Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Does TechCrunch really need a Forum?

Had to pass comment on this one, because it’s one that I’ve given a lot of thought to.

TechCrunch has just put a forum online. My question is shouldn’t a mature blogosphere really make Forums redundant or else does this indicate the limitations of the blogosphere.

To explain further: The whole wonder of the blogosphere is distributed thought.  It means you don’t need to go to a Forum site to ask a question or express a point of view. You just do it in your blog. Anyone can comment. They don’t need to be a Forum member. It’s better indexed by search engines so more likely to get found. You can earn AdSense dollars by posting even if it is only a bit of beer money (or one beer maybe).

That’s the rationale, right. Problem is, there’s this little matter of audience that has kept big media companies alive for so long. You can write something on your blog but there’s no guarantee anyone is going to read it. You can however post something on a popular forum and be guaranteed that a couple of hundred or perhaps a couple of thousand people will tune in.

Forums have scalability problems. You get too many people posting and they become impossible to keep up with. Blogs and RSS feeds are for more scalable and larger volumes of information is much easier to manage.

The perfect aggregator should be the answer to the critical mass advantage of Forums. The ideal publishing environment gives a ready-made audience to all publishers but has the manageability inherent to RSS.

The tech space, and in particular the Web 2.0 space, has a number of really good aggregators and I do believe if you really want to get your voice out, you can do in that space. If there is a place therefore that a blogosphere niche is going to make Forums redundant it’s here.

In the end, I’ve found, it comes down to talent. If you have a Forum that has a bunch of knowledgable, respected and authoratitive people posting, then people will visit the Forum. If those people decided to write their own blogs instead, people would go to the Forum far less and start visiting their blogs. For both reasons, I can’t really see the need for the TechCrunch Forum, nor do I think it will ever really flourish.

In fact, looking at the postings already, I’d already say it’s struggling. You’re getting lots of threads being started but very few of them are really active. Can’t say the time I spent reading the Forum, threw up any incredible insights, and I think I’d have been much better served

Had I been the TechCrunch folk, I think they would have been much better served trying to do a better job of aggregating blogs. They can outniche Techmeme. I’m going to be bored shitless of techmeme over the next few days as CES dominates, because I don’t really have much of a gadget fascination and if TechCrunch stuck to aggregating Web 2.0/Internet blogs, it would certainly increase the value of the site to me. If I were Gabe thats a direction I would have definitely have taken with his technology – let publishers/blogs manage their own whitelist of relevent blogs and add an “In other news” widget or page to their site via his aggregation platform.

By the way, this is an area I’ve put a lot of thought into because its been central to where I’ve taken my 1Eyed project. Online sports conversations are dominated by Forums and so trying to take on that established way of communication with a blog-based model has been very challenging. It will be interesting to watch what happens at TechCrunch when the challenge works the other way around.

Filed under: Uncategorized

33 Responses

  1. Hey Phil, good to have you back blogging again! The Techcrunch forum has really taken off, I can’t disclose how many users there are already, but it is a lot and way more than anybody expected. There are many active discussions, the problem at the moment is that on the main page the threads are ordered chronologically as opposed to popularity, which gives the impression that not a lot is going on – but take a look at ‘popular threads’ to see where the conversation is taking place.

    I think if done right, forums can work well alongside blogs. Not everybody has a blog, and even with those that do it really isn’t appropriate to post a 1-line response in a blog. Forums also work a lot better than comments on a blog post, as they allow the user to build up a reputation, have shorter responses and set the agenda of the discussion.

    With only blogs and comments the problem is that only a few select blogs set the agenda on what is discussed. It is hard for the smaller blogs to break out and become noticed. With the forums, this other part of the community can participate easily.

    I also don’t think that the trackback system works as well as it should. Having a single-line link isn’t an effective way of aggregating a discussion, especially since no single blog will have a link to every blog post taking part in the discussion. The discussion is often fragmented, and rely on a site such as TechMeme to bring them all together.

    What I would like to see is tighter integration between blogs, forums, social networks, etc. so that conversation on a topic taking place anywhere can all be bought together no matter what the source of the opinion is. In this ideal world, perhaps only 10% of the participants will want a fully-fledged blog, while others will be happy to participate using forums, comments and/or social networks – at least this way they get noticed.

  2. Pramit says:

    MediaVidea wrote a similar post, suggesting that local news sites must have Topix like forums.
    http://mediavidea.blogspot.com/2007/01/where-is-money-in-local-news-sites.html

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    I really like this part of your writing:In fact, looking at the postings already, I’d already say it’s struggling. You’re getting lots of threads being started but very few of them are really active. Can’t say the time I spent reading the Forum, threw up any incredible insights, and I think I’d have been much better served

    I’ll come back and read some more of your articles.

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  29. I leave a response whenever I appreciate a article on a site or
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