As if the Web 2.0 bandwagon wasn't full enough with media outlets expressing interest in blogs, wikis and other sources of user-generated content, Time, Inc. has announced they will add social networking to some of its weekly magazine sites by the end of this year, or early 2008.
Don't get me wrong - it's not that the bandwagon is bad; it's great that so many companies are finally understanding the impact of Web 2.0 and are engaging their users. But many of these decisions, however long overdue, seem to lack coherent strategies. Time, Inc. wants to follow the success of Sports Illustrated's FanNation.com, a site for sports fans who want to shout, cheer, rant about teams, and check scores and news.
Early speculation suggests Time and People magazines may be the first to gain an online community. But with such a primary focus on feature articles and serious news, can Time magazine really capture the same online presence as Sports Illustrated? People seems to have the potential to fare better. People.com already includes video channels, including two original online features called "Celebrity Video Diary," in which users follow celebrities for an up-close and personal view of their lives, and "What You Missed Over the Weekend," a Monday-morning nugget that highlights celebrity gossip and news.
In addition, MyRecipes.com, the food subsidiary of Time, Inc.'s Southern Progress Corp, will add daily cooking how-to videos starting August 8, and other user-generated content options that allow user to share recipes and food photography.
Wooing niche readers from the grocery shopper to the younger, twenty-something female crowd will be essential to the success of these user communities.
Providing content that not only engages the user, but sates a curiosity for gossip, news, recipes is key. Time, Inc. has a reputation for giving its print subscribers what they want, whether it be hard-hitting news or celebrity gossip.
Yet, luring those readers online maybe prove difficult for those who seeking to clutch the latest issue in their hands, so appealing to a new, and younger, readership base may be the more viable option.
As we await further announcements about Time's social networking approach, I hope they are strategic and follow the habits demonstrated by their readers. Videos, blogs and wikis all have their place, but it may take time for traditional audiences to embrace them.