Rick Bin is a successful Sovrn publisher. As the founder and editor of the popular site 24hourcampfire.com, Rick has been able to provide readers with the values and traditions of the American outdoors.
How did your site get its start?
I founded 24hourcampfire.com in 2000 after taking a job at an Internet startup and realizing that I wanted to build communities. I scratched the HTML code myself, caught lightening in a bottle, and found success. The majority of our members are from the United States, but we definitely have an international component as well. The thinking behind 24hourcampfire.com, is that no matter where you are, you can always sit around the proverbial campfire, and discuss outdoor related topics with anyone at anytime.
How do you learn about your audience and make sure the content is tailored correctly?
Users’ reading habits are moving away from print and towards the web, and obviously the advertising dollars have followed. My editorial philosophy early on was to purchase mainstream articles from the top writers in the outdoor field. The guys you would find in Outdoor Life, for example. The original idea for our forum was to obtain organic commentary on the articles we were posting. We wanted to get the writers to interact with the readers, and that took off right away. The forums began to take on a life of their own, outpacing the content we were purchasing. Now, the forums provide 60-70% of our content. We are advocates for user-generated content and through this mentality, we learn a lot about our readers and what interests them.
How do you manage your forums?
Status quo is never a reality. Monitoring a community and being the “sheriff” means that you have to ride the waves. For the most part, the forums are self-monitored by our member community. This allows members to take ownership of the content, which has been a very successful approach for us. Every once in a while, you have to step in and pull content, but the sense of community on our site has become self-governing. There is an undercurrent of respect and responsibility among our members that is very apparent.
What is one of your greatest achievements with 24hourcampfire.com?
The actual community aspect of the site has been incredible. We see what a community will do for members that are in need, and that really has ended up being the greatest thing. For example, a current member has a daughter with leukemia, and a bunch of other members have been doing all kinds of things to help fund her treatments. People have been posting on free classifieds, and an item that should make $x amount of money, is being purchased for much higher because people know the proceeds are helping another community member. There have been countless examples like this.
What is the best advice you have received during this endeavor?
Don’t rush. You have to give your site time to incubate and develop, and patience is key. Also, as a blogger, you have to learn to be comfortable being hands off. Over-moderation and censorship can be detrimental. While monitoring is important, letting the conversation flow in an organic way definitely helps grow the community.