After getting halfway through the list of 6 tactics I proposed in this post last week, we now move on to #4, the use of communities. Everyone is talking about communities. Whether it's building them, leveraging them or simply being part of them, they're definitely a hot topic these days. Smart publishers will figure out how to incorporate them in their day-to-day operations.
If you're serious about a community initiative you need to read this post from Kathy Sierra. She's got loads of community experience and provides a bunch of pointers that we can all learn from.
We've got a nice community of programmers that uses our "programmer to programmer" site on wrox.com. We're fortunate in the sense that this community was built from scratch and yet it's extremely popular. Building something today from scratch is more challenging because you're competing with a lot of popular sites that already get loads of traffic. Can you build something from scratch today? Absolutely, but why not first look to leverage communities that already exist?
If you're looking to build a community site focused on pet care, travel or any of a number of other consumer topics, are you likely to dislodge the current leaders in those categories? Maybe, if you come up with a very compelling feature... (Before you go too much further you really need to ask yourself if your "compelling feature" is really that compelling. It might seem that way to you, but will the customer really think so?)
I have to credit Josh Hallett on this point. He spoke at the recent ASIDIC conference and asked the question: "How many different community sites is a member likely to visit?" IOW, if you are a pet lover and you're already going to one community site for all your needs, are you likely to go to any others? Sure, it can happen, but it's probably rare.
So is it better to try and partner with an existing community site, especially if they're the clear leader in that space? Think of all the eyeballs you'd have from day one. Think of all the development costs and marketing expense you'd save along the way. If those savings more than offsets the revenue you might have to share with that existing site, the answer to that last question might just be "yes."