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SodaHead.com, a social networking site where registered users ask and answer questions and connect through discussions, recently unveiled a redesign that has turned it into a “social newspaper” where users can actively discuss news and current events.
The site design modification, according to Sodahead.com’s founders, was inspired by how its active community of more than 2.5 million people a month was utilizing its features. “We launched [in 2007] with a question-and-answer format, but that’s not really how people were using the site,” CEO and co-founder Jason Feffer told AD. “The users always wanted to talk about the events of the day, so they would write a question and put a link to the news story under it. So we decided that instead of each question about the same topic being off on its own and generating 50 different discussions as a result, we would aggregate and facilitate the discussion in one place.”
They achieved this by creating a layout on the homepage that prominently displays breaking news topics in hopes that it will facilitate more uniformed discussions. Sodahead editors will take the top stories of the day and put them in the breaking news area to get the ball rolling. The site also allows users to connect with each other outside of these discussions similar to the way that people connect via Facebook or MySpace.
President and co-founder Michael Glazer says that Sodahead.com’s new format “fills the void” that regular news sites leave behind. “We talk to some of these companies and they ask, ‘Why do we have the same article on our site, which generates ten times more traffic than yours, but the version on Sodahead gets more comments?’” Glazer told AD. “We tell them that people go to their sites for news, but they aren’t there to talk about it. Their site isn’t designed to facilitate discussions, so they come to us.”
The new format was sent to Sodahead's most faithful users via a beta program. “We showed them the new format and encouraged them not to do it the old school way, but to try it this way,” Feffer says. “The next phase is to teach new users how to do it.”
Although the staff describes the new format as a “social newspaper,” they’re not in the market promote the news. “Our users already know the news,” Feffer says. “That’s not what we’re trying to promote. We want to fill the void of what comes after. People want a place where they can discuss the news with each other and they don’t want to have to go to 10 different sites to do that. Our site covers it all—politics, sports, entertainment, everything.”
Sodahead has also created a question-and-answer widget where users can take questions from the site, create their own polls based on those questions and put it on their blogs or profiles. Media outlets like Technorati, The New York Post and ABCNews.com are currently using the widget to feature Sodahead-generated polls on their sites as well.
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