Tag Archives: communities

Q&A with Laura Oliver, community coordinator, news at the Guardian

What does your job involve?
My job is to be a bridge between readers and users of Guardian.co.uk and our news team and to try and find better ways for readers to engage with, interact with and consume our news output. As part of this I’m responsible for monitoring feedback to Guardian.co.uk on and off site, coming up with new ideas and editorial products off the back of reader ideas and demands and ensuring that guardian.co.uk‘s news is making connections to the wider web and other online communities to better distribute our news and find new audiences for it.
Laura Oliver the Guardian
What is an online community, is it just about comments?
Comments are a part of it but they only represent those readers who feel happy to contribute in this way. We need to work on ways to encourage and manage constructive comments whilst tapping into other ways to get our readers involved and – more importantly – represented on site and in the newsmaking process. Online communities exist in so many forms – from social networks and forums, to blogs with dedicate followings and gamers. They can spring up through interest, geography or platform. Being aware of the range of online communities out there can only help us reach a wider audience with our news, and if we’re clever about it we can find ways to serve particular communities without duplicating their existing networks.
Why are online communities important?
Simply put – because for online news this is your audience, this is who is consuming, sharing and spreading your work. Just as a good business will listen to what it’s customers especially regulars say, we too need to be aware of the people who are reading and interacting with Guardian news on and off site. They are important in lots of ways: for feedback, traffic, generating new editorial ideas, keeping us accountable and filling in the gaps in both our news coverage of a certain event and in a broader sense, by taking a story or issue to new angles and new discussions.
Why are newspapers in particular trying to create and encourage them?
To create a news product that is of the web and not just on it by bringing in interactivity; to hold us to account; to make use of the expertise and knowledge of our readers and encourage them to fill in gaps in our coverage and make it better; and because building a community will hopefully build loyalty and time spent on a site or page, which can also have commercial potential.
How do you manage a large online community?
At the moment we’re trying lots of things: rewarding good or constructive users (in different ways); working closely with our fantastic moderation team; encouraging all members of the news team to get involved in community building and management; using tools to track communities around news eg on Twitter and analytics to measure what they are doing on our site and when to inform future decisions. There’s no one golden rule – it’s about having different strategies that will work with different sorts of readers and can operate within the boundaries and language of other existing communities such as Facebook or bloggers.
Is this journalism?
I think this is a question that needs to die! It’s an increasingly important part of the news production process and a role that sits along with many that would either previously not have existed or not been considered journalism by those who want to keep that term reserved as a means of protection in a rapidly changing workplace. To anyone who questions the importance of communities to journalism, you have to ask- well what are producing this news for if not to be consumed by your audience? They now want to be part of the informing process and there’s no way to turn back that tide; journalism should no longer exist in isolation from its audience
What is the future for online communities?
In terms of online communities around news, I think we’re only just starting to see how news organisations can make the most of what the web has to offer to better serve their readers around news coverage. We’ll see more tools springing up to help us manage and build communities and lots more experiments in doing so – both good and bad. Hopefully we’ll also see continue growth across the industry in these kind of roles and understanding of why they are important.

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Filed under Lizzie Davis, online communities

Changing Media Summit 2011: what happened?

The Guardian are leading the way in social media among so-called “old media” companies. their forums are thriving, their website is constantly updated and each individual section has its own individual twitter feed.

Is it any surprise, then, to find that they also host one of the most important events in the media calendar?

The Changing Media Summit took place last week and had speeches from the CEO of YouView, CEO and chairman of AOL, co-founder of Foursquare, director of partnerships Facebook.


Picture: barto, Flickr

At a few hundred pounds per ticket we lowly bloggers had to give the event a miss. But I’ve a hunch that many of you did too. Thankfully, the Guardian, wise wise media provider that it is have posted interviews with many of the speakers online. This is where all the developments are happening, community makers. This is future in the making.

