It’s always been the conversation about the content – not the content alone

Community_Conversations2 (1) To echo the headline of a post written by Mack Collier today:

The idea that ‘content is king’ in blogging is total bullshit.

Thank you Mack for aptly sizing up the the over hyped nonsense that all it takes to become a popular blogger is a lot of really good in-depth quality posts. In most cases, when you look at those blogs that are ranked as being the most popular, the majority of them are lucky if the vast quantity of their posts exceed a couple hundred words. At best they are a paragraph, or two, and a nice oversized graphic.

Blogs like TechCrunch, Engadget, Valleywag, and any number of other big name sites while they do have longer insightful posts generally are pump and dump posts. So how is it that they are so successful and keep pulling people back day after day?

Simple, besides their quick and dirty easy to read style of posts they have all created an incredibly strong, vibrant and opinionated community that get heavily involved in the comments of those posts. It isn’t so much the posts themselves that are even the biggest draw. In some cases you go there to see what other people are saying and as a result get pulled into the conversation.

Chris Brogan quite nicely phrased it in a post as the audience and community where readers will come and be happy just looking on. Where it turns into a community is where they start interacting. Or as he puts it

The only difference between an audience and a community is which direction the chairs are pointing

This is something that I think some of the changing old media businesses are just beginning to grasp. I say some because there are still the large majority that haven’t even gotten beyond thinking that the only way they will survive is by returning to behind the paywall of subscriptions.

One publication that seems to be getting this idea of turning the chairs inward though is BusinessWeek, if their post today on Blogspotting is any indication. In the opening paragraph of the post the tone is set for what BW is expecting of their writers moving forward.

First things first: Please don’t hesitate to share your views on this post, preferably in comments: That’s how we BusinessWeek bloggers, in large measure, are being measured. In a meeting with the people who contribute to our 29 BW blogs today, online exec editor John Byrne said that the goal is to create the business and finance site with “the deepest and most meaningful engagement” with our community. “It matters more than anything else.”

The push is on, using any and all tools available to us, to engage and create a community around the publication

John and Ira Sager, who’s now the “blog meister,” called the meeting to help us figure out how to become better bloggers. They encouraged us to use all the tools available, including Twitter, to engage readers. They urged us to link more, post more often, clean up typos and sloppy grammar, follow normal BW standards on fairness, and to incorporate best practices from search engine optimization (SEO).

For as long as I have been blogging, and regardless of where I am writing, I have always believed that you can have the greatest post in the world but it pales in comparison to the conversations you can have around those posts. As I said way back in July of 2007

For me that is one of the most important parts about blogging and being able to talk with folks all over the world about my ideas and opinions. Take that away and what is the point of even putting fingers to the keyboard let alone engaging the brain. When you turn off comments you are only robbing yourself of a chance to make your blog better, improve your ability to defend your opinions or in those time where your find yourself being proven wrong the ability to share that learning experience.

Without comments your blog is like a castle surrounded by a moat with the drawbridge up, instead of the open marketplace of ideas and conversation. It is a lose – lose proposition.

This idea of comments being one of the most important parts of blogging is something I have repeated many times over the years and it is a stance I will always take.

However as Mack pointed out in his post – it works both ways. You want people to get involved in your conversation it means that you have to also get involved in theirs. It means becoming involved in the comments of your favorite blogs. It means becoming involved in Twitter, Friendfeed and Facebook.

Or as I put it in the post The Power of Comments

You want ROI – start leaving good interesting comments.

In other words – get involved both at home and out there in the Social Media world.

[hat tip to Hutch – @bhc3 on Twitter – for the BusinessWeek link that helped me tie this altogether]