The Downfall of Mom and Pop Operated Communities?

DChapman

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DChapman submitted a new Article:

The Downfall of Mom and Pop Operated Communities?

Has the number of members who login to your forum on a daily basis hit a plateau? I stay in contact with a lot of forum owners, and the answer for many of them is "yes". Sure, new members are joining your forum all the time, but old members are leaving at the same rate. Where are they going?

Poll the members of your community and ask how many have MySpace profiles. The numbers might surprise you. MySpace has over 40 million members who take part in its vast social network. And more importantly and pertinent to us forum owners, MySpace has over 1 million "groups". What is a group? A group is a forum like the one you run; only not quite as advanced or userfriendly. Yet. Do any of these topics look familiar?

myspace1.png



Does this general look ring a bell?

myspace2.png



Where have you seen something like this before?

myspace3.png



This could be from any forum on the net.

myspace4.png


MySpace was purchased last year by News Corp (parent company of Fox) for $580 million dollars. News Corp didn't purchase MySpace to let it stagnate. You can rest assured that they are pouring vast resources into it as they work to improve every facet, including groups. Their software and methodologies will improve, and that will lead to increased use of groups as forums rather than spam/advertising mediums.

Ask your forum members why they are a member of MySpace. The usual answers are, "because everyone else is" or "because my friends are". And if all of their friends are a member of the local MySpace Mustang group, you can rest assured the chance of them joining or staying at yours is slim to none.

MySpace is far from the only threat forum owners face. Do you own a sports forum? Nike and Google recently teamed up on Joga.com which is a Soccer social networking site. Two titans of industry with vast resources at their disposal. Do you really think that they will stop at Soccer? Do you own a car forum? Check out CarSpace.com. Edmunds has created a CAR social networking site.

Can small forum owners survive the behemoths who are taking notice of the power of the online community? Will the mom and pop operated communities be run into the ground like when Wal Mart...

Read more about this article here...
 
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Music Man

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Looks like we're all doomed, but thanks for the great stock tips! :D

When Wal-Mart was nearing critical mass and close to being an unstoppable retail giant...people took the same old avenues that they've always taken. They spoke at city council meetings or called their congressmen. I think we have more power as communities to call attention to and combat such superpowers now...but don't you agree that if 40 million people have already found a home at a site that now has billions of dollars for advertising, yet has to spend very little (MySpace is 99% word of mouth)...don't you think it's possible that these sites have already reached critical mass? I think it would take a hell of a gimmick/product, a hell of a lot of advertising, and even more constant development to keep up with competition adapting.

It's easy to shine a spotlight on a problem, but much harder to do enough to get that spotlight turned around on yourself for conquering a problem. Forums are a competitive market right now, and if I had a plan that would steal over 1/3 of myspace users (which I may or may not have :noid: ), I sure as hell wouldn't be sharing it with anyone. I think that factor will keep most people from uniting with others for the greater good of online communities. There are a lot of forums out there with a great purpose and mission, but most are just people copying other sites trying to make a buck.

But if you have a better plan, I'd love to hear it. :)
 

Dead End Society

Graphic Man
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Jan 10, 2005
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I have said it for a while now, MySpace is a forum killer. Lots of my members don't come on much anymore cause MySpace offers more personal attention.

Just a lot more work for us to do to win them over.
 

aerojad

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Mar 27, 2006
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Myspace is a cancer on the internet. I just can't stand the place.

If someone would rather be at myspace, I don't think I need them, heh.

Plus I know many who don't like being part of a message board that has umteen thousand active posters, it's hard to keep up in the slightest.
 

MissMoke

I speak Jive
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Myspace is great if you're younger than, say.... 25. It's extremely annoying and juvenile. Most of my members deleted their myspace accounts after about six months because it wasn't really geared toward them.
 
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NICOCLUBcom

Nissan / Infiniti guru
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I think 90% of "real" web people simply despise MySpace, myself included.

However, I think what David's saying goes MUCH deeper than that.

Look at the social phenomenon created by such a community, and just imagine the implications of an entity with unlimited resources, money and talent doing the same thing. Remember, MySpace was 2 guys with a hokey idea, 2 years of work and no real "backing".

