I’ve spent much of this weekend dealing with my blogfeeds. I have well over 200 (haven’t bothered to count ‘em exactly), and I’m tens of thousands of posts behind. Some feeds I’ve just had to (often regretfully) unsubscribe from, others I’ve “reset to zero” (admittedly just masking a larger problem), but—most interestingly to me—I’ve become more acutely aware that some blogs have a thriving community and others do not.
Some examples of blogs I perceive to have strong communities:
What indicates a strong community on a blog? (I’m not counting “meta” sites like Digg, Slashdot, MeFi, etc., by the way)
- Entries tend to have many comments.
- Commenters tend to stick around over time (there aren’t just a lot of one-off commenters on individual entries).
- Commenters aren’t just “talking” to the blogger, but also to each other.
So what helps establish and maintain a strong blog community? Some guesses:
- Reasonably frequent posts (2+ a week)
- EASY commenting (e.g., no insane captchas, required registrations, etc.)
- A fixed topic that fascinates a lot of people (politics, gossip, sex, techie stuff, etc.)
- Many readers (though, perhaps unsurprisingly, this is clearly neither necessary nor sufficient)
- Popularity of the blogger in real life (due to career, good looks, large friend base, perceived influence, etc.)
- Popularity of the blogger online.
The last item is complex enough to merit its own subitems ;-). Popular folks online recursively attract more popularity because:
- Their blogs are linked from many other sites (more traffic, greater perception of “importance”)
- Commenters (rightly) perceive that posting on their blogs will attract attention to *them* (the commenters).
- Additionally, commenters (again, often correctly) assume that A-listers may notice them and think more highly of them, link to them, etc.
Note, by the way, that “compelling, original content” and “engaging writing” don’t seem to correlate with the strength of blog communities. I have plenty of blogs in my feed list that have amazing content and feature outstanding writing… but are devoid of any measurable sense of community. Conversely, I’ve seen quite a few blogs (no, not the ones I listed at top!) that tend to offer somewhat stale writing and uncompelling content, yet still feature a thriving community. I suppose it’s much like the Entertainment world at large, eh? Popular megab(r)ands rake in the fans and the bucks while many independent artists starve for funds and attention. But I digress.
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I do have a somewhat obnoxious theory, though. I think about 2% of blog readers account for 98% of blog comments. The LC: Loquacious Commenterati. Often un- or independently-employed, quite often geeky (sitting at a computer all day and often into the night).
Why does this matter?
- Blog communities are likely to be less diverse than one might wish. My very-smart-and-interesting parents, for instance, do e-mail, send IMs, read newspapers and look at photos online, but I am fairly certain they’ve never commented on a blog.
- Blog communities (like any communities, I suppose) can be fickle, both due to selfish reasons (A-lister no longer works for Impressive Company, cute blogger is no longer single) or more extrinsic reasons (commenters get demanding full-time jobs, start getting laid, start having families—though not necessarily all at once!)
- Blog communities can pressure bloggers to alter the frequency, topical focus, transparency, monetizeability, and other aspects of their blog, even when such modifications are not necessarily in the bloggers’ interests.
With all of that said, I must nonetheless insist that I am not attempting to denigrate all LCs (of which, admittedly, I am often one myself). Many are my kind friends, colleagues I greatly respect, and so on. But in the aggregate, I still find the seeming-capriciousness of blog communities and LCs to be both fascinating and occasionally disconcerting.
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So now, in a rather ironic but not-unexpected twist, I welcome your comments below.
- Why do some blogs boast a thriving community, whereas others are commently-baren?
- If you’re an LC, what motivates you? Do you feel that motivates most LCs?
- Are blog communities and LCs really as fickle as I suggest? And if so, is that even a bad thing?