Creating social games is one way news organizations can reach young people and engage them in reading news.
A team at the University of Missouri created a social game last fall that featured challenges centered around the football team’s first season in the Southeastern Conference. A news feed with sports stories was posted on the right hand side of the site — the goal was catch the participants’ eyes with headlines as they completed the challenges.
The team learned quite a bit about creating social game sites through the process. They faced some hurdles — the biggest being how to market the game and attract potential players. Look for tips on how to market and create game sites, on the right hand side of this page.
Reaching the younger demographic
Young people fit into a group of news consumers called “news encounterers,” — those who find news incidentally while surfing the Internet for different reasons, said Borchuluun Yadamsuren, post doctoral fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Yadamsuren is researching news consumption habits.
If the younger demographic isn’t already reading the print product or website, it doesn’t make sense to market the game there.
Place news articles or links to articles to create incidental exposure on sites such as Facebook or social gaming sites where young people spend much of their time. Social media sites are also a good place to market new games. Market the game to college/young adult groups and organizations.
It’s crucial to reach the younger generation since they’re the future news consumers, said Yadamsuren.
“In order to face crises in media, news organizations need to expand their horizons to engage other groups of potential readers and consumers and not just focus on their loyal readership,” said Yadamsuren.
Tips for news organizations
News organizations can use this game platform to create games of various topics like fitness/exercise, the environment, sports, elections or other topics. By engaging young people in news through social game sites, Yadamsuren said she believes news organizations can find new revenue streams.
- Market games early and regularly. Market in the right places, such as social media, college/student organizations etc.
- Throughout the game, promote the game to other players on Pinterest (a content sharing service). ‘Pin’ images, recipes, activity lists etc. related to your game/challenges.Find a subject area that would be of interest to young adults.
- Make the games/challenges fun, colorful and interactive.
- Be open-minded and creative when creating social game sites. Explore opportunities to create interactive news games.
- Create a site that is engaging so users will want to stay on the site. The longer the user is on the site, the more likely they are to “run into” the news feed.
- Young people often click on a news story if a headline catches their attention. Create compelling and engaging headlines and leads to draw in your readers from the gaming site.
- Change the types of challenges being offered to continue to engage the players throughout the game.
- Asking the players to seek out something in the community can help the players learn more about the community. For example, ask the players to submit photos they’ve taken of the oldest building on campus.
- Integrate the social game in newsroom routine.
- Offer prizes that provide incentive and motivation to play.
- Create an easy login. Asking users to go through a registration process can be time consuming. Allow users to login using their Facebook account.
- Create a referral system and tell users to encourage friends and family to take part in challenges. This will draw more people to your social game site, which could result in more people participating in challenges and/or reading news.
- Have your readers vote on the photo and videos they like best from the game challenges. Post the videos and photos on your website in a visible spot. This will draw more traffic to your website.
- Create virtual discussion place for your players to interact with one another.Get the players’ feedback about the game, the site and any obstacles that may detract other people from participating.
- Example: Challenges also asked readers to submit their opinions about how the game went or what was needed to win the game. This allowed players to not only compete, but also interact with one another.
- Be patient. The game may take some time to become established. People need time to learn about the game and then they can begin to expect it each year or season etc.
- For example, if your game is focused on football season, consider continuing the game into other athletic seasons.