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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 And the discussion threads may be outdated, the last thread may be older than the latest episode of a TV show!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.

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