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Filed under Lizzie Davis

Online community to watch fundraising concert for Japan

Classical music audience

Royal Albert Hall. Photo: St Stev, Flickr

In just under half an hour two colossi of the classical music scene – Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim will conduct a concert with two of Berlin’s legendary orchestras (the Staatskapelle Berlin and the Berliner Philharmoniker). They aim to raise money to help survivors of the Japanese earthquake.

The fact that these two conductors and orchestras are performing on the same evening and in the same venue may be unusual enough but why would I be writing about it here?

The answer is that it is being broadcast in the “Digital Concert Hall“, an online video link, essentially. But like a physical concert hall, you have to pay for a ticket. This digital hall is run by the Berlin Philharmonic with the aim of broadening their audiences and taking their music to a much larger number of people per concert.

For each concert, therefore, the Berlin Phil create a one-off online community – a digital echo of the audience physically there in the concert hall. And, of course, the fact that they charge means more revenue or – in this evening’s case – more funds raised.

Do buy a ticket if you can – these orchestras are truly brilliant and the proceeds could not be going to a worthier cause. Doors have just opened!

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Filed under Lizzie Davis

Five weird online communities

You’ve heard about Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Myspace. But here are ten that I bet haven’t made it onto your radar. And probably for good reason…

1. 23andme
Spit in a bottle, send it off to 23andme and they claim to be able to analyse your DNA to tell you about your physical traits (which presumably you already know about), risk factors for 97 diseases, your predicted response to drugs and learn about your ancestral origins.  Medical break-through or Chillingly Orwellian?

2. Blippy
Join this website to share all your credit card purchases with the world. They don’t quite put it that way of course. This is the PR version: “Blippy is a site that lets you share your purchases and see what your friends are buying online and in real life.” A step too far?

3. Togetherville
A social networking site for kids – a kind of facebook for little’uns. Much is made of the safety of this site on their welcome page but am I alone in thinking kids should be making real life friends, not learning how to become “responsible digital citizens”. I also object to the use of the words “awesomosity” and “kidtacularity” in this video.

4. Klout
Think online communities set you free from the politics of the real world? Think again. Klout is a social network which measures your, well, clout, in the digital world. There must be a rule written somewhere that humans can’t just DO an activity, they have to MEASURE themselves doing it. And find out who is best. Sigh.

5. Miso
Miso is an attempt to make that most private of activities – watching TV – social. You can see what your friends are watching, see what they think of it and they can see what you’re watching. And points are involved somewhere along the way. Perhaps you gain points for an education programme but lose them for watching Dancing on Ice…


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Filed under Lizzie Davis, online communities

Simplicity in support groups

Online support groups are the kind of community that everyone needs at some point.

Whether it’s a tricky question that needs answering or you need to figure out the best way to do something technical or you just need to work that lovely new camera you just bought, everyone has been to an online support forum.

I’ve definitely done this to answer technical questions I need answering about my mobile, camera and laptop, but I can safely say I have never asked a question, I’ve simply scoured the forum to find the answer the the question I know has been asked before.

Cisco posted this great video giving just that advice, as well as four other top tips to simply and quickly benefit the most out of online support groups.

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Filed under Aleeza Khan, online communities

Guardian article on defining online communities

Online communities can engage all sorts of users

Check out this excellent Guardian article by Louise Kidney about how tapping into online communities can help councils engage with their citizens.

She asks: “How do you identify a community that you can’t see – one which exists in a space which allegedly has no borders? And how do you quantify the value of a digital community, surely it’s just a load of people sitting around chatting?”

An excellent read if you are interested in the difficulties of trying to define a community and its use value.

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Filed under Beth Adamson, online communities

Are Exclusive Communities better?

No Entry

Picture: Antony Theobald

In the film, The Social Network, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg is determined to keep the social networking site “cool”. And arguably one of the reasons that Facebook was so “cool” and successful was its perceived exclusivity. First it was only for people at Harvard, then only people at certain American universities and then only at university. Exclusivity was its appeal – at least at the start.

