10 Great Media Web Sites
Social media makes the difference this year
By Marie Griffin
There has been enormous progress in the year since Media Business made its first selection of 10 Great Media Web Sites.
One big difference has been the increased emphasis almost every media site is putting on Web 2.0, the code term for an array of tools that allows users to interact with content producers and one another.
These tools include discussion forums, user blogs, individual user profiles, social networking and commenting capabilities. At a more advanced level, they enable users to upload their own photos and even video content.
While the tools have not changed much from a functional standpoint over the past year, site owners are paying much greater attention to creating communities online. Realizing that user-generated content is not generated easily, they are also assigning more people to spark conversation and moderate discussions.
Some sites, such as CIO.com, are using technology to bring user commentary to the surface—at the same eye level as the once-sacrosanct staff-generated editorial.
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MarketWatch.com is taking a different approach. A team of developers has been assigned to the site's new Community section. Rather than focusing on content, they are constantly testing the tools to improve the user experience, which has dramatically increased the number of participants and the level of their participation.
There has been some advancement in video technology and content, but not as much as one would have anticipated. The main obstacles remain in the realm of human resources—not enough people to create video, print and online content, as well as a lack of video skills and experience among print-trained staff. Many b-to-b marketers feel the same constraints concerning video.
Despite the challenges, “video is becoming essential,” said Joshua Kuvin, chief technology officer for American Business Media. “The written word is alive and well, and will never be replaced. But I think the Internet is evolving to be much more visual.”
Kuvin said he expects more b-to-b media sites to follow ABM's move into live streaming video, which the association added to its site in March 2007. “I come from a broadcast television background, and we always found that going live was a hot ticket compared to being on tape,” he said. “There's more spontaneity to it.”
David Renard, senior analyst at market research firm MediaIdeas, said social tools will continue to be important for b-to-b media sites, but added that “the real opportunity is to take social content to a higher level.”
Renard offered MarketWatch's Stock Picker as an example. The tool takes the intelligence of a mass number of community members who are highly engaged in financial markets to attempt to predict future movements of stocks and funds.
Similarly, in b-to-b markets, social tools can aggregate the knowledge of industry insiders to make predictions that can be presented to that audience or to the general public. “This will be a very good tool to predict where the market is going in a given niche,” Renard said.
The emergence of social media is still at an early stage, and “people are still trying to figure it out,” said Toni Nevitt, president of eMedia Advantage, a consulting firm specializing in b-to-b online media. “They're learning that there's heavy lifting involved. It's a full-time job to facilitate, monitor and market social media.”
“The big issue I see is that the b-to-b media still has to figure out how to get marketers engaged in these conversations,” she added.
“The sites that are best-of-breed do their homework and create something that really resonates with their particular audiences,” Nevitt said. “There's no one-size-fits-all solution.”
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