Self-definition and recognition
Studies done by Pew Research Centre in 2010 showed that people’s relationship to news is becoming more portable, personalized, and participatory, with 37% of internet users saying they have contributed to the creation of news. (If the study were done today, I expect that number would be even higher.)
Why is that? Why do people want to participate in the news? According to a more recent study by The New York Times there are five key drivers to sharing and contributing to news: altruism, empathy, connectedness, evangelism and self-definition.
And although I thought the NYT October 2015 strategy memo, Our Path Forward, demonstrated, a misunderstanding about today’s mobile audience and their needs, a lack of vision in terms of borderless content reach (Seriously, a target of only 2 million digital subscribers in 5 years?) and a blind faith in the omnipotence of The Times as a brand, I applaud the publisher’s appreciation of readers’ comments on their digital properties where NYT can reap the rewards of an engaged community of participatory readers.
But how is self-definition related to self-esteem and recognition from others?
Neel Burton, M.D., a psychiatrist and author of a dozen books defines self-esteem as “our cognitive and, above all, emotional appraisal of our own worth – a matrix through which we think, feel, and act, and reflects and determines our relation to ourselves, to others, and to the world.”
When I read this, I was reminded of my interview last year with Duncan Stewart, the Director of Technology, Media and Telecommunications Research for Deloitte Canada. Stewart shared that young people carry printed books because they make them feel smart, “When I am carrying a printed book I convey a certain image of myself to others; people know what I’m reading, what my tastes are and the kind of person I am.”
In NYT best-selling author, Maria Konnikova’s article, The Psychology of Online Comments, she talks about the debate around denying people the right to comment on articles, “Removing comments affects the reading experience itself: it may take away the motivation to engage with a topic more deeply, and to share it with a wider group of readers. In a phenomenon known as shared reality, our experience of something is affected by whether or not we will share it socially. Take away comments entirely, and you take away some of that shared reality, which is why we often want to share or comment in the first place. We want to believe that others will read and react to our ideas.”
Self-esteem and selfdefinition go hand-in-hand, because today it’s all about ME!
It’s not often that I recommend other publishers follow in the footsteps of NYT (for reasons stated earlier), but in this case, I’m making an exception. Open your arms and articles to your readers with an intelligent commenting system. Then watch your bounce rate drop and ad revenues rise as readers’ ability to define themselves to others elevates their self-esteem.