So is the Times Online on to a good thing with its pay wall? There is no quicker way of making something exclusive than making people pay to get in. Times Online is now an exclusive online community – and if the pay wall experiment succeeds that will be why.

Exclusivity brings with it the suggestion of quality. Times Online is the grammar school of websites, weeding out the riff raff with the equivalent of an entrance exam. Fewer trolls, fewer mindless vindictive comments on opinion pieces, more intelligent discussion.

Or will it just be a richer breed of troll? Because of course the pay wall is not like an entrance exam, you just have to pay your way in – like the worst kind of private school.

So which is the way forward do you think? The all-encompassing, trolls and all approach, as seen in the Guardian’s community, or the VIP area of Times Online?

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Filed under Lizzie Davis

Tesco launch new Facebook strategy

Facebook – the keys to online success?

Tesco has extended its reach into the world of online communities by launching a new Facebook page. The retailing behemoth launched its newest venture yesterday, bringing together existing Tesco Facebook pages in an effort to develop better online relationship with its customers.

Users will now be more easily able to engage in online discussions. Existing Tesco Facebook pages already cater for fans of their clothes, beauty products and mobile service among other things, but a spokesperson for Tesco said that the consolidated page will make it easier for customers to communicate directly with the retail giant.

The page will include marketing activities tailored to Facebook users with exclusive promotions and offers and will also be used to promote Clubcard deals and answer customer service enquiries. Tesco also plans to make the loyalty card more interactive, doling out offers via Facebook as well as email and mobile. Their loyalty card is already a large part of Tesco’s digital operation; Vouchers can be spent online or in shops, and more than one million people now use their smartphone app.

So far 5,916 people have liked the new page and the retailer will no doubt increase its presence across the site.

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Filed under Beth Adamson, online communities

Measure your performance ;)

Everyone wants to know how well they perform and how popular they are. This is ever relevant in the online world and everyone wants to boost their community and audience.

There are many simple methods that allow you to check how many hits your site has had and a plethora of ways in which to promote it, social networking being the key tool.

I have just discovered Crowdbooster, and it’s great.

Crowdbooster measures how well you are performing on Twitter and gives you insights into how to make you more effective.

We all know that Twitter presents  huge opportunities to promote your community, gain new followers and develop one-on-one relationships with your readers. Not only does it work as a promotional tool but you should strive to use it to become a leader in your community: someone who participates and understands what their reader wants and what the community is looking for.

Crowdbooster works in that they help build on the initial connection with your community and enhance your social media presence. They do what it says on the tin; they boost your crowd.

It shows you analytics that aren’t based on abstract scores but numbers that are connected to your site and its social media strategies: impressions, total reach, engagement, and more. They then give you the tools and recommendations you need to take action and improve on each one of these.

They give you in-depth statistics then arm you with the tools and strategies to build on these. It’s an indispensable tool for any site or blog that is trying to boost its readership. Sign up people, it’s a great site:  http://crowdbooster.com/

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Filed under Aleeza Khan, online communities

Five of the Best: Online travel communities

The perfect holiday could be one click away

Virtual communities can be the best way to equip yourself for a much-needed holiday into the big wide world. In the world of user generated content it’s easy to get bogged down in useless information or find it difficult to get to the bits that you actually want to know about. But the sites below have managed their massive communities to great effect and are crammed full of useful information from millions of users. These five communities will help any traveller on their way:


Its massive membership of over 16 million means there’s plenty of new content and active forums full of useful tips from every corner of the globe. The only downside is that you’re required to register.


This community site is easy to use and gives visual user ratings on hotels, restaurants and general goings on. Perfect for a quick overview if you’re short of time.


This multi-talented site can help hook you up with people who are making the same journey and want the company or want to split expenses. But of course be wary/safe.


The user generated section of the Lonely Planet website allows travelers to get advice from locals or previous visitors. Well worth a look.


Frequent flyers will love this site. Users can share their travel plans with friends in the hope of finding times and locations where they might meet along the journey.

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Filed under Beth Adamson, online communities