Publishers: Social Media No Quick Fix
A report from ABM’s Digital Velocity show.
NEW YORK—Social media dominated much of the conversation at American Business Media’s Digital Velocity show this week but even leading-edge publishers are still feeling their way through the model. Facebook may be courting publishers as partners and offering an easy way to enter the game but so far no clear revenue model has emerged.
“We’re inundated with community-building features,” said Howard Roth, vice president of e-media at Bonnier Corp. “It’s not so much about technology—that’s readily available. It’s more about how to market it, how to get the audience going, how to drive the editorial focus.”
Several speakers warned against the mentality some publishers seem to be taking that social media and user generated content represent a quick fix. “Some of our forums have been great while others have been failures,” said Alec Dann, general manager of Hanley Wood Magazines Online. “You have to have the staff to do it right, and a lot of b-to-b companies don’t want to do that.”
Much of the discussion focused on the changing roles of editors with social media, including becoming filters (Greg Merkle, vice president and creative director with Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group, spoke of “gardeners,” someone who is not an editor but who organizes content associated with a Wiki).
Other publishers see the emergence of a new crop of editors devoted to product development. “Our editors are part of the brand staff, we don’t have a separate group of online editors, although we do have dedicated online editors,” said Roth. “We may add people who can do content development that brand editors can’t get to.”
Speakers also warned against taking the idea of user generated content too far. “If you go too far it becomes like a bad cocktail party conversation,” says Roth.
A shot in the arm for Wikis?
Wikis—community created Web pages—have largely been a disappointment thanks to clunky early technology. But Merkle of Dow Jones (which currently offers five Wikis) highlighted Twine (www.twine.com), a “semantic Web application” from Radar Networks, as a promising next step. “One of the problems with Wikis is they don’t really offer a social aspect,” Merkle said. “Twine offers a threaded conversation and seems to be creating a very cost-effective audience.”
Twine pools information into one online location, including contacts, email, bookmarks, RSS feeds, documents, photos, video, news, products, discussions and notes.