Who& lurking on your site?

Another phenomenon that’s caught my eye lately: a very small percentage of people who visit a web site or (or this blog) will actually post.

“Come on, Maverick, engage!”

You remember the scene in “Top Gun” where our hero, Tom Cruise, guilt ridden from the death of his side-kick, Goose, just couldn’t engage? Tom had emotional baggage which lead to fear of flying (and fighting). He lost his stinger there for a while, but eventually his Top Gun character returns and he saves the day.

But what about the rest of us? We won’t say much. Why are we like this?

We did a survey last season and asked our season ticket holders what they like to do before the games. A large percentage to out to eat, or tailgate; and many like to watch the players warm up, but by far the most popular thing to do before games is PEOPLE WATCH. Fans go to games to watch other fans in addition to watching players. That strikes me as oddly interesting. I can see living vicariously through the players, but I wonder why this fascination with watching other people?

Looking at the data on our current fan forum, it seems we’ve got the same thing happening here. Very few posters. Quite a few lurkers.


Not sure if you can actually read the numbers (I’m still learning about capturing screen shots and re-sizing) so I’ll help you out. I did some quick math to see what is the ratio of posts to page views and found in most cases, there are 95% more views that posts. Lots of people reading, very few people commenting.

I’m wondering, does this reflect society at large? Is this the best we can hope to do? Or will the MySpace generation, people who are growing up as content producers, be more willing to share?

On second thought, perhaps age has less to do with it than you might think. I’ve watched my wife go from “lurker” to “poster” recently. Amy chose to use cloth diapers instead of disposable for our fourth child. Come to find out there’s a huge and vibrant on-line community for moms who cloth diaper their kids (I know it sounds odd, but it’s there). For months, Amy would read and read and read, but never post. Then one day she did it. She posted. Then she did it again. Just the other day she told me she has recorded no fewer than 200 posts in one particular forum. (She has also bought over $500 worth of cloth diapers along the way). If this is any indication, then there is a way to get people who are hesitant to engage to not only post, but they will spend more money once they feel comfortable in the community.

Pew Internet Research reports that only 19% of the people on-line have ever created content for a website.

This number is growing fast, and I do believe that the younger generations coming up the ladder will indeed consume and participate in their media experiences much differently than I have so far. They’re playing fantasy football, their in Second Life, they’re building their own content pages, linking to friends, playing Madden NFL on their XBOX or whatever…they’re simply more accustomed to participating. Which leads me to wonder if we’ll ever reach a point where our main audience (young males 12-24) might someday realize that THEIR content is more important than OUR content. I mean, why watch the game when you can play your own? Why idolize a player when you can be one?

Maybe I’m crazy. But at the very least, I believe we need to find more ways to get people to engage so that we can better understand who they are and what makes them tick. Knowing more about our fans will help us keep them as customers (consumers of our content) and help us develop better opportunities for our sponsors. We need to engage with our fans (and they with us) so that we can represent their QUALITY as much their QUANTITY to our sponsors.
Currently, all I can tell a sponsor is the number of eyeballs viewing our screens.

But to do this, we need to enter the conversation ourselves. We have been just as guilty as any lurker in that we push out content but fail to offer ways for fans to engage with us. WE don’t participate in the conversation. Eventually, this will start costing us money. That’s why we’re starting our Fan Network. I can’t tell the value of our fans if the fan won’t engage.

So many of us go through life without engaging in the conversation.

Look at voter registration (and voter turnout), or other statistics like 97% of complaints go unregistered, or 85% of new business leads go unfulfilled. We humans simply won’t engage as much as we could engage. But that doesn’t mean we’re not listening or watching or paying attention.

It reminds me of an old joke: There was a 9-year-old kid who had gone his entire life without ever speaking. Everyone thought he was mute. Then one morning while sitting at the breakfast table, the kids blurts out “this oatmeal’s cold”. His father, feeling as if he’s witnessed a miracle, runs to him and says, “Son, you can speak! What happend? Why have you been quite for so long?” This this the kid replies: “Up until now, everything was fine.” (da dum dum).