Social networks no threat to online forums: PEX

DAVID DIZON, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Sep 12 2008 05:50 PM | Updated as of Sep 13 2008 03:45 AM

The rise of social networks such as Friendster and Multiply poses no threat to online forums, according to the general manager of one of the oldest online forums in the country.

Michael Palacios, managing director of Havoc Digital - owner of pinoyexchange.com or PEX, said that while social networks cater to certain needs of the average Internet user, customers looking for regular online conversations with people who have similar interests can only find that in online forums. 

"Many social networks are about one of two things. One allows me to link up with people and publish my list of friends, which is what Friendster is doing. Multiply is more on publishing your content. Pinoyexchange is more about conversations. Someone asks a question or makes a comment and someone answers it. That's our niche," he told abs-cbnNEWS.com. 

Palacios said online forums allow people to ask questions about any given topic and then expect an answer from regular members. He said online forums also give a different experience to social-network savvy Pinoys by giving them a much larger shoutbox than their usual circle of online friends. "We need a Web site where people can shout about the UAAP games and this is the place to do it!"

 Palacios said there are many casual members or lurkers in PEX threads who jump in only when they feel compelled to talk about a topic. He also admits that active PEX members also maintain their own social network profiles without needing to prioritize one over the other.

 "It depends on why you were there in the first place. When we launched PEX in 1999, there were no social networks like Friendster or Multiply. If you were looking to meet people, then social networking sites are probably better but if you wanted to join conversations with a diverse group of people, that's where forums are better," he said.

Palacios said that from 2,000 members in the year 2000, the forum now has 270,000 registered members. He said PEX now averages 19 million page views per month, which he says is still small compared to the five billion monthly page views of Friendster.

He said the most active PEX forum right now is the UAAP forum, followed by the entertainment forum. He said the call center forum in PEX is very active and had to be separated from the regular professionals forum on the site. Other forums that register spikes in online traffic during special events are music and sports.

He also admits that online forums and social networks are competing for the same media advertising pie. This, however, does not pose a problem for Havoc Digital since it also resells ad space for Friendster.com in the Philippines.