USAToday debuts a new site design incorporating user comments on news stories, a recommendation engine, blogs from external sources and links to news on other sites. The most distinctive feature appears to be the inclusion of reader comments directly on news story pages. While this isn’t a new idea, USAToday is the largest mainstream media outlet that I’m aware of to take this approach.
The innovation I’m waiting for is when a major news site starts inviting readers to actually contribute to the reporting process. That doesn’t mean deputizing citizens as adjunct reporters, but could involve them contributing background and first-person sidebars. I still think mainstream media could learn something from Wikipedia.org and its much weaker companion Wikinews.org. Wikinews, in particular, is a fascinating idea, but the site doesn’t have enough traffic or contributors to really work. Could a site with USAToday’s throw weight make a companion news wiki successful? Somebody’s to figure it out one of these days.