Online media is about conversation: Will newspapers ever get that?!

By Steve Outing

Just checked out the Denver Post’s new niche website/community.

On the plus side: Bravo to the newspaper company for recognizing that there are opportunities in local niches, and moms is one of the no-brainer choices. Bravo also for giving it a non-Post brand name; you don’t see “Denver Post” anywhere on the homepage except in a footer text link at the bottom of the page. A traditional brand can actually be a negative on a site like this, so I think this is a smart move.

I also like the concept of having 7 featured mom bloggers. (Well, one is actually the “token dad.”) As the community grows, they will become quasi-celebrities — and they ensure that the site will have lots of high-quality content (which you don’t always get when you rely heavily on users to contribute content to the site).

One the negative side: It’s not much of a community. Only “web 2.0” features are forums (that’s hardly even what I’d term web 2.0) and occasional contests, like best Halloween costume photos from users. There are so many more possibilities. It just started, so perhaps that’ll come. But it’s not rocket science to add web 2.0 features, so I’m perplexed why there’s so little community functionality at the start. Where’s the video? Podcasts? Ability to form online local moms groups? Specialized mom calendars with ability to add events? …

And here’s something that made me groan in frustration: The only opportunity to interact with the mom bloggers is to leave a comment on one of their posts. You can’t send them e-mails; you can’t ask a question by filling out a webform. This page features mom blogger profiles, but there’s no way to contact them. (There are links to their personal blogs, and you can find contact forms on some of those.)

What the heck is that about? Sounds like the old newspaper model of the journalists being put on a pedestal and prevented from interacting with the audience.

Ergo, my headline. It’s frustrating to see newspaper companies miss out on the mega-trend of social media. MileHighMamas is a great concept for creating a niche community, but in its early days it’s missing the boat. I’m hoping the site’s editors will open it up more as a conversational community (and I mean more than web 1.0 discussion forums). If not, an opportunity is missed.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!