Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Unique Content? Gleaning Fresh Material from Forums

We non-fiction writers are always looking for fresh new topics. Fortunately, there are places all over the Web where people gather to talk about what’s hot, tell what’s on their minds, and ask questions: forums.

Forums abound for every topic under the sun. Some are broad, others highly specialized. There are forums for growing heirloom tomatoes, raising kids, investing in the stock market, and choosing the latest, greatest PC hardware. The people on them are your audience, and they’re more than happy to talk about the things that really interest them. They also talk about what’s upcoming or what’s new, so a vigilant writer can scan for seasonal topics in subject areas like gardening or holiday planning, or for cutting edge topics like technology.

So how do you milk forums for all they’re worth?

  • Look for well-moderated boards. Moderators do part of the work for you by culling anything that is off-topic or offensive.
  • Try newsgroups. Google newsgroups are precursors to modern forums. Some are moderated and some are not. You can usually configure your mail client to deliver messages straight to you, and individual newsgroups often have excellent FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) that cover the basics of the topic.
  • Consider interviews. Regulars on forums love to talk about their subjects, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Lurk for a bit and get a feel for who is friendly and knowledgeable. Most forums allow some method of private contact, whether it’s private messaging or a profile containing contact information.
  • Give back. Being helpful to others keeps you in the good graces of the moderators and members.

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