It's indicative of the future of Internet communities, social engineering on a grand scale, and there's a real consequence to us as purveyors of "small" communities if we don't prepare for their arrival.

I'm FAR from a "sky is falling" person, but re-read what David's saying again, and see if you don't agree.
 

SoccerMan

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Nov 19, 2005
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Yes, MySpace is geared toward the younger than 25 age set. But it has become sort of an addiction for them. They will now grow up with it. It is very hard to get people to leave what they are familiar with even if there are better options. MySpace is sort of becoming the Walmart of the Internet. One stop shopping...

I sort of liken it to AOL. When it first came out it was a horrible option for Internet service (and in my opinion still is) but through clever marketing and user loyalty it hung around and is what it is today.

This may not effect forums with an older user base now, but it will in the future.
 

DChapman

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SoccerMan said:
Yes, MySpace is geared toward the younger than 25 age set. But it has become sort of an addiction for them. They will now grow up with it. It is very hard to get people to leave what they are familiar with even if there are better options. MySpace is sort of becoming the Walmart of the Internet. One stop shopping...
Based upon your username I assume you run a soccer forum. Does the Google/Nike Joga.com concern you at all?
 

SoccerMan

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Based upon your username I assume you run a soccer forum. Does the Google/Nike Joga.com concern you at all?

I am looking into it. Fortunately (For my forum, not for soccer), soccer is not very popular in the US as compared to the rest of the world. My site is specific to a region (Northern California) and centers on youth soccer. It caters to the parents of youth players, who rarely watch or care about anything related to soccer that does not concern their child. I don't think Joga.com will have much of an impact. I will, however, keep my eyes open.
 

SoccerMan

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OH! I forgot to mention that I think Joga.com is extremely lame, not very user friendly, a cheap imitation of MySpace, and a blatant attempt to capitalize on the upcoming World Cup.

There is also no content at all except what is provided by the members. I am not exactly sure what the point of the whole thing is ???
 

Jeff

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With over 23,000 "groups" in the Automotive category, it seems that each "forum" is spread pretty thin. I think there is still value in a website that includes well organized, well moderated forums and content (articles, news, tutorials, etc.). I've never felt that forums alone are a competitive business model.
 

djjeffa

Adherent
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This dose make alote of sence and dose explain the decrease in activity on my forum.
It just seems like this is going to be a hard battel for use to fight because im sure over time the wil have alote of the options and features are fourm have.
But i worked hard to build up my site of 23,000 members over the past 3 years and im not giving up yet.
I have even installed a myspace hack on my space but unfornatly it seems like it isnt geting used much lol
 

z3n

Fan
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Dec 22, 2004
Messages
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Myspace is not a threat to amature communities the same way that Walmart is a threat to corner stores and mom&pop markets.
I don't think the metaphor applies, because, unless the internet changes it's nature, it doesn't work on the same principles and forces as does an economic market. In my opinion, the internet is more like an entire economy AND culture, rather than one market.
MySpace did to LiveJournal in the blog/profile genre what Google did to Excite and !Yahoo. Remember that MySpace and Google were relatively non-corporate upstarts.

The difference with the internet is that the artists and the creative innovators are still making the winners, even if those winners get bought out.

Consider other markets. Consider the entertainment industry. Corporate interests control the entire industry, from production to distribution to marketing. As an end user, you have a hard time finding unsigned talent to listen to (with the exception of the internet), it's all controlled by the industry.

But with the internet, the oldschool industries are stuck chasing the game, trying to buy out niches.
Look at Microsoft. The internet is so wild and free, even Gates can't tame it, even though he practicly forces MSN.com down everyone's throats through new installs of windows and InternetExploder.

If you are creative and you have the desire, you can generate a jaugernaut, because the people will find you. That's because the internet is so free and open. It's not controlled by the monopolistic constraints of corporate giants who close off access distribution channels.

I'm here to tell you, I started on a modifyable theme and template blog/profile system for my site back when the only thing out there was LiveJournal (before Myspace took off), and LJ wasn't very customizable. I already had a very popular community with tens of thousands of members, and other site features that got hundreds of thousands of hits per day. But I quit the project. Had I not, I would not be posting this right now. I'd be on a Yatch and you'd be bitching about how my site got bought out by NewsCorp.

