Content Distribution vs. Conversation

Yesterday I received an email from the Placeblogger group on Google Groups regarding the impact of other social media tools on placeblogs.

Having made the decision last spring to spread out my content I posted with the following:

I’d like to add one more regarding content distribution vs. conversation.

The primary value of a placeblog, to me, is the delivery of local news and information that can’t be covered by traditional media, but is important to residents of an area.  Secondary to that is the ability of people to discuss these issues and provide a variety of perspectives toward a solution when problems arise.

From 2005 until 2009, I kept all my content ‘contained’ on my placeblog.  Since very few people solely rely on RSS, this meant a reader had to come to the site to get info.  Everyone was reading the same info in the same place at roughly the same time.  Posts on ‘controversial’ local issues would easily draw 10 to 30 comments a day.

Last spring I started using Posterous, Twitter, and opened up a Facebook fan page.

I expected a drop in traffic to the site, which I got (from average of at least 400 to somewhere between 300 and 400 per day), but I now have 200 fans on FB, 400 personal friends on FB (many of whom are readers), 80 Twitter followers with 10 lists, and I have 3 followers with 50 views per post on Posterous.

I don’t have an advertising program on my site, so this wasn’t a concern.

The biggest problem is that while the content is getting out to more people and presumably read by more people, the conversation has become fragmented.  Conversation is a key factor in having a sense of community.  If that is lost or significantly reduced, then the site has devolved into a one way stream of communications from the blog to the reader.

For many in business, the loss of site visitors will impact the bottom line, yet it happens all the time.  Content is pulled via RSS to other sites where headlines, snippets, or full content can be read.   Or, like my example above, in order to increase readership, one must relinquish the content and distribute it.

For placeblogs as well as any content that is intended to be discussed, the fragmentation of conversation is a serious problem.  If your content is being discussed by a few people in many locations, it won’t be as good as if there are a lot of people discussing it in one location.

Given this, if it isn’t already being done, I’m thinking the next great break-through will be a tool that allows one to reconnect original content’s comments from diverse sites to a central location.

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