When Digitaria Interactive of San Diego was hired to rework the Atlanta Falcons online offerings in December 2006, the tech firm was given a mandate: Take them to the “new internet.” Though AtlantaFalcons.com was named Best Overall Website by the NFL Internet Network in 2005, the organization was having problems delivering satisfying content to its fan base online.
“They had such great imagery, such unbelievable photography, unbelievable assets…and they weren’t able to really bring that online,” says Daniel Khabie, CEO of Digitaria. Digitaria’s task was to help the Atlanta Falcons better leverage its rich-media assets and create a more personal user experience for fans through interactive Web 2.0 features like message boards and blogging.
For companies that generate online content, interactive features that put content creation in the hands of the users pose some daunting content management challenges. When a site’s content comes from within an organization, it can regulate the flow of content and ensure that it meets its standards.
But as companies incorporate interactive features, many fear they will find themselves publishing user-generated content that conflicts with their brand and editorial guidelines. The dynamic nature of this content seems to complicate matters as well. A blog comment that meets editorial standards on a Tuesday might not pass muster after a hasty user-edit two days later. How can an organization stay on top of these unique management challenges?
The key to tackling these problems may not lie solely in content management tools’ administrative features, but more in leveraging the user community itself. Experts say the actual tracking and organizing of Web 2.0 content can be a straightforward and hassle-free experience given the search, structuring, and analytics of current management systems. The more difficult challenge, and more interesting problem, is getting users to partner in an organization’s content management strategy, to encourage quality submissions and to identify inappropriate content. By laying the groundwork for an involved, cooperative user-community from the outset, an organization may well find its customers stepping in to ease the content management burden.
Why Go 2.0?
The first prerequisite for realizing an effective user-driven Web 2.0 content management strategy, Khabie believes, is for an organization to step back and think hard about its reasons for pursuing interactive features. He says the biggest challenge of the Atlanta project was “education and making sure they clearly understood the vision.”
“Web 2.0 means a lot to a lot of different people. So as I talk with clients, the biggest thing is to keep things simple,” Khabie says. “What is your brand? What are you about? What are you trying to achieve online and what tech, venue, and communication channels are the best fit for you?”
The Atlanta Falcons wanted to immerse fans in the team experience. They wanted to “push out” high quality, immersive video and photos while giving fans a chance to build connections among themselves and with the team. With this in mind, Digitaria developed a new, Sitecore CMS-driven AltantaFalcons.com site that incorporates this rich content and a new social networking site called FalconsLife.com, which promises to let fans “network with a group of friends, seek out friends in your area, create a robust calendar-based portal for your Falcons fan club, and maintain your own personal profile.”
To meet the Atlanta Falcons’ rich-media needs, Digitaria integrated the Sitecore CMS with Castfire Inc.’s hosted videocasting tool. Video submitted to the site is uploaded to Castfire where it receives a unique URL. The Sitecore CMS then uses that URL to pull the video onto AtlantaFalcons.com and blends it in with the rest of the content on its display page.
Darren Guarnaccia, VP of product marketing for Sitecore, says that while the Sitecore CMS offers its own rich asset management system to manage high-quality images and video, this ability to seamlessly integrate with outside platforms is what sets it apart from other content management solutions. “We have all these tools to offer but if you don’t like ours, you can plug in what you want and use that,” he says.
All things in Moderation
Once an organization has considered its reasons for incorporating interactive elements into its online offerings, as well as the type of content that will meet those needs, it must then consider a key aspect of managing user-generated content: when and how to moderate it. The answer will determine how much user-community involvement will be necessary in managing content submissions. Will it screen all submissions before publication (pre-moderation)? Or will it publish them immediately (post-moderation), regularly screening for inappropriate content and relying on users to flag items that conflict with established guidelines?
Rusty Williams, VP of business development and marketing at Prospero Technologies, has explored both ends of the moderation spectrum while developing web experiences for ABC, Fox, Major League Baseball, and NASCAR using his company’s CommunityCM system. Williams says most of his clients opt for loosely controlled user experiences. Companies like ESPN and Major League Baseball would rather pay attention to violation reports instead of screening content before it’s posted. “The sort of after-the-fact or post-moderation approach is the one that’s most efficient and takes the least amount of time,” Williams says.
However Williams also says there are cases where pre-moderation is a must. ABC’s Lost Theories website is one example. On the page, fans of the ABC drama can post theories about answers to the show’s mysteries and rate others that have been submitted. Before a new theory is published, ABC reviews it against its posted editorial guidelines. Williams says it was clear that pre-moderation was the right move here as ABC wanted to make sure that “a theory that a lot of people would be commenting on was reasonably well-written.”
Regardless of the approach, Williams says the CommunityCM platform offers the necessary tools for clients to manage user-submitted content. Organizations that choose pre-moderation will have an approval queue at their disposal and the ability to automatically filter all submissions for specific keywords to prevent inappropriate content from seeing publication. They can organize that content into folders and search by author name, date range, and keyword.
For companies interested in post-moderation, CommunityCM offers a module that lets users report terms of service violations for specific pieces of content and write a brief description of why they think the content fails muster. Site administrators receive these messages and can then delete the content or render it visible only to administrators. Editors can also lock out unruly visitors so that their posts are visible only to themselves and administrators. Williams says this “bozo flag” technique can be particularly helpful for organizations that want to downplay moderation. The content author “will see it and feel good about it but nobody else can see it because there will be a cloak around it,” Williams says.