The perennial question surrounding blogs vs. message boards (aka discussion forums) is one worth revisiting. Namely:

Blogs vs. message boards

  • how are blogs different?
  • why are they better??

My post today is the result of a gentle prod from a fan of The Corporate Blogging Book. Ryan writes:  “Let me start by saying I loved your book…” (Note: always a good way to start an email to an author.) He asked that I not reveal his full name or his company. Suffice it to say he’s a would-be corporate blogger working for an established B2B company in a scientific field.

He writes:

“… there is one criticism that I haven’t been able to come up with
a convincing argument against. No one is fighting me on this, but I feel I
need to overcome this criticism for my own piece of mind.  How does a blog differ from a discussion board that is
moderated and updated by one (or a group of) individual(s) in a company?”

Then he answers his own question:

“The reason I ask is because we have had discussion boards…and while they have had mild success, they aren’t really shattering or changing our industry, marketing, sales, customer support, etc. People say, “I don’t see how it is different. These forums are conversations too….probably a better platform than a blog which is very one-sided.”

I think the registration requirements and the dependence on a message board community is a key element that prevents message boards from taking off. Admittedly that is one of the major reasons I think our boards have struggled to be successful.”

Here’s my take on the pros & cons of blogs vs. message or discussion boards. They are specifically written with big companies in mind, where control over “the message” as well as maintaining decorum are often a concern.

10 Pros for a Blog:

  1. Blogs have one publisher who controls what is published on the blog
  2. Comments from readers can be pre-screened and even blocked (i.e. not published) if they are deemed inappropriate
  3. Good blogs have a distinctive voice and personality
  4. That voice tends to make good reading and to invite a real “conversation” with readers
  5. A blog gathers steam, gains traction and can get better and richer over time
  6. Blog entries are easily searchable (by date and category/topic)
  7. Individual blog posts are findable on Google (each has its own unique URL)
  8. RSS (i.e. a Web feed) is a highly efficient way to read updates to a blog
  9. Blogs don’t require registration and logging in (a stumbling block – or an irritant – for some users)
  10. Blogs can host other (compelling) forms of social media, including video clips and  podcasts

10 Cons for a Message Board:

  1. Message boards are a free-for-all
  2. No one is in charge so there is no one dominant or distinctive voice
  3. Discussions tend to be in the form of Q & A rather than a conversation
  4. No one talks about the “personality” of a message board
  5. In general, message boards are useful but not “compelling” or “must read’s”
  6. Message boards work *if* enough people in your intended audience participate
  7. They sometimes suffer from overzealous (i.e. annoying) participants
  8. Or… just as often… from not enough participation
  9. Having to log in to post to a message board can be a pain
  10. Comment threads let you dig down into a particular discussion BUT you can do the same thing on an individual blog post that has multiple comments and trackbacks

(Note: can message boards be RSS-enabled – ?)

Useful Links & a Chart

DeathMatch: Bad, Bad Leroy Blog vs. Mean Mr. Message Board (Lee LeFever)

Read Dave Pollard on the pros & cons of blogs vs. wikis vs. discussion boards, etc.

Lee LeFever‘s excellent chart below. Also read his blog entry on message boards vs. Weblogs.