Thursday, 20 September 2007

Care in the farming community

We talk - quite blithely sometimes - about developing online communities in our business. But sometimes something happens that gives you a minor epiphany as to what that really means.We are in the process of upgrading our rather pedestrian forums into something nearer to social media in several of our markets.

We decided (for a variety of reasons which I won't go into) to go with Community Server which - in addition to forums - offers image sharing and community blogs

The first of our titles to implement this was FWi the online companion to Farmers Weekly magazine.

This already had a very well-used forum but thanks to the new functionality and the skills of the Community Editor Isabel Davies (a new role, incidentally) the whole thing has flourished and - to get back to my original point - given us a whole series of surprises.

Did we expect farmers to be into uploading photos? No. (the image gallery is now the biggest traffic generator)

Did we expect farmers to want to blog? No. That we have five people blogging is amazing.

But it's the human community stuff that has really amazed us. One regular US contributor came over to the UK for a holiday with his wife and spent the whole time staying with friends he had made through the site.

Another member who is in China adopting a baby is blogging about his experiences.

We are principally hard-nosed business publishers, so naturally these kinds of things don't appear in our list of metrics and success factors. But when they happen, you just know that our aim of giving farmers a space of their own has had some success.

If we weren't hard-nosed business publishers, it might bring a tear to our eyes.

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