Finding a Balance

Wrote this article in regards to a PR project involving These were some of my thoughts surrounding ePR.

In order to develop a social networking website it is necessary to follow modern website models. An increasingly blurry area of social networking is the balance between free and premium content. It is seen generally on the internet that any knowledge or produce should be distributed freely. This has been partly caused by the General Public License and Opensource movements which have propelled internet technologies forward for the good. The problem this article addresses is simply:

How to build an online community and make a profit?

It is no easy question to answer. Traditional systems for paid registration no longer work in the current technological climate. There are many websites out there holding vast amounts of information and users would much rather research than pay out. Therefore I see the task to be building an online community and then later reap payments from the website, which shall be discussed later. The benefit of free registration is community growth (if the website project fits a market) and if so possible accelerated growth.

To run a modern website worthy of web 2.0 it is to be assumed that users will be providing some of the website content or will be able to comment on content. Either way the website will need to work in an open system, members having the ability to contact each other and website authors engaged with the online community. This balance is very important and only the best websites achieve this.

First I will address the issue of building an online community.

At the end of last year the internet changed a little bit. Suddenly large social networking website started to link in with each other. The majority of blogs did not have a closed personal community but linked together with many other websites. These social networking sites may have specialised areas such as dealing with pictures, status updates, storing comments, managing rss feeds etc. The list is endless, but what is important is the success of the websites who followed this regime. It was said last year that larger blogs had killed all smaller blogs on the internet, social networking sites have saved us from demise.

If we focus purely on then this website has such potential to infiltrate the social world and build its own strong community. I propose the following networking tactics to build an online community:

–          Register to Intense Debate to increase blog comments

–          Register to Twitter to communicate with the large tweeting community

–          Link the website to YouTube in order to handle videos

–          Allow all podcasts to be accessed via iTunes

–          Introduce a forum (later on)

–          Have members the ability to input details in their personal profile, including their own websites

–          Use WordPress software to manage blogging side of website

Full profiles of all these websites have been included later on in this handout. Quite simply the blog will have access to a potential (numbers of all sites here) users already on start up if this plan is followed. This isn’t counting the fruits all these sites will bare purely on their functions. More information on these websites can be found later on in the handout to discover why they might be useful for

I recommend WordPress whole heartily as the necessary blogging software to run on the website. For the following simple reasons:

–          The common wordpress layout is the standard blog design on the web. People will be familiar with it.

–          WordPress is secure and updated frequently

–          It is simple to connect to the above websites using WordPress’ built in facilities

–          WordPress includes RSS sheets to bring users back to the website

–          Trackbacks and pings will keep the website updated about referred articles

–          Articles can be placed into categories, tagged and searched for using key words

The only potential issue is keeping the design consistent between the blog and the rest of the website. However, this is just a matter of web design which anyone with the necessary knowledge will be able to sort out.

Finally I must explain the ‘later on’ notion of the forum. In my experience it seems that introducing a forum immediately with the website can be detrimental to community growth. Users will view a blank forum, decide there is no point registering and then leave the website. This doesn’t mean a forum won’t work, it just means it would be better to introduce a forum once there has been growth within the community.

Finally onto the profit making venture of this website.

I’ll admit outright that I have never built a website intending to make a profit. Just that the majority of my experiences with online projects have been enthusiast based. Essentially the task is…

Providing a balance between free and premium content   

As the website will have a community then will need to work within specialised areas to make money. As I written earlier I believe paid registration will put users off from registering. An unaffordable outcome since this will stump website development and viewings. It is therefore unfortunate but access to the blog and forum must be kept free. There are only a handful of website who have managed to pull off a paid registration system because they offer something unique or already have a large active community. As far as I know all blogs on the internet are free and this is wholly due to their success. Forums seem to be diminishing on the internet and they generally work on a similar basis. To make matters worse asking payment for podcasts may also be difficult due their digital nature. Once somebody has downloaded your podcast it is simply to offer it for free download on other website. The same rules also apply to podcasts as well, it is better to build a user base before demanding charge otherwise people will not subscribe.

Money making ideas:

–          It seems sensible to offer the majority of podcasts for free but then demand payment for special recordings. Special recordings could be with a well known figure in your particular subject area or special extended episodes

–          Start a store selling merchandise which could be linked in with eBay for convenience

–          Allow users to have premium accounts which allows access to more website features

I believe developing other making options would be in the best interest of this website and a small list of ideas can be found.

Political Muse

A couple of weeks ago at the Philosophy society we discussed ‘The Prince’ by Niccolo Machiavelli which is really an instruction manual for a leader. The whole the book seems to be littered with hypothetical imperatives in which Machiavelli believed a leader should act. In this way he seemed to imitate Immanuel Kant but the focus on morality was less severe. Obviously these circumstances are subjective to the philosopher’s own ideas and time period in which the book was written. As the only PR student at the society I could see a lot of crossovers in which philosophy, dubbed as the “broad church”, also infiltrates aspects of PR.

In particular, conversation swerved onto the recent American presidentially elections and Barack Hussein Obama’s win. This then diverted to politics in my own country, Britain and the image of Gordon Brown. A couple in the group believed that Margret Thatcher was making a positive comeback even though when she was Prime Minister people seemed to hate her ideas. I could see how Tony Blair’s popularity fell in office but now he would most likely be preferred over Gordon Brown. It seems that a leader has his character judged rather than the ideas he stands for. When the next political elections transpire in this country the newspapers are likely to have headlines such as Brown vs Cameron and imitate the elections as some sort of battle. Political parties only really receive focus during local elections but even so the leaders of particular parties are still taken into account.

It is no wonder then that Public Relations serves such an important role. If it is possible to observe an audience and find their ideal leader and character traits then a political leader could be shaped to this ideal. In a strange way this is similar to Plato’s theory of the forms. A leader is given a form which coincides with a higher form in the audience’s minds. The idea of a colloquially spoken Margret Thatcher would have maybe dissuaded people to vote for her. The connotations of received pronunciations may have made her victory more possible. I say “more possible” since there was a lot more at stake which got her into power. Needless to say Public Relations always serves an important role in politics. With this come questions of unelected members becoming a large influence behind those who are in power.

So are the characters of political leaders genuine? David Cameron has the horrible ‘Cameron Cam’ which seems to be a failed attempt to communicate with my generation. The first videos released seemed to be a comedy sketch rather than a serious keynote speech. What I am certain of is that the PR behind Gordon Brown must be useless. If any leader needed assistance with image then it is him. Although perhaps the raw nature of Gordon Brown will be preferred over the suspiciously pleasing David Cameron? In all likelihood the next parliament will be a conservative one but part of me thinks that Nick Clegg deserves a chance.