You can do it. The people will find you if you make something they like.
Don't worry about the suit&tie monkeys. They don't understand the internet culture, and they never will. Yes, they can throw money at their projects, and that is a HUGE advantage, but it is beatable.
 

NICOCLUBcom

Nissan / Infiniti guru
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Feb 11, 2006
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You'd be surprised how well the "suits" understand 'net culture - They can also afford to pay someone like me to explain it to them (in very tiny words)...

Besides, if you missed the boat before (sorry, the YACHT), you might not wanna be so sure of your assessment.

I, for one, intend to be WELL-PREPARED for a well-financed adversary who covets my community of 39,000, my growth rate of 50 members per DAY, and my relatively low overhead costs....

I don't intend to miss MY shot at a "yacht". :)
 

MMM

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PhenomLeader said:
Myspace is great if you're younger than, say.... 25. It's extremely annoying and juvenile.
Yep! I was just going to bring that point up. I am not worried at all about losing annoying young juvenile members. In fact I'm glad they're at myspace. The last six months we've also heard about the FBI and the police monitoring myspace because of all the pedophiles that go there. I'm sure they have a lot of members, but not the kind of members that we need :jiggy:
 

Michael Merritt

Enthusiast
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May 25, 2005
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I think there will always be a place for the smaller, tight-knit communities, in the same way as how Walmart will never completely undermine the small mom and pops. Why? Better service. My dad is one of the small mom and pops (perhaps too small at the moment), with a store based around the computer industry. He's always getting people who will come to him over places like Circuit City (who have that ever pervasive Geek Squad). I like to think that the "non-corporate" communities just have a more homey feeling to them. I mean, I have a Myspace account, but only to keep connected to high-school friends. I haven't customized it at all, aside from a few of the default text fields.
 

Megan

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I think there will always be room for different communities just because all communities are so different. This isn't like a shopping experience where the price is the main factor. Cheap doesn't necessarily mean better :) There are so many other things that go into whether or not a person will want to be part of an online community.

ETA: You could also look at Yahoo Groups or Google Groups which are very very popular. Have they been a threat to forums? Maybe, but they've been around for a long time so we probably haven't noticed. MySpace is similar - lots of people but that doesn't necessarily mean that the quality is as good as a well managed forum.

One thing that is good about this sort of thing is that it gets people used to communicating online. So when they do find your site they already know what a forum is and why they would want to join one. They will probably also be more active members since they aren't shy about posting. Younger people now are already more accustomed to communicating online so that's good for forums.

I would be a little concerned about this if I was targetting a younger demographic. They may tend to stay inside the mySpace area rather than venturing out to see what else is available. Same with newbie type users or people who are less confident with online communication generally. I know my mom is still talking about how nobody ever posts to the mailing lists she is on anymore (!). She's less confident with new technology so she is unsure about looking for other types of communities that might interest her. If she started out on mySpace she probably wouldn't leave it, even if she didn't like the available communities.

This is also part of a larger trend of online social networking that has become more and more prominent over the past few years. I am a little more concerned about more innovative options for my member base. A lot of prominent web designers, for rexample, prefer to communicate via each other's blogs. It might be just me but it seems that this new wave of interest in online community excludes forums as sort of an old school medium. I think it's up to us as forum managers to keep up with the trends and do what it takes to stay current.

One question: who moderates these mySpace forums? Are they free for alls or is it more like MeetUp.com where someone has to volunteer to be the leader?
 

MMM

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Megan said:
One thing that is good about this sort of thing is that it gets people used to communicating online.
I guess that all depends on your definition of what 'communicating' is. Speaking in broken English doesn't qualify on our forums :p They get into these bad habits on places like myspace, and then they go to other forums and cause trouble thinking they're cool. I'd rather have someone who acts mature and respectful to other members as a member.
 

Jagg

Adherent
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Apr 18, 2004
Messages
457
MySpace is a fine place to hang around in but it is indeed a forum killer, especially for us smaller-average forum admins. That's probably one of the reason I refuse to register there. Still, I do get a few people from time to time that tell me "I like your forum better because it's not like MySpace".

I guess we need to focus more in the "community" part of things :)
 
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