Online TV fandom came together to mourn when it was announced that NBCUniversal (NBCU) would be shutting down its recap site (TWoP) on April 4th. Founded in the late 1990s and bought by Bravo in 2007, TWoP helped shape the way audiences watch TV and share their thoughts and insights online; the site’s recap format may have even helped spawn trends like livetweeting shows and social networking sites like tvtag.

But the mourning turned to outrage when NBCU revealed that archives of the site wouldn’t be available to the public after it closed in May of this year. That meant more than a decade of blog posts, videos and message forums would disappear into the electronic ether, never to be seen again (except, maybe, through the Wayback Machine).

That decision has since been reversed, primarily because the outcry from mainstream fans and TV writers alike reached a fever pitch. To devoted TWoP fans, maintaining access to the sites’ archives represents a win for TV viewers and the Internet. But this reversal also reveals how a large volume of online content can become both blessing and curse for brands looking to control a portion of the Internet and its audience.

The Internet belongs to everyone

Conventional wisdom says that nothing is ever deleted from the Internet, and that’s mostly true. But depending on who owns the content, access can be restricted. Recognizing the relationship between content and its audience means respecting the needs of that audience, and giving audience members what they want. Content that’s useful should always have a place online, especially when so many users depend on it; removing all of TWoP’s content from the Internet has been widely viewed as bad Internet citizenship.

Owned media is hard

When Bravo purchased TWoP in 2007, the company was buying a popular and influential online property—the forums were manned by dedicated and knowledgeable moderators, the blog posts were written by contributors with built-in audiences and the fans were as devoted as the people who ran the site.

But maintaining audiences and staying at the cutting edge of the online TV trend proved more difficult than NBCU bargained for (it didn’t help that TWoP’s founders left just a year after the site was sold). Assists from social media accounts helped keep the site top of mind for regular visitors, but new fans were slow to adopt the site. A content strategy that doesn’t include a combination of earned, owned and paid media ignores vital areas of the Internet.

Audiences matter

And they can use social media to bend brands to their will. When you have the choice, listen to your audience and do what you can to accommodate their needs. Doing otherwise can do more than lose customers—it can turn potential customers off.

TWoP and its sister site are small fish in NBCU’s massive pond, but its audiences extend to a host of entertainment channels and online properties. Giving TWoP’s fans access to the site’s archive now that it’s shut down keeps an important group of people happy—and keeps them from making trouble for NBCU’s other brands. still has a place in the hearts of its ardent followers, and its archives will give TV viewers years of reviews and forum discussions to comb through. And the site demonstrates just how tough it can be for even the largest media companies to continue growing online communities. No matter how large the brand, attention to detail and audience has to be top priority in media creation—otherwise, your readers won’t bother to take pity on you.

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