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An attendee at the Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping | AccountingWEB | I have questions - do you have any answers?

I have questions – do you have any answers?


In the latest dispatch from the desk of AccountingWEB’s editorial director, Joanne Birtwistle reports on the feedback from the first editorial board meeting with readers – and she has questions for you, too!

4th Apr 2024
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The Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping (FAB) was brilliant for many reasons. It was special for the AccountingWEB team because it allowed us to meet and talk to so many of our readers. We also got to see the content sessions we’d planned come to life – and which of those topics were standing room only, which inspired or echoed shared frustrations or left the audience with burning questions.

It was also the perfect opportunity to bring together some of our readers, from across different audience cohorts, to join our first editorial board meeting. We invited engaged readers representing sole practitioners, small firms, mid-tier, large firms and bookkeepers to attend an hour-long discussion with me and managing editor Richard Hattersley. 

Back to basics

The editorial team already has a good understanding of what our readers want. But while we have been the industry leader for over two decades, we can’t be complacent. So, we went back to basics, asking our core audience why and how they visit AccountingWEB – where the value is, what we can do more of, and where we can get better to ultimately grow our engagement across the accounting community.

That hour gave us absolute gold dust – this was in-depth, qualitative information about user perceptions and experiences that you can’t get from Google Analytics or tick-box surveys, and we plan to hold these sessions three times a year going forward, with an FD representation at the next one too.

Easy fixes

Focusing on content – the things the editorial team can easily change – here’s a summary of some of the points made, which we can start to implement.

  • You are time-poor, and while you value case study content, you want to get to the point quickly. We could set out the quick tips, key takeaways or action points, for when you don’t have time to read through a whole article.

  • All seemed to like reading tales of accountants being struck off for naughty behaviour. No surprise there – but what did surprise us was how these stories have additional value, with several people saying they share these stories with clients, to demonstrate their own professionalism and also as cautionary tales. 

  • It was underlined how everyone wants their profession to be treated respectfully and suggested that AccountingWEB could be doing more to help raise standards across the profession. This is something we already work hard to do, but we are considering other approaches, such as a campaign that would help fulfil this.

  • A lack of signposting to specific types of content for different audiences also came up. For example, while we produce content that is as relevant to a bookkeeper as other audience groups because it isn’t badged as such, or easily searchable as content for bookkeepers, it gets lost. This is something we can fix, without too much work from the development team, and we’ll be looking at our tags and navigation bars on the homepage for all our audience cohorts.

  • One heartening takeaway was our value as an independent news and information source because we are not affiliated with member organisations and the recognition that we provide a broad mix of technical, practical and community-based content for our audience.

Not-so-easy fixes

While our focus for this first meeting was on editorial content, discussion inevitably strayed into the comments section and Any Answers, too. One of the things that makes AccountingWEB unique is our active and engaged community. But, as I’ve said before, it can also give the editorial team sleepless nights and how we deal with the noisy minority is something we take very seriously. 

As you know, while we encourage free speech and open discussion, we have an obligation to moderate and monitor the comments, and we do not stand for disrespectful comments. We have a full-time member of staff whose job is to moderate the comments on Any Answers and articles.

It was noted that anonymity allows users to ask sensitive questions or engage in conversations they might not ordinarily be able to have, but we also discussed the problems that come with allowing anonymity. There were some positive suggestions on changes we could make to improve the user experience, without undermining its core purpose of being a community space as well as a peer-driven advice and information resource.

Just to say – we hear you, we know both the huge benefits and the frustrations some users have with the forum in its current guise. There are a few new features and changes we’d like to test, but there is some technical complexity, and this is not directly in the hands of the editorial team. A lot of the suggested changes probably require re-platforming or significant rebuilding of the site’s infrastructure.

Over to you

The editorial board will meet every four months, with some new faces to keep things fresh, with a range of perspectives. Here are some of the questions we asked on the day. Please take the time to share your own responses to these with me via DM or below. But please keep it constructive – we don’t want our moderator working overtime on this one! 

And one final caveat – I will actually be on annual leave when this column is published, but I shall read and respond to DMs on my return.

Some questions from the first session:

  • Why do you visit, how often and how do you use the site? (In other words, what types of news and content do you read, and how do you arrive at the site – via email, via Any Answers, from LinkedIn, direct to home page?
  • Do we have the balance of content right? (News, interviews, profiles, tech, info, business of accounting, regulatory/compliance.)
  • What do you want more of, or what is missing for you right now?
  • What would you like more of to help you do your job better?
  • What is your biggest challenge as an accountant/bookkeeper now, and where you are looking for answers, advice and support?

Replies (3)

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By Paul Crowley
05th Apr 2024 18:00

One useful thing would be the ability to use AccyWeb as a record for CPD engagement. I Croner has that facility, there is a push button to press and it records all articles read with time engaged. There are lots of Webinars on here, also Any Answers live and other live events and recordings.
Tag them all in a CPD tracker?
I filled in two certificate things recently, and nothing arrived.

The noisy minority? Is that disrespectful to the people who post the most?
The tags on Any Answers, these could do with being reduced. Lots of them are really time expired.

Thanks (4)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
Richard Hattersley
By Richard Hattersley
09th Apr 2024 10:33

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your feedback. We have a 'save content' feature on the site which is designed for readers to keep track of articles and content they've read on AccountingWEB for CPD purposes (although it doesn't include a timer).

The content you save will be listed under 'My Account'. We put together this Any Answers handy post explaining how the tool works:

Thanks (1)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
Richard Hattersley
By Richard Hattersley
09th Apr 2024 12:29

Paul Crowley wrote:

I filled in two certificate things recently, and nothing arrived.

Sorry to hear that Paul. We've recently moved to a new supplier so new sessions should have a slicker process. We will be working on getting the new supplier applied to all of the previous episodes, too.

Thanks (0)