What happens if you partner with openDemocracy? How do we begin to get at the very particular nature of your project, given such diverse partners, differing types of content, key objectives and the kind of ‘impact’ that you want to achieve?
We meet each partner in person, if possible – to listen carefully to their ideas, suggesting how the themes and debates at the heart of their research can be ‘translated out’ to our global audience. We discuss the kind of audience they are trying to cultivate, and find out how the partner is involved in their own primary communities. (Whether these are academics, policymakers, students or activists, we seek those who capture the excitement of ideas in different ways to complement the more traditional forms of expertise, whether that’s through blogs or interviews or recordings in the cafés and corridors between conference sessions). Thinking carefully about how this relates to the openDemocracy readership is critical to any success, which is why we only choose partners who share the same commitment to democracy, openness and human rights, and who will, guided by us, produce work that will be of interest to our readers.
Once we’ve reached a rapport with the partner, we put together a work plan for how this partnership might unfold over the agreed period. When we get to the detail of how to introduce their material, a checklist is often the most effective way for a partner to see how the elements work best together. Invariably, each new partnership leads to innovation – whether it is the slideshows presenting the Indian Parliament murals and the Keiskamma Tapestry from our Political Aesthetics partnership; video presentations from Oecumene: Citizenship after Orientalism, or the many translated articles that have become integral to the openGlobalRights debate. We are always interested in exploring new ways of working, and producing new kinds of audiences.
At key points in each partnership we also provide statements of ‘impact’, although again what to look for will depend upon the particular partner. ‘Guest weeks’ on the front page are a good way to launch a new partnership and begin to grow a community, since readers arriving at these articles are more likely to be directly referred from the openDemocracy homepage, than through search engines. Reflecting upon the geographical distribution of visits is often of interest to our partners, particularly when compared with the audience of the site as a whole. In many ways new partnerships offer openDemocracy a chance to learn more about the many and varied oD readerships and those who are coming to the site for the first time, assessing which types of articles are well received in which parts of the world, how they are being accessed, and trying to understand why this might be.
Requests to republish articles, encouraged by our Creative Commons license are useful indications of how articles are being spread. Referral statistics nowadays can shed light on the networks of sites that link into a partnership page – e.g. Humanity Journal, Human Rights Watch and the South African Policy Initiative all linked to openGlobalRights early on in its evolution. ‘Comparisons are odourous’ but in assessing the impact of a major new project like openGlobalRights we can refer to our experience with building debates to the point where they themselves became distinct drivers of traffic to openDemocracy (openGlobalRights now accounts for 5% of our readership in its most active periods). But analytics do not themselves do justice to the impact that a partnership has made. In addition, comments – whether responding to articles, in email, or on social media – give a more qualitative assessment.
Editorial partnerships are delicate exercises in how to make openDemocracy useful to many different constituencies out there in the world, who need to talk to each other. They take time and patient attention to detail and quite a lot of sheer experimentation to get right. If you think you’d be interested, let us hear from you and your colleagues. We are always happy to talk it through: contact [email protected] if you have an idea.
CALL OUT FOR 2014 EDITORIAL PARTNERS openDemocracy's editorial partnerships with institutions such as universities, think-thanks, museums and organisations have had tremendous success in 2013 - our main 2014 projects will be decided in the next four weeks - please contact us for a chat if you want to know more.