The Guardian has a very successful online community that is run by some very talented individuals. We caught up with some of the people in the know to gather the best advice for you.
Anna Codrea-Rado: Content co-ordinator for The Guardian
“The key to community management is identifying and understanding an audience. What we’re doing with the Guardian Professional networks is all to do with niche professional communities and how we can provide them with resources that make doing their job easier. We aim to give our audience a platform for them to share their insights about best practise in their professional field.
Community management is an organic process that needs constant attention and nurturing. You need to put a lot of effort into to it in order to reap the rewards.”
Laura Oliver: Community co-ordinator for The Guardian
“I think the [most important thing in journalism is the] rise and rise of internet publishing. The power of the web that we’ve seen in the last few months in Egypt, in Gaza a couple of years ago and in Iran in 2009 both by people on the ground and now by main stream media knowing how to take advantage of that.”
So there you have it: the importance of an online community for any business, especially journalism, should not be underestimated and the process that it takes to nurture such a community is a hard but rewarding one.
Mariam Cook of the Guardian wrote an insightful comment piece about the true worth of online communities and the affects they have on your community in real life, or “IRL”.
As said by her son who was describing his virtual World of Warcraft life, an online community is addictive. It’s “like having another life – being in another world and doing all the things you have always dreamed of.”
To see the true addiction levels of World of Warcraft watch the clip below of the reaction a boy has to his mum telling him she has cancelled his membership.
Cook explores the fact that while they may be dangerous and addictive, they also let people who would otherwise never meet connect on many different subjects and mutual interests. Have a look at the article here
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?
The Guardian run a successful online community and a large part of this is on their Comment is Free section. Here a variety of writers from a range of backgrounds write about current issues and readers are encouraged to leave comments with their opinion.
By doing this, the online community is heard and they converse with each other aswell as the writer. Some comments however are removed because they don’t abide by their ‘community standards’ (a blog post on this will soon follow).
By using Wordle, we’ve put all the comments of the online community on Bill Nighy’s article on Robin Hood Tax into a diagram that shows the most common words and ideas left by the community.
As you can see the range in response and comments is divese which shows that the community is too!