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What happens when ‘Community’ is just a ‘tab’

Example of 'Community' as a tab

In spending some time recently on the web sites of major TV networks, I notice something has not changed much since 2004, or 2005, when TV networks first started developing branded web site counterparts with message board or discussion areas for TV show fans.

In the early days of TV show web sites, discussions about the episodes were not placed against the content, but typically were segmented off in separate areas of the web site, into ‘forum’ areas. And such forums (or ‘message boards’ as they are also known) still exist today, mainly because they are straight forward and easy to use, even though there are other social tools to comment and participate in a conversation around content.

Despite their ease of use, on many a media site, it may take you three or four clicks more to find the discussion threads about a particular program once you’ve found a community ‘tab’. And the discussion threads may be outdated, the last thread may be older than the latest episode of a TV show!

I still think forums are a great way to start new topic threads and allow fans of a TV show, movie, or artist to discuss in depth the content as comment boxes may have a text limit.

Yet when forums are the ONLY place to discuss the content, and there’s no way for fans to comment directly against the content (e.g. comment below a video, or a blog post), you see some interesting drop offs in site engagement. Also, fans go to other sites, like Facebook where they can comment directly against the content, leaving the branded entertainment sites behind.

For example, I examined the ‘community’ tab for the Fox animated comedy ‘American Dad’.

Fan Forums / Community area of Fox.com for the TV show ‘American Dad’

In the show related forum pictured above, at the time of writing this blog, the last post by a fan is from 5 days ago, and the post received only 26 views. Meanwhile I went to the Facebook fan page for ‘American Dad’ and found that page owner Fox had posted a episode clip just a day ago. Because commenting was allowed in line, against the content, the clip netted 75 comments in just one day and over 1400 ‘likes’, way surpassing the social engagement of a 5 day old post on Fox’s own community.

Fans can’t comment on video clips of ‘American Dad’ on Fox.com, but fans are allowed on to Facebook, greatly increasing the engagement off the main site

So while American Dad fans can’t comment against the video clips on the Fox.com site they are enabled to do so on the Facebook fan page for the show, or on the official YouTube posted clips for the program.

CLICK ON READ MORE TO CONTINUE

More examples: I was looking at video clips of A&E Television’s ‘Intervention’ program on their main web site, http://aetv.com/intervention. No where can fans comment on the video clips, yet there is a message board area on the branded site to encourage discussion (link).

Over on the Facebook page of A&E’s ‘Intervention’,  the video latest clip, ‘Benny’ at the time of writing  this post has recieved 72 comments. I can not understand why A&E prohibits it’s fans from commenting on videos posted to its own branded web site, when obviously they allow for topical discussions related to the program on their message board.

Video clips on AETV.com -- fans are not empowered to be social around the content

A&E enables fans on Facebook to comment on video clips, but not on it’s own site -- AETV.com

Because community can be segmented as a tab, and hard to find on a TV or movie site, it may make sense why fans use Facebook fan pages more often to engage with other fans of a particular TV show or movie. We have already discussed how many TV and movie brands for instance are putting the focus on Facebook pages for fan engagement. Doing so allows Facebook to control the audience, the data around social engagement, and the media companies miss an opportunity to engage their audience directly.

Not all TV show oriented forums are stagnant, in fact many are vibrant fan communities. However, unlike a simple commenting area adjacent to video content, forums can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. For instance, to get to the forum / message board area for the NBC comedy ’30 Rock’, you have to first click on ‘TV Shows’ menu off of NBC.com, click on to the ‘show page’ for ’30 Rock’, then click ‘on community’ and look for the tiny print that says ’30 Rock Boards’ to find it:

In conclusion, I offer an example of a media site that is fully socially enabled. Atlantic Records artist Lupe Fiasco’s web site, powered Cisco Eos, allows for fan commenting against the posted videos. The main page pulls in Lupe Fiasco’s conversations from Twitter as well as an activity feed of what the fans are up to on the site.  Community activity is integrated across the site, and is not separated off as a ‘tab’. You are getting the latest content and fan activity, versus a message board that is off on a tab labeled ‘community’ with posts 5 days older or more.

LupeFiasco.com allows for on site comments against video, latest twitter conversations, and site up to date site activity by fans

I’m not sure why in 2011, fans may experience entertainment web sites that are not fully socially enabled. More often than not, entertainment fans are cut off from commenting directly against video content on branded entertainment sites and instead are pointed to forum / message board areas that can be hard to locate. And the discussion forums are referencing video content not posted anywhere near the threads.

If you have thoughts about why this trend continues, please add to the conversation below in the comments.

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