Finally, ten years after I first began building “online communities”, five years after MySpace took the world by storm, four since Facebook stole their social networking crown and 18 months after Twitter went mainstream – publishers are starting to take social media seriously. I’ve been amazed that newspapers and magazines have, during the social media revolution, almost uniformly failed to capitalise on their incredibly powerful positions, such that many are now going out of business. How can groups of intelligent individuals, publishing regular, compelling content to large audiences of engaged readers have failed to realise the value of engaging in conversations?
Gerd Leonard has picked up on the Economist’s road-to-Damascus conversion, which is heart-warming and sensible, but also incredibly late in the day. They are going to spend “tens of thousands” building their connections on Facebook and Twitter. The latter is described as being a “full-time job” – something which, to anyone who uses Twitter for business and understands the massive viral benefits that are waiting to be tapped, is an absolute no-brainer. Personally, I’m surprised that the Economist’s online strategy includes anything other than a suite of high-value blogs, a Facebook account, a YouTube Channel and a team of real-time Twitterers.
Local newspapers have displayed a similar lack of foresight and a reprehensible desire to cling to failing, old-media revenue channels, while the tide of online news has gradually washed away their readerships. The strongest communities are those with an inherent bond – and what bond could be stronger than where we live? Yet local newspapers have singularly failed to connect local communities online in any effective way. They have failed their readers and now, with a measure of justice, face bankruptcy.
The successful publishers of tomorrow will be able to interact with their readers in real-time. Any publication that hasn’t yet realised this and isn’t already dramatically redirecting it’s content towards social media is already doomed.