The Ragan and Melcrum competition

Last week, Chicago-based Ragan Communications launched, a free service aimed at communicators around the world that’s a mix of social network, knowledge and information resource.

It’s captured a lot of imaginations and got off to a cracking start. When I signed up last week, there were about 250 members. Today, that number is over 500.

Also last week, London-based research and training firm Melcrum announced The Communicators’ Network, described as a business-grade professional networking community, that will be launching in June:

[…] It’s already in advanced stages of development, but we’re ironing out the kinks behind closed doors for now. We have been quietly researching what communicators from around the world want and are building something a little bit different. Not only does The Communicators’ Network have all the social networking functionality you’d expect, namely groups, blogs, photo uploads, custom RSS feeds and discussion forums, it also has some really interesting ratings and review features for user-generated content.

[…] We are not looking to replace existing communities we are looking to improve and enhance them and add some value through bolt-on features such as directory of knowledge and resources to help save time and facilitate better business decisions. The site should help bring Melcrum’s globally dispersed customer-base of more than 25,000 communication practitioners a little bit closer together.

Melcrum’s offering will also be free to join.

Ragan clearly has first-mover advantage, though, and CEO Mark Ragan has ambitious plans for

[…] The bigger news is that is only a tiny part of a much bigger and NEW communication site we’re unveiling around the world on Sept. 1. It will be called, and it will include foreign correspondents, video news, both live and pre-taped, audio voice-posts on blogs, more blogs from experts around the globe, a 30,000-article database, a new consulting company and research institute, a new polling technology that drives dialogue between respondents, live video stand ups from London, Sydney, South Africa…..and much more. MyRagan will be linked to every story so that communicators can jump back forth between the journalist-driven piece and the chat in a MyRagan forum.

That sounds like a compelling offering.

Indeed, ‘compelling’ is the key word. With two of the communication profession’s most powerful and influential commercial players launching services that will compete for communicators’ attention, it’s hard to see right now whether there will be a market for two such services without some clear differentiation between them.

Time will tell.

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