Much of the internet’s most amazing tools are fully automated. Take Google… search, maps, etc. There’s no reference librarian or navigator on the other end of your search request madly leafing through libraries worth of material to find your answer. No… it’s all clever programming, huge data sets, servers galore and bandwidth. All praise automation.
But some tasks are better suited for real people. That list seems to be shrinking, but it’s still long and full of important stuff. E.g., “Should I propose to my girlfriend this weekend?” Best not trusted to an algorithm, but a Dear Abby type website might offer a personal response… something like Yahoo Answers.
Front Porch Forum incorporates a moderator in each of its neighborhood forums. This real person plays a light role, but he’s in there nonetheless. So while the neighbors supply the content and the software does the heavy lifting, its the moderator who makes subtle adjustments to help with tone, momentum, clarity, growth, etc. The moderator’s driving goal is to help neighbors connect and foster community within neighborhoods. That’s a complex thing involving many variables, most challenging… human perception, emotion, and behavior. Best not left tended by just computers.
In a related item, The Local Onliner reported today that Jay Small (E.W. Scripps Newspapers’ director of online audience and operations) stated at the NAA Marketing Conference (Jan. 29-31 in Las Vegas) that…
Newspapers can’t expect to beat Yellow Pages or Google in broad local advertiser categories, but they can focus on niche areas and invest in human editors and SEO to bring out their real strengths in the local marketplace.
Small feels that a critical key to newspaper success with local advertisers is their use of human editors, who can see connections with local guides, advertisers and newspaper content that Google and others may not. (In this regard, Scripps is very much on the same track as Boston.com).