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Should building a community really be your primary goal when starting a blog?

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Last week, uber-popular marketing blog, Copyblogger, decided to shut down comments on its site.

It’s reasons:

1) Conversations were happening elsewhere, and they wanted to support that.

2) They want people to form their opinions and post on their own blog–not Copyblogger’s.

3) Spam

Copyblogger

Needless to say, this decision resulted in all sorts of fever-pitched conversations across the web in marketing and PR circles. Gini Dietrich was abhorred (not surprisingly–her Spin Sucks community is one of the biggest forces in all of PR and marketing blogging). And, Mark Schaefer talked about the economics of the decision.

But, what I didn’t see was anyone talking about the culture of blogging. And that’s really the issue here–not the comments themselves, but what they represent (I guess Gini’s post touched on this in a way).

4-5 years ago, when fewer people were blogging, I would say blogging WAS about community. An online community, at least. More people were commenting (anecdotally–I have no facts here). More people were using Twitter as a conversation platform in our industry and directing people to blog posts (instead of the auto-tweeting of links that takes place now). More people seemed to be spending more time online.

Fast forward to today. I see more blogs seeing fewer comments (with the exceptions of huge blogs like Gini’s and Mark’s). I see people in our industry spending FAR less time on social networks (gasp–they’re busy doing work!).

So, my question becomes: Are blogs really all about an online community anymore?

I’m not so sure.

Again, blogs like Spin Sucks and Grow that have huge, amazingly engaged communities–clearly, community still matters to those blogs. But, what about the lion’s share of the blogs? Does community really matter to those folks?

I think I’d argue “no.”

And, I think I agree with the Copyblogger folks–at least in that regard.

Here’s why.

At their heart, blogs are really about one person sharing an opinion with the rest of the world through an online medium. Blogs are born from passionate writers. Adam Singer talked about this recently.

And in our industry, blogs are all about writing. Pure and simple. You don’t like to write? Don’t even bother starting a blog.

See, I love to write. I NEED to write. So for me, blogging comes second nature. It’s something I love to do. I’m guessing many bloggers feel the same way.

I never started a blog to create a community (not that I’m not glad people read and share my posts each day–I definitely am). I just feel like if you’re starting a blog to create a community,  you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

After all, can’t robust communities be built on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn? Isnt’ that what those platforms are DESIGNED for? Again, this seemed to be Copyblogger’s thinking.

Here’s the other angle–and this is just based on my personal experience. My blog gets about 20,000 (roughly) unique visitors per month. My average number of comments per post? Probably less than 10. I don’t see a lot of blog comments anymore (but really appreciate the comments I do get). Yet, I hear anecdotally from people here in Minneapolis (and from around the world), that they read my blog all the time (side note: six years after starting this blog, I’m still floored by that). They don’t comment–but they do read it. And in my mind, that’s a win. That’s what I want–both personally (to help people get smarter about PR/marketing) and professionally (to get them reading so someday, when and if they have an opportunity, they consider referring me business or become a client themselves).

Do I love when someone leaves a comment? No doubt. But, it’s not necessarily my end goal. I’m not writing to GET comments. I’m not in this to write posts that have 200+ comments. And I’m not necessarily trying to build an online community I can leverage at some point for some other business purpose.

I really just want to write things that interest people and get people thinking (and recognize great work and good people, as I do with many of my list posts). That’s it.

So maybe I’m crazy, but I think I’m on board with Copyblogger here. I’m not shutting down my comments–I still enjoy hearing from people from everywhere from Spain to Burnsville. But, I can see their logic. What do you think?

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Should building a community really be your primary goal when starting a blog?

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