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Issue #797: The “Lessons from Fark” Issue

Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Fark — a site where members comment on news stories — has quietly become one of the most successful and longest-running online communities. With 4 million unique visitors a month and nearly 500,000 members, Fark is among the top 100 English language websites. A few lessons they can teach us:

1> Headlines should be great previews
2> Protect the community by delaying membership
3> Offer an upgrade for big fans
4> Check it out: Fark

1> Headlines should be great previews

Fark creates their own headlines for the stories they feature and then send visitors on to news sites to read the full text. They only have a few words to get a reader’s attention — their headlines are everything. A handy trick they use is great previews (without giving the full story away). For example, recent Fark headlines include “A lake is draining unexpectedly in your city and fish left behind are dead or dying. What do you do? Bring in a hungry alligator, of course (w/ pics)” and “Under the laws of American Samoa, police aren’t allowed to carry guns. Since you’re reading this on Fark, you know it won’t end well.”

The lesson: Great headlines make people curious and want to learn more — without giving away the full story.

2> Protect the community by delaying membership

Every community — online and off — has people who show up only to criticize, insult other members, and tear things down. Fark is able to avoid most of these insulting comments from passing visitors by simply delaying membership and commenting abilities by a few hours. This short delay is enough to weed out 99% of the people who are only there to leave drive-by insults.

The lesson: Giving your community a barrier to entry ensures only the people who really care can get in.

3> Offer an upgrade for big fans

There is no cost to join the Fark community, but it became clear early on that the biggest fans wanted more. So in 2002 they introduced a subscription membership. For $5 a month, TotalFarkers have the privilege of seeing and commenting on all links submitted to the site (as opposed to only those included on the main page) — and they’re eligible to receive an email address. These seemingly small bonuses mean a lot to Fark’s biggest fans, and in just five years more than 2,000 of their readers have opted for the paid subscription.

The lesson: Small perks can mean big things to your passionate fans.

4> Check it out: Fark

Fark’s not only a good source of marketing ideas, it’s also a great place to find out what’s happening in the world of bizarre news on any given day.

Check it out: Fark

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  1. Rishi Rawat August 20, 2010 at 8:20 am #

    Excellent article. I’ve known about Fark for years but reading this post has given me new appreciation for the people managing

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