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.