The Community Creates The Value

Back in the halcyon days of Web 1.0, John Hagel of McKinsey wrote a best-selling book called “Net Worth” that argued that community would be the engine of value creation.

Companies like Yahoo! then dutifully went out and bought companies like eGroups and GeoCities, arguably at overly inflated prices. To a large extent, Hagel’s ideas dropped by the wayside.

Today, however, it’s clear that Hagel was simply ahead of his time. Communities are creating tremendous value. The difference is the level of engagement. Subscribing to an email list and creating a personal home page are one thing. Writing a daily blog is quite another.

For example, a friend of mine created a fun little flash game. Nothing much happened with it. Yesterday, it was featured on StumbleUpon and got thousands of visitors. We used to call it the Slashdot effect; now there are hundreds of different Slashdot effect generators, ranging from Digg to mini-communities and networks.

Another example is PopSugar. Lisa Sugar started blogging for fun less than a year ago. Today, PopSugar generates 13 million pageviews per month, and includes a gossip blog, a fashion blog, and advice site, and a social network, with 12 more sites on the way, all self-funded and bootstrapped.

The PopSugar team created an incredibly engaged community just based on good content. Admittedly, theirs is a six-sigma (low probability) event–thousands of blogs launch each day, and few will ever attract 13 million pageviews per month–nonetheless, it illustrates both the power of community and the ability to create one with creativity and talent, rather than dollars or big media pull.

Can you think of any communities that engage you? Or how about communities that you wish existed? Examine your passions…you just might find a gold mine.

2 thoughts on “The Community Creates The Value

  1. Chris:
    I really agree with everything that you’ve written. However, I would like to reemphasize your point that PopSugar’s 13 million pageviews is a low probability event. Most people are passionate about something and passion usually translates into good content. However, translating good content into the critical mass necessary to create communities is difficult. There are many books written on PR, word of mouth and viral marketing but I’ve yet to come across one that isn’t merely a collection of examples with little or no replicable theory.

    P.S. Let’s get together for another slice sometime soon.

  2. Andrew,

    Totally agree with your emphasis. The fact is that there are lots of passionate people creating great content, but few will have the luck to catch lightning in a bottle.

    That’s why I always advise people to do what they love, but understand that the money doesn’t necessarily follow. If you want money, there are probably some things that you won’t love that will provide a better chance of getting rich.

    But it’s not nearly as fun.

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