Condé Nast buys Ars Technica is not the story. The real story is how new media is capable of growing and retaining a passionate legion of readers, so passionate in fact that they are worthy of the term community. Let me ask you something in all confidence, when was the last time you felt you belonged to the community of print publications? The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, how about USAToday? All reputable and well written/researched publications. All in the business of delivering news. Yet, even as they have opened their blogs to comments, I would be hard pressed to call many of the commenters members of a community.
When I read the announcement by Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher on Ars Technica a couple of days after the news had broken, I noticed that the word community shows up in the second paragraph. The largest amount of copy in the announcement addresses the publication's community both acknowledging and thanking its members. From the post (emphasis mine):
Together, we've done more than I think any of us ever imagined. We've built a writing team that's passionate about technology and its promise, and we've seen amazing growth thanks to the diverse expertise of our team. We have an amazing community, both in terms of its size (5+ million readers, as tracked privately by Quantcast) and in terms of its contributions. Our community is unparalleled, in my not so humble opinion, and it's a big reason why this year we're serving more than 30 million page views each month. [...]Not our product is turnkey, not our service is the best - our community is amazing, unparalleled. In fact, the one promise Fisher makes for change is an improvement of the community platform. He even addresses how he would have preferred to have broken the news himself acknowledging Ars Technica got scooped by Mike Arrington's TechCrunch. All throughout, the community is front and center.
Speaking of community, I wanted to share something that I think says a great deal about who Ars Technica is: every employee of Ars Technica was a member of its community first, and had been a longtime reader. (12 million posts, thousands upon thousands of news tips, recommendations, and corrections).
New media champions and main stream media go hand in hand. Truly. While the hottest news may indeed come from the keyboards of natives of the 24-hour, 7-day cycle, I still believe there is plenty of room for traditional media. Can we teach them and businesses in general to learn to appreciate and embrace their communities?