When I started building a home media centre last year I discovered something unexpected. My focus was on building a living room hifi system. I wanted it for lossless computer-stored music (I use a Mac and iTunes), not MP3s, iPods, vinyl or CDs.
Being a music lawyer I'm into advice. I asked a audiophile friend for advice, he suggested certain brands and product types and recommended an experienced local hifi shop owner.
Being a lawyer I appreciate research. My friend's email led me to online magazines (I subscribe to Choice), product vendor websites, and reviews in various places. Here's some of the online hifi magazines:
I soon stumbled into hifi or audiophile online forums. The more I read, the more I realised I did not know. I thought I better finish research before I bother the guy at the hifi shop, otherwise I would not know the right questions to ask him and end up with the wrong products.
I soon realised the extent to which the forums are knowledge sharing environments. Forums used to be known as message boards, bulletin boards, or chat rooms. Here's some online hifi forums I've followed:
Geeks are on a mission in these forums. They gather, lurk, post and debate a range of subjects that put to shame most PR, advertising and marketing departments.
They seek quality, reliable and up-to-date information and advice. I became one of them. Their forums proved more useful than blogs, let alone Web 1.0 websites. This was unexpected. Like Alice I fell into a geek wonderland, online forums used like social media to support business online.
The forums I've followed have been unmoderated. It's remarkable to witness how wonderfully self-regulated they are. If someone flames others provide balance, when a mere opinion is stated others call for supporting facts, when a technical issue is raised people pipe up with lots of perspectives on causes and solutions. These features make forums better than traditional push media.
In the listed hifi or audiophile forums participants enjoy the camaraderie of gathering socially online and helping each other in Q&As in a civil society.
The pinkfishmedia.net forum I follow has a thread which is currently at 117 "pages", it's about a new DAC (digital-to-analog converter), the Audiolab 8200CDQ (photo right).
This depth of user information is remarkable. How far we've come from ads in printed magazines. For example, the avsforum.com has an iPhone app with remarkable functionality for subscribing to its topic threads. It's available on all my screens, I'm a screenager.
As a digital media lawyer working for online businesses, I appreciate the many-fold functionality of the forums. They can help companies develop, manufacture, market, sell and support products. For businesses forum participation can be used to:
Develop product ideas inspired by suggestions from switched-on forum users
Support customers with queries and technical issues (forum members can become brand evangelists helping to overcome potential customer complaints)
Market brands (brands that participate well in forums can communicate that they care about the user experience of their customers).
Having a full marketing mix is important. Forums and online presence are only just part of the overall mix of requirements today for effective marketing of products and services.
Happily my research will end soon. I will finalise my purchases. Oh, and I never did get to that local hifi shop. I found another online, and spent most of my money there.