Gannett has made extensive moves into social networking through mommy sites. Almost all online newspapers have added more community and so-called “Web 2.0″ features that allow users to participate on their sites to varying degrees. Early on there was YourHub. Increasingly, newspapers are waking up to the fact that social media is a way for them to inject themselves “back into the community.”
Social media features or local, social networking sites also address newspapers’ challenges, to some degree, in creating highly local content. Now Matt McGee has posted about a new social networking site for San Diego, called “SD Backyard” being operated by the newspaper The SD Union Tribune. The Union Tribune was an early innovator online but recently laid off some of its high profile Internet staff.
It’s a strategy that makes lots of sense. (It’s conceptually the approach Backfence wanted to take but failed to properly execute.) Newspaper sites can’t become all things to all people, so publishers need to diversify. Along those lines the other day, alerted by Dylan Fuller, I posted about Ireland.com, a portal operated by the Irish Times as a destination independent of its newspaper site.
These mom networking/social networking sites are a model that can be emulated (and are being duplicated) in every market. But they have to be done thoughtfully in order to work. But, if created and operated thoughtfully, they will work for newspapers.
As a contrasting example, Boston.com is adding content and features within the context of the newspaper site. However the URL (“Boston.com”) naturally implies a much broader destination than it would be if it were simply BostonGlobe.com.