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Content vs. community sites

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Saturday September 26, 2009 )

Where does Joe/Joeline Surfer spend most of their time on the web – is it on content sites or around online communities? According to a survey by the Online Publishers Association (OPA), content sites still have the edge.

According to the OPA, users continue to spend a majority of their time with content sites. Not only that, but the amount of time they are spending is up from 34 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2009, which represents a 24 percent increase.

The OPA says the six-year analysis of its Internet Activity Index (IAI), which is a gauge of the time being spent with Commerce, Communications, Community, Content and Search, found that time spent on community sites has been at the expense of communication sites where the core focus is email and Instant Messaging (IM).

According to Pam Horan, president of the OPA, “Data from the IAI proves that Content is still king; these sites continue to be a place where consumers spend the majority of their online time and provide an environment for brand marketers to reach and engage with consumers.”

Forums and social apps can be a way to boost traffic to your site, but don’t be mistaken in thinking that it’s just a case of, for example, installing a forum and then sitting back and waiting.

Even if you have a substantial newsletter subscriber base already, a forum may be a waste of time and effort if the angle you use isn’t right from the outset.

I was involved with the launch of a forum very recently and we were fortunate enough to attract hundreds of members and high levels of participation in the first couple of days; but boy, the lead up to launch was a little white knuckle as I knew the risks of it falling over.

We did very little in the way of external advertising and aside from some batting back and forth of a few ideas over a couple of weeks prior, the whole thing was put together in basically a week. Things just clicked, but it certainly doesn’t always happen that way and I certainly wouldn’t recommend that approach in all cases.

For most small site owners, I’d recommend investing your resources in generating your own content – particularly evergreen stuff or a blog as that allows for some interaction and community; but also generates content through your own efforts. A ghost-town of a forum is rather depressing and can actually drive new customers away from your business as they interpret this as a reflection of your business.

If you are keen on starting a forum, check out my article on forums as a marketing tool for some tips to help improve the chances of your community being a success from the get-go.


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