Monday, October 25, 2010

Follow people, or follow topics? It depends.

This sort of ties in to the whole "following people vs. following topics" discussion that I've engaged in here and elsewhere, but this is from the perspective of the content provider.

Anna Tarkov blogged about The Awl and David Carr's observations about it. Let's start with an excerpt from the New York Times article that Carr wrote:

In an age of hyper-targeted vertical sites, The Awl is all over the road. In the last week, the site published a column about foreclosures, a piece describing what it feels like to be chided by Gene Simmons, an illustrated essay on the virtues of the breaststroke, tips on picking up obnoxious hipster girls and yes, poetry in the, yes, poetry section.

Tarkov quoted this observation from Carr:

Strong voices and a literate sensibility made The Awl an attractive, sticky place.

Which led Tarkov to state:

This tidbit early on re-teaches the lesson that we should already know. When it comes to building a successful online content business, you don't necessarily need to focus on a specific niche. You just need to have a strong voice and a clear idea of who your readers are.

While pondering Tarkov's statement and its implications in the people vs. topics debate, it occurred to me that there is reading...and there is reading.

Sometimes we approach the computer in an effort to search for a particular thing - the dates for Oracle OpenWorld, the details behind the Norwegian newsreader who resigned on air, whatever. In that case, it is often more practical to search for a topic (with some exceptions - I might check the "person" called Oracle Technolyg Network to find out about Oracle OpenWorld dates, for example).

At other times, we're not approaching the computer to search for a particular thing. Maybe we're just looking for general biometrics stuff, without looking at anything in particular. Or maybe we're looking for fun stuff, so we go to FriendFeed to see what is going on there.

Perhaps those are the types of people that The Awl attracts. But if you're searching for specific information about pointed sticks, you might have better luck here.
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