It’s entirely possible that I’m not the best ‘loper to speak on this topic, but, well, that’s never stopped me. It’s not like my thoughts will stop the best ‘loper from speaking. We’re opinionated that way. And when a major corporation like CBS does something stupid, it requires team coverage.
For a few months there, we here at Medialoper HQ were thinking that maybe — just maybe — CBS might actually get how this whole Internet thing works. That maybe — just maybe — they might understand the importance of brand and discovery.
Luckily, we are not as gullible as the mainstream media, though, frankly, we gnashed our teeth at the latest lame CBS news: in the waning days of 2007, right before, oh, Christmas, CBS has let the entire StarTrek.com editorial team go. Effective immediately. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
First, and interestingly, it looks like the “so long and thanks for all the fish” news item posted by the StarTrek.com editorial team has been replaced with a “hey, keep the conversation going in our forums” post. In fact, that original post has been purged from the archives. Really tacky, CBS, really tacky. Also, worst first paragraph ever (one ‘loper notes, “It sounds like Dilbert’s boss wrote it”):
CBS Interactive, which oversees StarTrek.com, is reorganizing the way it does business to align the division’s workforce with its new vision that focuses on building communities online.
You lost me at “align the division’s workforce, blah, blah, blah”. Yeah, CBS, you know your audience.
By the way, if you’re going to focus on building community, you might want to brush up on the notion of authenticity. The entire success or failure of an online community is dependent upon authenticity. The above paragraph demonstrates, most unfortunately, the total lack of authentic voice. Most lawyers aren’t good at writing. Just a thought.
Second, it’s pretty clear that CBS still doesn’t get it. Cutting through the lawyer/public relations speakola, it seems that CBS has decided that paying professional editorial staff is so…2006. When you have a passionate community — and I think it’s safe to say that the Star Trek community is passionate — why have professionals at the wheel when you can take advantage of free labor?
Oh, CBS, you do not understand online community. You do not understand the importance of content. You do not understand that you do not have a monopoly on the Star Trek conversation. And deleting a post does not change the course of conversation. In fact, CBS, the first rule of the Internet is you do not control the Internet. The fact that you summarily fired a group of people who have spent years (some, probably, decades) building community ties does not stop the conversation.
Suggesting that people take the conversation to the forums — you know, the place where you have to login to speak — isn’t an answer. It’s a sign that you can’t handle controversy. You can’t handle transparency. You can’t handle the truth. It’s also a sign that you think you own the conversation. You don’t.
Oh, and OMIGOD, did you take a seminar and discover the word “conversation”? Seriously.
You have a valuable property in StarTrek.com, but I suspect, like most of your online ventures, you will find a way to destroy it. A strong community requires strong leaders, authoritative leaders, and while I do not doubt that there are Trekkers (Trekkies? I know it’s one or the other) who are knowledgeable, I’m not convinced that this group has the skill to build and maintain community (hint: inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness).
While I am not, nor have I ever been, a part of this community, I do understand the depth and breadth of its members. And I also know the ins and outs of online community building. First step, don’t let your leaders work for the competition. But I’m sure the the “division’s workforce” at CBS knows this. I’m sure they’ve spent the appropriate amount of time cultivating the community they’re about to manage.
We at Medialoper hereby tender our offer to take over operations of StarTrek.com. We think a reasonable revenue sharing deal is appropriate. We anticipate profitability within the first hour of operation.
I saw a Reuters article today that CBS has outsourced the content development portion of StarTrek.com to the makers of the Prism Durosport. This can not possibly be a good development. I heard their first order of business was to deflate the browser requirements by mandating usage of Mosaic 1.0, since “it’s the most universally accepted Web browser in existence. Ever.” Thanks guys.
That’s true Tyson. They’re also changing the domain name to StarTrek.md, which could prove to be somewhat misleading. Sounds sort of like a Star Trek medicine site.
Tim G. says
I’m right there with ya. So yes, this was a rather shocking development, especially with so many things going on right now, with the promotion for the new movie about to kick in, Star Trek The Tour about to open in Long Beach, etc…Not to mention our massive advertising of the original series episode The Menagerie that was recently screened in theaters. Etc.
