What I believe is happening is an unbundling of the post from the conversation, because not every blog is a community.
The reality is that not every blog author is able to foster a vibrant online community around their content, but if they place their good content where there is a vibrant community, they are more likely to get a discussion going, because that community is already accustomed to commenting passionately about that topic.
This was basically the HackerNews premise, where almost anyone can get a discussion going, if they write some good content. This was also the Reddit premise, although it has evolved to also include native content. You might think there’s nothing new about this, but what’s new is there are more new types of communities where discussions on aggregated content are taking place.
- Inbound.org is where inbound marketers share and discuss articles related to inbound marketing
- GrowthHackers.com is filled with growth hacking, technology and entrepreneurship enthusiasts
- USV.com is still shaping itself, but it is becoming a discussion think tank for Internet related business and technology hot issues
Of course there are singular blogs and web properties that see a fair share of native conversations within their own turf, e.g. AVC.com, Brad Feld or Rand Fishkin’s blogs, and many others that have vibrant communities supporting their blog discussions, but these did not happen overnight. It took time to grow a sustainable community following for each one of them.
It is difficult to bring people together into a place where they aren’t used to discussing things, but it’s easier to bring new content to places where people are already used to discussions. Arnold Waldstein had a post titled You can’t airlift community, noting that “community lives where engagement happens”. And Tyler Hayes aptly observed that the missing ingredient is community, in his post Everything is a comment.
I’m a believer that the community could trump the content when it comes to starting conversations. It is not the content alone that attracts or forms a community. Other factors include the person behind the blog, their personality, position or status. That’s why most mainstream media discussions or multi-author blogs are derided of any community feeling. The author’s personality rarely injects itself into the online conversations.
A community is formed due to higher motives or interests, beyond just the content. Content occupies the community’s mind and gets discussed to fulfill a psychological, intellectual, business or social need.
Therefore it is possible that the number of vibrant discussion communities will shrink in favor of fewer, but higher quality and more engaging ones.
Writing a post and seeing it discussed are two different things. I think the decoupling trend will continue to increase. It’s a good thing, because strong communities will get to discuss some good content irrespective of its origin.
PS: If you know of other neutral “aggregation + discussion” communities like Inbound.org, GrowthHackers.com or USV.com, can you please mention them in the comments?