Monthly Archives: March 2007

Context Is King

With KickApps 2.0 now live I figure it’s about time to post some of the blog entries that I’ve been scribbling in my notebook the past few months. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but with the final episode of Rome beckoning on our DVR my wife says I have to keep it brief and type fast…

I’ve received a lot of enthusiastic feedback following my talk at the MIT Enterprise Forum, but the question on the mind of most publishers seems to be: how can they compete effectively with the likes of YouTube and MySpace for audience and revenue? It’s my favorite question because the answer is easy–it’s not their job to compete with the big general purpose portals! Publishers have an asset more valuable than low CPM traffic, namely an identifiable audience attracted to specific editorial content. To thrive, publishers have to convert their audiences into communities, and the most effective way to do that is to encourage participation around every aspect of their content. In other words, when it comes to building community, context is king.

Publishers can transform their site experiences into something far more compelling by inviting visitors to bring their own opinions, media and friends to the party. The operative word is “party” because with that perspective publishers can begin to recognize that their role is as much party host (and door bouncer) as it is content provider. Great editorial content (e.g. videos, photos, text articles) is just the beginning of the user experience, not the end-all. As publishers embrace the concept of “openness” the purpose of editorial content increasingly will be to get the conversation started by encouraging user participation around specific topics.

But enabling user participation within the context of specific content websites requires a much more flexible and modular implementation than what you might find at general purpose portals like YouTube. User content (whether videos, photos, blogs, personal pages or forums) must live alongside editorial content, not on remote “community pages.” An editorial story about World Cup Soccer, for example, might be surrounded by UGC modules containing soccer-related blogs, forums, member lists and videos. As the distinction between editorial and UGC continues to blur, have no doubt that stand-alone “community pages” (or message boards that live apart from editorial content) will soon be tired vestiges of internet days gone by.