Six lessons from a special series on Technically Philly: Exit Interview 2.28.11 0
by in Experiments

In January, we kicked off a series on technology news site Technically Philly that featured a weekly interview with an entrepreneur or community member who left Philadelphia. Next week we’ll run our last in regular weekly form.

Dubbed Exit Interview by Sean Blanda, I spearheaded the concept with design from Brian James Kirk. It was meant to be something of a non-scientific, public survey on the controversial and regular debate within the growing tech and startup scene in Philadelphia: are we driving our best and brightest away or is it common ebb and flow in a major city?

At its best, the series was an important piece of journalism in its role of making a community think critically about its identity and future. At its worst, it was called sensational and detrimental to a nascent scene by focusing on those leaving.

Whatever the case, we learned plenty in this experiment and those lessons can go for any content creator — news org or not.

Our six biggest lessons:

  1. A good series can be a good introduction — A new regular series with a related but different focus is a great way to bring in new readers. We were surprised to find high traffic, new outreach and unfamiliar faces reaching out about the Exit Interview series.
  2. Readers respect balance — After a few weeks of Exit Interview taking hold and dozens of comments (emails, phone calls, mentions, etc.) from readers, we partnered with two organizations on a balancing series called Entrance Exam, which interviewed those who came to Philly.
  3. Identify the difference between a series and a regular feature — A series can be a slight diversion and should be compact in its impact and conversation, while a feature is more of a slow burn that is integral to your mission or content goals.
  4. Give yourself three weeks for it to catch on — While well-trafficked throughout and despite a couple high profile ones to start, it wasn’t until after the third week that we found readers seemed to generally understand the concept and interact in larger ways.
  5. Engagement is a better vote on success than traffic — While all of the Exit Interviews did well in traffic, relative to other content, the three most popular, most compelling (in my opinion) and most timely in reader interest each had a dozen public comments, lots of social media and buzz privately.
  6. Hit ’em hard and then hide out — After discussing deployment, we ran a new Exit Interview every Tuesday, early in the week and regular enough to command attention. Despite hopes of collecting dozens of these interviews, as the conversations started to become redundant, we decided to halt regularly running the feature. We will likely run occasional follow ups when people with particular perspectives leave.
Christopher Wink is the cofounder of publishing consultancy firm Technically Media and its technology news network Technically Philly. Wink has reported for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Metro, Philadelphia CityPaper, and other publications. The journalist lives in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. He maintains a personal blog here and tweets from @christopherwink.

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