A new L.A. online community

The L.A. Times is really embracing this whole solicit free advice idea. In addition to the Manhattan Project and asking readers to share tips at the Opinion blog, the paper is taking the focus group concept interactive. An LA Observed reader received email today inviting him to join "an online community of people who are willing to share their perspectives and opinions on a variety of topics related to the Los Angeles Times." He was rejected during the initial questionnaire after saying he works in media, so he passed it over to me. Intrigued, and no dummy, I answered as a 26-year-old Latino female making $90,000 a year but not in media. Purely for research purposes, you know.

I was accepted to continue and told that selection for the "Los Angeles Times Online Community" came with these benefits:

* Access to a fun, secure, private, and monitored online community
* Build relationships with people who have similar outlooks where you can share ideas, advice and tips
* Receive tangible incentives/rewards - periodic Amazon gift certificates

I was asked which newspapers I read and my Times habits. Basic focus group stuff, but one question floored me:

"How many of the last six (PRINT) issues -- NOT the Online version of the newspaper -- Monday through Saturday, of the Los Angeles Times have you read or looked into? (Please be as honest as possible)

I've "looked into" all six. But the possible answers were None, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. It's shocking if they just don't figure anyone reads the paper every day. Or maybe it was my age? This also was the only question where they felt respondents needed to be prodded to "be honest." Anyway, I made the cut.

Based on your responses to this questionnaire, we think you’d be a great member of the “Los Angeles Times Online Community.” The Los Angeles Times Online Community is a group of men and women from the LA Metropolitan Area. We have created this place/forum for you to meet and interact with other interesting people that share your interests, lifestyle and ideas, and as a way for us to better understand you, what you like and how can we serve you better.

If you agree to become a member, we would ask that you commit to the following:
* Log onto the Community at least once a week to give us your thoughts about topics under discussion. (You can plan on spending 5-15 minutes per visit.)
* Participate in facilitator-initiated surveys or conversations each time you log-in.
* Be willing to talk with other Community members on a variety of topics.

That might sound just too enticing to pass up, but for this Latina it was. There was also the matter of the confidentiality agreement, which I would have to agree to in order to get my password. Where's the fun in that.

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