Building tomorrow’s online communities

This is a guest post from Marc Thomas, publisher and journalist

Just got back to the studio after giving a lecture to the MBA Media Management course at Cardiff University. The course is in its second year and run between Cardiff Business School and Cardiff School of Journalism which combines business and media to help shape the media managers of the future.

What’s interesting is that this year the majority of the students come from outside the UK. Although this is not altogether peculiar for an MBA course, the global perspective is really important here.

It’s often quite tough for something like a media brand to succeed when it is simply transplanted from one culture where it was successful to another culture without any kind of sensitivity.

That was not the case here.

Setting an activity for the students revealed just how diverse a stage the media world is. The exercise asked the students to use five out of 10 of the principles (taken from the book I recently co-authored on community. More info here.) that had been discussed in the seminar in order to come up with a new media brand.

The results were quite spectacular and inspiring with some very original ideas. Two of my favourites were:

A social network centred around major life events – a community can upload stories to a person’s memorial or wedding page and contribute to a bigger picture of the couple or, in the sadder scenario, the deceased. This is a very touching way of placing emotional change back into the hands of community where coping/celebration can occur in a very human way. There was also a lovely revenue stream which offers specially printed copy of the social network node (the event).
A postcard community for regular travellers – travellers can upload their favourite photographs and curate stories around the postcards. I can see the potential for a community to spring up around a particular snapshot with other people inevitably having sent the same postcard. Additionally, real world events would take place to unite the community and offer, for example, training sessions in photography which would give travellers the skills to produce the snapshot. Of course, this could lead to a print-on-demand revenue stream too.

I think for me, the really interesting thing is the global perspective on media. I did not imagine that in half an hour all four groups would come up with coherent ideas which would also be innovative and fill gaps in the market.

Additionally, they all embraced the most important part of community: human emotion. Whether it be a solution for lonely travellers to feel together, the grieving to cope together or celebrate, I feel honoured to have helped the media managers of the future consider the potential of considering the effects that they can have on the collective individual.