The following is a reponse to a lengthy and thoughtful (though at times off-base) analysis of the new FastCompany.com by Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang. His post can be found at:
I’m the president of Mansueto Digital and built the new FastCompany.com along with several dozen extremely talented strategists, IAs, developers and designers. A true team effort of more than a year.
Now that we have a couple of weeks under our belt, I thought I’d take a few minutes to reply to your thoughtful post. First, many of the day one performance issues and bugs you reported have been fixed — it’s not often that a new, innovative platform gets tried out by so many hundreds of thousands of people from day one, but we’re a popular brand. Intense scrutiny from day one isn’t a problem that the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Digg and LinkedIn had to contend with, but I’m not complaining — we’re glad to be popular. We have loads more fixes and features to iron out still, but from a technical perspective, the site is overall doing very well given we’re in month one.
From a business and editorial perspective we’re doing great also. We’ve signed up sixteen thousand new members since beta launch, joining our existing ranks of tens of thousands of business professionals interested in engaging in a dialogue about business. And we’ve continued our tradition of world-class journalism at the same time.
I think this connection between our journalism and our community isn’t something you fully picked up on in your analysis, perhaps because it was done on day one when the site was full of commentary about, well, the site. So the day you wrote your post, it was a bit hard to see where we would be on day two, three, four and on…
Let me set the record straight: it is not true that community on FastCompany.com is a “full replacement” of edit content, as you said. Actually, pretty much the opposite. The intent of the community is to amplify the discussion about business that our dozens of professional journalists and Fast Company experts spend their professional lives reporting and writing about. We are not slowing down our journalism at all on FastCompany.com.
You may have missed this because slot one of the hompeage on day one was my essay about the new site. On every day since slot one is a feature story from our writers. But slot two is a member micro-blog based on an answer to a daily “Fast Talk” question we pose. We then feature a member blog, before returning to our professionally produced staff blog and expert blog.
All in all, about half the stories come from our writers and experts, and half from members, although the member pieces are mostly based on questions and ideas posed by our editors. This is how we maintain consistency with the brand: we only ask questions and select member content to features about the FastCompany core themes of innovation, technology, management, careers, leadership, design (in business), social responsibility (in business) and work/life balance.
The same is true on the eight topical index pages built around these subjects — about half the content is from our professionals and half of it curated from members. I think this is pretty clear to people reading the content.
Devoting this much space to the members — and what’s more, giving them editorial prominence from a design standpoint that signals equality with the professional journalists — may have been so overwhelmingly different from what you’ve seen from other professionally-produced editorial websites, that you surmised we were just becoming a community site.
But we’re not — we’re a fully blended journalism/community site. And three weeks in, rather than just be hypothetical about what might happen, I can give you some concrete examples. Again, we are only three weeks in:
-We are approaching 1,000 reader posts a day about business topics raised by our journalists.
-Members have set up more than 500 blogs about business.
-We released our annual special edition about the most innovative companies in America, including Google, and featured profiles of dozens of leading executives.
These stories will form the basis of a Q&A with our readers for the next month, which will extend the life of the stories and the conversation far beyond what we ever were capable of before.
-All of the content produced by the members is being stored on their public profiles (even if it isn’t highlighted by the editors on our homepage), so we have hundreds of thousands of readers now able to connect with the readers based on what they are writing about business.
That doesn’t happen on other professional journalism sites, and it doesn’t happen on pure social media sites either. So, for example, take Jeremiah’s blog on the other site where he posted this —
Some people had some really interesting stuff to say. But I have no idea who they are, how to reach them, and what else they may have written recently. If Jeremiah were to become a FastCompany.com blogger (we have some fancier RSS tools debuting soon to satisfy sophisticated bloggers) and I wanted to get to know any of the people who wrote comments on the post, I’d be just a click away from their profile and their contributions to the site — blog post comments like this one, comments to professionally written articles, blogs posts, answers to daily editor questions, a list of the feeds the member subscribes to, articles they recommend, and more.
We think it’s a better model for serious conversation than anything out there. We still have a lot to improve — our interface is pretty elegant, we think (thanks in large part to the very fine folks at Bond Art & Sciences, especially Razorfish’s former lead information architect, Karen McGrane) but we want to make it even better. Improved navigation of for logged in members is coming, as is improved functionality on groups (one feature in particular, due in about six weeks, will be pretty exciting).
Here’s a prediction: not only will other media companies evetually follow some variation of our model, I bet some of them will partner with us to directly join our blended journalism/community network. I have a great few weeks of meetings planned to try to make this a reality.