When I started my summer garden this weekend I was delighted to notice an abundance of ladybugs that seemed particularly interested in the fava beans I had planted as a green manure. Gardening is not only my hobby but a template for how I think about cultivating audiences. People have so many choices for information, entertainment and social contact. Like ladybugs, they go where they feel safe and can sense they’ll get something they need. I think another factor drew ladybugs to my garden, one not present in this blog nor easy to create by an individual or small team — a texture and richness to the information offerings. Lots of postings and widgets and things to amuse, updated frequently. Successful sites, like Daily Kos, perhaps, manifest this type of community gardening concept in a media setting. Berkeley resident Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, aka Kos, has created not merely a web site but community. A thousand people attended the convention of political bloggers he held last year.
I’m not so much interested in using blogs and social media in an overtly political way. I want to encourage small businesses to flourish in this new medium. And part of how that will happen, I think, is when small web sites can share original material or the labor of collecting and editing links and creating directories, and then share any revenues that might come from this mutual effort. I am a writer not a coder. I can’t program. But I have a sense of the type of program that might be useful.
It must be worthwhile for small web publishers to share materials and labor, and toward this end they need easy-to-use software tools and boilerplate contracts — open tools and open standards — so publishers can put forth and use materials that will enhance their offerings, without a whole lot of negotiation or back and forth. I set forth some of these ideas once before in a post titled “Calling all programmers” from which I repeat the paragraph below:
The exact formula would have to be the subject of thought and discussion and Iâ€™m sure there could be many variations on the theme. But just to start the thinking, how about some formula that weighs the volume of material contributed by any given publisher, against the number of times that publisherâ€™s work is clicked through, as related to the overall click-thru or sponsorship rate of the site. And then put a reward to that. It could be â€œpointsâ€ that would equate to psychic rewards â€” such as membership in The Posters Hall of Fame and the t-shirt that goes with it. Or it could translate into dollars and cents for those sites make enough money that they should share.
I got no response to that posting but I remain convinced that small publishers need such tools. I certainly do, and that’s enough to motivate me to put another burst of effort into circulating this idea to sites and groups where it might get some discussion and action.
If you have any ideas, please help.
Two last thoughts. A while back I wrote a post called “Community tips from Slashdot” that was based on a how-to article written by Slashdot editor Robin “Roblimo” Miller. In that same prior posting, I pointed to another OJR article, “Top mistakes made by new online publishers.” Both are full of insights for small publishers.