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LiveJournal’s GM Talks About the Future of Blogging

While Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook generate buzz, LiveJournal has been quietly steaming along for 13 years. The service is the ultimate combination of blog and social media, connecting folks with like interests with easy friending tools and communities.

And though it may seem like blogging is on the way out, LiveJournal is looking to pump up the volume with the concept of super communities.

LiveJournal General Manager Anjelika Petrochenko talked with me about the future of the service and how it could become the next big thing for any one marketing content.

CB: Can you talk a little about blogging’s place in social media. It seemed like it was headed out but now is experiencing a resurgence.

AP: Blogging is and always has been a popular part of LiveJournal. While most of the newer social networks allow people to simply declare what they have done, what they are doing or what they know, LiveJournal’s provides a platform that allows for real thought and deeply involved conversation. Additionally, blogs are often the foundation of communities, which are built around common shared interests. Currently, LiveJournal U.S. has almost 50,000 active communities.

CB: What’s the advantage of creating a blog at LiveJournal over any other site or a standalone blog?

AP: LiveJournal is a social network. Although LiveJournal gives its users a blogging platform, it also offers a place for its members to  friend others, share ideas, create content, express themselves, chat with those with similar interests, promote beliefs, post ideas, comment on issues, etc. Consequently, the advantage of joining LiveJournal is that you are actually joining an entire social network made up of 30 million members, which encourages users to create their own community around specific interests.

One important differentiators to mention is that LiveJournal does not require members to reveal their identities. Anonymity is allowed and often encouraged. We have observed that the ability to be anonymous allows people to discuss things they might not normally discuss in real life and on sites that require users to reveal their identities. This is why we think LiveJournal communities, which are built around personal topics like politics, LGBT and similar subjects are thriving. There is no such thing as TMI on LiveJournal.

CB: Mobile is a big trend. What is LiveJournal doing to capture this audience?

AP: Mobile is a big area of growth for LiveJournal in the 2012. LiveJournal already has a companion app for iPhone and Android phones that allows posting and other features, but we know there’s so much more we can and should do – and we are doing it, with more to come in 2012.

CB: I recently wrote a piece on the LiveJournal stores that are popular in Asia. Why do you suppose that took off there and not here. Is that an option here in the US, sort of Etsy for LiveJournal?

AP: It is a testament to LiveJournal’s versatility that it can accommodate almost any trend. “Blogshops” are a growing popular trend in Asia, especially in Singapore, where LiveJournal organically took hold for this trend. It is often a matter of filling a natural niche – in the U.S. there are many e-commerce options, including sites like eBay and Etsy. We should be clear that the blogshops on LiveJournal Singapore are selling their wares, but LiveJournal is not an e-commerce platform. Blogshops are, of course, more than welcome to start in the U.S., but here there are other options.

CB: What types of communities fit best at LiveJournal?

AP: On LiveJournal, there is a community for almost any subject. However, we have found that the “best fits” are communities that are lively, active and interesting. The most popular communities on LiveJournal tend to be more focused on areas of entertainment and personal advice such as parenting, but a quick search of communities related to your own interests reveals many choices.

CB: I’m a TV fan and use LiveJournal a lot, but I don’t think of it as a place for media. What kinds of things are you doing to help these “super communities” become more significant.

AP: LiveJournal is a treasure trove of 13 years worth of user-generated content. Most of it is extremely compelling and insightful, and could have greater impact if it has a wider audience. Thus far, LiveJournal has done a good job of helping curate and facilitate the discovery of great communities. But, many LiveJournal communities are analogous to media sites – they are active, interesting, informational, have strong membership and want to grow. These are the sites that we have been identifying as “super communities” and we have developed a new program that allows them to be more easily discovered and to grow even more.

ONTD is the best example of what a LiveJournal super community is and can become. As LiveJournal’s largest community, ONTD (Oh No They Didn’t) is a place where members share celebrity gossip.  It is treated almost like a media site, though the “editorial staff” remains LiveJournal users who create the content posted in the community. Other communities that are being invited to be a part of the initiative are not new communities; rather, they are existing communities that LiveJournal has reached out to, offering a custom design, special features and widgets, and promotional/marketing help. Essentially, these are voices that want to be heard by more people and we are facilitating this.

Have you ever considered using LiveJournal for business? We’d like to hear about it.

  • Katran Miller

    Livejournal appears to be driving its paying users from the last 13 years onto a rival site by getting rid of the features we’ve used all that time. Instead, after making derogatory remarks about existing users on staff Twitter channels and other interviews, the new management of LJ is promoting these new celebrity pop culture “supercommunities” over the writing, role playing, personal journals, and other more literary forms of expression that were the mainstay of LJ for so many years. They seem not to comprehend what the word “journal” means.

    It’s a pity. LJ was a thriving home to millions of webizens long before modern social networks, but Its new management is bound and determined to turn it into another Facebook, leaving us with no choice but to go to an alternative site that really IS set up for blogging, writing and community exactly the way LJ used to be. Yes, that rival site is updated with cleaner, faster code and support for mobile and social media. Its management truly understands what LJ meant for so many of us: a nexus to share writing and longer posts with friends who are interested in more content than can be conveyed with simple status updates and 140-character tweets.

    That site also retained the unique features of LJ, comment titles and threaded posts, which made it easy to have long multi-person conversations. LJ removed them in December and has ignored approximately 20,000 posts pleading for them to come back. The new management simply doesn’t seem to get why that has caused so many users to migrate. Members of the staff mocked us and said we’d “get used to it.” No. Not if you’re taking away what we used the site for.

    The livejournal communities, conversations, and writing groups of 13 years will continue, but they won’t be on LJ. Goodbye, old friend. 13 years was a pretty good run.

    LJ, we’re writers. We WRITE. Hence the “journal” in the domain name. If we wanted Facebook and pop culture social games, we’d BE on Facebook, okay?

  • internetpolice

    Since 2007, LiveJournal has done nothing but undermine the very purpose for which it was originally intended. They have belittled and ignored paying customers who have been loyal for years, and in turn sold out to a company of questionable reputability whose only interest is profit and gaining new users who will in no way contribute to the community LJ once was.

    A community business school freshman can tell you that it is more lucrative to keep the repeat business of your long-term customers than it is to try and win new ones, but SUP apparently skipped class that day and decided to throw their userbase out with yesterday’s garbage and try to pander to the vacuous instant-gratification denizens of the likes of Twitter and Tumblr. They completely ignore user concerns, bugs and general issues that their customers have, and instead of addressing the issue through competent problem-solving and customer support, they ignore support tickets and consider them solved after some fatuous volunteer makes a drive-by comment with a useless link to a semi-related FAQ.

    LJ has in no way built “the future of blogging,” if such a thing exists. It isn’t 2006, nobody is really interested in blogging anymore. Which is fine, as long as the various platforms still exist for those of us that do. LiveJournal, however, not wanting to be outdone and attempting to futilely save a sinking ship, completely bastardizes what’s left of us and what we do. It is a horrid example of a blogging platform, and is completely dismissive of its loyal users’ concerns. Even Six Apart could have done better with it had they kept it.

    The Russian company that took over clearly knows nothing about this site or how it works, nor do they even come close to understanding the users or their feelings. They don’t even take them into consideration. It is appalling the way they have treated their users, and I would recommend anyone who is actually interested in blogging – legitimate blogging, not just some trite link to a funny video, but actual coherent, intimate thoughts – to reconsider and take your business elsewhere.

    LiveJournal is dead.