Brands don’t create community

Ryan Sholin hits the nail on the head:

Instead of giving us a site focused on OUR TOWN, YourHub and Backfence and now American Towns (Fremont edition here) give us a site focused on THEIR BRAND.

Ever since YourHub was introduced two or three years ago (and I worked for an E.W. Scripps newspaper at the time, so I knew it was coming even before launch), I’ve been struggling with the words to explain why I disliked it. I talked about it being too corporate. Too top-down. Too big media. It isn’t really about creating community. It’s about creating a place to drop advertisements. And it shows. It shows in spades. But in one clear sentence, Ryan sums up the problem with a lot of these “citizen journalism” sites, and explains why they’re failing to take root.

Ryan then writes, “I can’t emphasize this enough. No one wants to connect with your brand, they want to connect with their town,” but I would say people don’t want to connect with a town. They want to connect with their friends (and potential friends) and neighbors so they can talk about their town and their lives.

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4 thoughts on “Brands don’t create community

  1. Right – they want to connect with their neighbors, their little league, their church, their friends, their stores, their streets. They want answers to the questions that pop up as they walk or drive around their town.

  2. What you and Ryan describe as ideal is exactly what Backfence is doing and has done from the start. Our sites are focused on individual towns. We do enormous amounts of community outreach into those communities, and have had great success in getting community leaders and members to participate on our sites. Not sure where Ryan gets the idea that we created sites focused on our brand–that certainly is not what Backfence has done or is doing.
    Mark Potts, Co-Founder, Backfence

  3. Howard and Ryan, I am not sure where you are located, but if you are ever in town stop by our YourHub.com office and let me show you around. I’m only speaking for Colorado’s YourHub.com, but we are so far removed from being corporate, big media and top down, that I’m convinced you must be talking about a different site. Come to a staff meeting where we regularly have community members sit in and help shape our site. Maybe take in a ball game with a few of our staffers and users. Actually, our critics’ biggest complaint is that we have too much “chicken dinner” news, which we actually take as a compliment. Unless you live in this community I don’t think you could really gauge of how we really have connected a whole lot of great people, many of whom I now consider friends. Read my latest blog entry where I discuss this further. We had a luncheon last summer where an auditorium of community members and YourHub.com users talked about what the site meant to them. It was powerful. You can criticize how slow our site is, how we need more bells and whistles and how we don’t break big stories. But you are way off the mark and don’t understand our site all when you say we don’t connect people. That’s been our biggest strength. The invitation is open.

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