Going through my feeds today I can across news, via Press Gazette, that The Plymouth Herald had launched its own social networking site called iHerald
Thisisplymouth and Herald web editor Neil Shaw said: “The response has been great, with 200 members joining in our first month to upload more than 1,000 items including pictures, videos and blogs.
The first thing that struck me was why?
Shaw said: “The site goes to the heart of our online strategy, not lazily duplicating our print product online, but interacting with our users so thisisplymouth and The Herald combine user-generated content with live input from our audience. It is a constant dialogue differentiated from and contributing to our print offering.”
The motivation here is apparently that Herald had exceeded the limit of 5000 friends on Facebook a limitation that has been taxing a number of users for some time. And the only alternative, a Facebook page, has failed to convince those upset by the limit with its ‘fans’ rather than friends and less features.
The Herald has moved to a page, carrying 96 people across compared to the 4755 (not quite 5000 but near enough for them to stop them accepting unsolicited friend requests.) so you have to credit them with trying to do something about it.
But whilst I can cheer the desire not to lazily duplicate the print product, I’m still wondering if the limitations of facebook is the real reason here.
4755 Facebook friends is credit to the way the Herald use Facebook. Compare that to 151 for my local paper. But the fact that they have only shifted 96 fans on their page shows that the attraction is in Facebook as a platform and the features it offers when people interact with you as a friend.
Even with a 200 users of iherald you have to wonder how many of them are from Facebook rather than new users and if their efforts would have been better spent working on educating more of their
‘friends’ to the benefit Facebook page. The fact that it hasn’t really been updated since August last year may say something about how successful it is.
Immitation creates more work
Part of me wants this to work – the site looks pretty robust. But I still can’t shake the nagging idea that this is another attempt by a newspaper group to reinvent the wheel in an attempt to try and control the cart.
It may be more functional but it isn’t Facebook and it strikes me it just adds to the workload – simply managing the amount of copyright music that has appeared in the audio section would be enough to keep a lawer busy for week. With 4755 users of Facebook it would be madness to simply ignore them in favour of their new users so who manages that relationship?
It seems a weird duplication of effort.