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Audience versus Community: The Future of Web Television

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The Friday closing keynote at BlogWorld Expo 2010 covered the topic of web television. Where is it going? How can we get there and how did we get where we are now? How does out thinking about television need to change to monetize it for Internet users? The panelists, (Jim Louerback, Dick Glover, and Dermot McCormack) talked about all these points and more.

But one thing that stuck out to me about the keynote was a comment Dermot McCormack made that audience is essentially the same things as community.

So I throw the question to all of you: Is audience the same thing as community?

For me, it’s not.

When I was in college, a friend of mine made a valid point in saying that friends talk to one another, but best friends talk with one another. To me, that’s the difference between audience and community.

An audience watches or listens or reads. They may be able to post input or feedback on your work, and you may even reply. But they aren’t a community.

A community holds a conversation with you.

A community shapes future videos/posts/etc. that you create.

A community has members that connect with one another.

An audience doesn’t do these things. Audiences don’t feel a stake in your work, or feel like part of a collective. Audiences enjoy what you do, but communities are part of what you do.

Think of it this way: Audience members cheer for you when they’re reading your posts. Community members cheer for you all the time.

Even with a traditional television show, this is true. Audience members tune in every week to watch Grey’s Anatomy. They may be extremely dedicated or even talk about the show with friends the next day.

But Grey’s Anatomy also has a community. These people are online, coming up with cliffhanger theories, writing fan fiction, tweeting about the show, live blogging, and joining Grey’s Anatomy related online discussion groups. They don’t just chat about the show at the water cooler the next day. They have real, meaningful conversations about the show. They identify themselves as part of a group – people who love Grey’s Anatomy.

You want your audience to become a community. Audience members may love what you do, but they’re passive. Encourage people to be an active part of your blog instead.

And that starts with being the first member of your community. Interact. Engage. Be a fan of what you write. Foster community by being community, not just another audience member on your blog.

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.


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