The Listening Post is a new model for creating an ongoing conversation with a broad base of citizens around issues that affect them using two-way text messaging, a community news site, recording booths, events and other engagement tactics. The listening posts, while open to anyone, are especially effective at building engagement with people who, for whatever reason, have felt left out of the public discussion — whether they lack the time, motivation or channels to be outspoken.
During the past two years, the Listening Post has evolved from a limited experiment in one community into a citywide conversation in New Orleans (listeningpostnola.tumblr.com) and Macon, Georgia (listeningpost.us). The conversation is captured both online (SMS and Tumblr) and offline (people record thoughts and anecdotes at recording stations around the cities).
The model has proved an effective and sustainable way to include a broad segment of each community in an ongoing conversation. Much of the success to date has come through trial and error. The Listening Post now wants to apply rigorous monitoring and evaluation to determine whether and how its model can engage new audiences, support new sponsorship and underwriting opportunities and activate new audiences to become supporters and members. By closely measuring the extent to which Listening Post projects can build and engage new audiences, the organization hopes to have the evidence needed to gather resources to make listening posts in Macon and New Orleans sustainable, and extend the model to other cities and newsrooms.
Reviewers felt this was an interesting premise and stood out in that it isn’t starting from zero and has some proven success in engaging underserved audiences. The concept has been proven, and adding solid tracking and metrics of this engagement could provide best practices that are widely applicable across the nonprofit news sector.