My gut feeling is that this corporate layoff was done by spreadsheet, not any form of reasonable intelligence. They simply weren’t thinking of the numerous business relationships already in place on the site. Not to mention giveaway commitments. I guess they can all figure it out themselves now!
We shall see what the ultimate fate of the site is, but this was clearly poorly thought out.
This is what gets me: for something like Star Trek, you are only to keep “the conversation going” if the punters feel like that the face of corporation has as deep of an understanding as they do.
This is key.
Obviously, there is always going to be some friction between the “official” site and the fansites, but if you browse the reaction among the various blogs, the site that Tim ran had their respect. It wasn’t like “oh well, good riddance to bad rubbish,” but rather “this is such bullshit.”
So this is why it makes no sense: CBS just fired an acknowledged and respected domain expert on one of the most successful pop culture franchises of all time.
Tyson — I did hear that rumor about the Durosport Corporation. They have a habit of underbidding the competition.
Jim, you’re edging up to the crux of the issue (actually, I suspect you’re stepping all over the issue). Credibility, connections, and conversation are the hallmarks of Web 2.0 (and when I say conversation, I mean two-way, not one-way). If the conversation isn’t allowed to happen in the officially sanctioned halls, then it goes somewhere else. Which means, yes, if the experts go somewhere, then the fans will follow.
It’s pretty obvious that the decision-makers here looked at numbers from the wrong perspective. This is the mistake we’re seeing every time they launch (and abandon) various ventures. There is more to building community than meets the eye….
When i first head the news of this i was like “what were they thinking i can’t get my head around it” but then my thinking turned to anger and i remember back to recent years of what they have done to Star Trek.
People poke fun at Star Trek fans with terms like “nerds” but every show has it’s fans but i (in my own view) see that Star Trek fans are more united, they have more of a dedication to Star Trek.
What i hate most is these companies play with us, they bring us a show and people get into it and then BOOM they end it without thought of the new fans or people wanting more.
I think it is time that fans were in the driving seat and that fans should take a active role in keeping all our shows we love so dear alive.
When left in the fans hands we only have each other to blame if the show fails but we would have the say in the shows fate and not that of a business who only wants profit and then cut and run.
I shall look forward to Gods of Men and i hope it is not the end of the trek movie(s)
CBS will never have my custom again and i know that is a full hearty promise but one i intend to keep.
CBS – if the world comes to an end tomorrow, my only hope is that your building is the first to go so that all fans can see your ruin like the ruin you have caused to trek.
OK, after spending a bit of time following this story elsewhere, I’m convinced that StarTrek.com will soon be relaunched as a social network for Trekkies. Whether or not the world actually needs a social network for Trekkies is another question entirely.
So, a couple of things seem to be happening here:
1. CBS Interactive has decided that StarTrek.com should be more Web2.0ish. That’s pretty obvious given their love of buzzwords.
2. CBS Interactive has apparently learned about “crowdsourcing”. It’s cheaper to have your fans maintain a website than it is to pay a professional editorial staff. The problem with approach is that the fans won’t have the same access that a professional editorial staff would have. So instead of StarTrek.com featuring interviews with the show’s cast and creators, the all new StarTrek.com will feature a never ending stream of home-made Star Trek parody videos.
Oh, and the new site will probably have something like Digg for Star Trek news.
I can hardly wait until this thing launches.
Hoo boy! As someone who actually works for a company that relies heavily on crowdsourcing let me tell you that CBS Interactive has no idea what they are in for.
Account maintenance (it’s a different thing w/ user-generated content than maintaining boards)
“Hey, that guy stole my idea/video/girlfriend”
Not to mention — ironically — Editorial control.
Ian Kemmish says
Perhaps the word “valuable” simply doesn’t mean what you think it means….
Tim G. says
And, it’s not like we didn’t pitch this 2.0 stuff to them anyway.
Coming from the Dilbert-corporate world, for people to assume that there is a plan in place is giving way too much credit. Corporate “synergy” is almost always an afterthought. CBS has been spending a lot of money on buying up new companies though, and maybe their secret plan is to pawn it off on one to of them where, eventually, all of startrek.com is reduced to a Facebook widget. But, again, that would assume there was a plan in place to begin with…