Sarah* is a final year journalism degree student who has already launched a fanzine and is in the process of turning it into a commercially viable magazine.
She recently popped in for an ad hoc tutorial and I asked her about her web strategy.
“I don’t have a website,” she replied.
“But you have a blog?”
“Yes. And a MySpace page. With 800 friends.”
“So you do have a web strategy.”
Sarah had been worried about her technical limitations and the lack of a website. Instead, she quickly realised that this wasn’t important – it wasn’t about building a big solid brick house, but about taking a bunch of caravans on tour, to where her audience lived online.
And crucially, this was backed up by her research – which is worth reading for any news executive or editor who wants to know how consumption of information is changing online.
Here’s what she wrote about her 15-30-year-old audience:
“When asked which four websites they visit most often, a whopping 67% of them included Myspace, with an equally large number – 65% – listing Facebook. The next greatest number was Ebay at just 20%. Other popular answers, surprisingly, but much lower, were Wikipedia, Youtube, Flickr and Dont Stay In. Other websites were mentioned barely twice – the research gathered long lists of obscure websites.
“Evidently my target age group lean heavily towards using websites with some kind of social networking element. Another common trend were blogs (yay) – Trash Menagerie, Perez Hilton and Fluokids, to name but a few.
“So – getting exposure via a good web presence, in Birmingham, to our target age group, is perfectly achievable without a website.
“We have the top three most visited websites for our target audience covered – Myspace, Facebook and E-bay… a Flickr account has been set up and is awaiting content – I’m thinking well tagged page layouts, our original photography (where the photographer lets us use them) and images from our events and associated events. Similarly there will be no problem uploading event content from Youtube. We could even look into recording snippets of face to face interviews in future too. I presume a Wiki would be equally simple to set up? And of course, we have a blog – here. Commenting on other blogs is a way to create networks of readers. Blogs like the award winning Created in Birmingham would be our best bet.”
She demonstrates the concept of a distributed web strategy further by looking at how Fluokids works:
“Fluokids is a collective of young French bloggers who comment on music and events. Dazed and Confused (incidentally the most popular magazine purchased by our target group, according to our research) describes it as:
more than a blog but a youth movement – an internet and musical revolution whereby enthusiasts and DJs alike can download the newest and most wanted music coming out of Europe. By constantly posting remixes, these Gallic laptop maestros are pushing what people will like tomorrow. Teaming up with labels like Edbanger, Kitsune and Modular, the Parisian crew of seven regularly DJ all over Europe, and by their own admission are “nerds with an ultra-developed social life – as much on cyber platforms like MySpace as in real life.”
“Googling Fluokids yields the following first page (in correct order): Fluokids blog, Fluokids Myspace, that Dazed Digital article, Fluokids on Virb.com, Fluokids at Last.fm, Fluokids on Flickr, a couple of old event flyers and finally Fluokids on Technorati.
“The fact that their entire blog is French, and is still reasonably popular with my target audience, says a lot for the ‘cool’ status they have accumulated through placing the right content in the right channels.”
Now, she’s going viral too.
And Sarah is not alone (although she is very, very good – and if you have a business in Birmingham you should buy some advertising from her). I have other students using the same channels to the same entrepreneurial effect. I notice that students’ first instinct when set a task is to… set up a Facebook group. To connect with people they don’t know. Now how many journalists have the same instinct?
*Not her real name