How many online social networks do you belong to? MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo Geocities, on and on. I can’t find the quote now, but someone wrote recently about a desktop littered with passwords from various social networking sites. For the heavy user of this stuff, the question becomes… which networks are worth it and which should I drop?
Richard Siklos has an interesting piece in the New York Times (fee) yesterday about this. After outlining some of the recent deals where big media companies are buying surging social networking sites (e.g., Sony bought Grouper.com, a video-sharing site, for $65M) as the established media buys its way into this new world, Siklos writes of the challenge of readers evolving from consumers to members:
Social networking… represents a way to live one’s life online. Know this: if you are part of the social networking wave, you will have all the “friends” you can handle. The invite is the new handshake. Get ready for a lot of opportunities to join all kinds of networks – and, one hopes, some appropriately Webby new way to politely say, “No, thank you.”
Front Porch Forum is part social networking. But it’s different than most. Instead of pulling people together around an issue, hobby, desire, etc., our neighborhood forums pull together… well, neighbors. Simple.
The Local Onliner reported recently about major changes at the Los Angeles Times:
The LA Times Online will roll out two new, ecommerce-oriented verticals in the midst of a ripping internal report that says the paper’s online strategy is nowhere near where it needs to be for the paper to have a future… The article also cites a new internal report finding that the online division only has 18 employees, compared to 200 employees at WashingtonPost.com and 50 at nytimes.com. The understaffing has lead to a poor quality website that, in part, accounts for users only staying 11.9 minutes on the site, compared to twice that long on nytimes.com.
The internal report goes on to cite a debilitating philosophical clash between GM Rob Barrett and Joel Sappell, and online executive editor Joel Sappell. Barrett wanted the site to focus on “hyper-local” reports to deliver SoCal readers information about their communities. Sappell argued for building “communities of affinity” rather than geography. [Sounds like the GM’s approach won out.]
So as social networks multiply and people start to get choosy, many, if not most, I think, would want to keep plugged into their neighborhood forum. They can swim in a near-endless ocean of “communities of interest,” but options for connecting with their neighbors online are scant.