Why are so many forums closing?

Tagobs's picture

Very few forums survive these days, and most end up closing down. Why do you think that is, and how could webmasters prevent them?

WisTex's picture

Dedication, Volume & Social Media

I think it is a combination of things:

  1. Dedication - You have to be dedicated to your forum and its community for the long haul. It can't be something you check in on once and awhile (unless you are paying someone to run it for you).
  2. Volume - To really get a forum started, you need at least a couple people posting back and forth almost daily. There has to be activity and discussions that people want to be a part of. If there is no activity, there will be no new activity.
  3. Social Media - A lot of discussions that used to take place on forums now take place on social media. A forum needs to serve a specific need and either be useful or fun to complete with social media.

I think those are the biggest reasons. There are also some other subtle factors such as:

  1. Not Just a Forum - Having a forum by itself is hard these days. Integrating the forum with content, or a membership website, or an organization usually helps. It gives them something to talk about, and it also gives them something else to do on the website after they have responded to all the posts.
  2. Integration - Actual integration of the forums with the other content will help too. For example, we use forum discussions to gauge what new content we should create. And if we have content that is related to a forum post, we provide links from the forum post to the content.
  3. Updated Look & Feel - Most of the forum themes out there are the same thing we had 10 years ago. Boring, unimaginative, plain, cluttered. Something fresh helps set you apart. That is why we decided to forgo the typical forum appearance and do something custom.
  4. New Features - Modern features such as liking posts and social media sharing need to be integrated into the forum.

These are not as important as the first three, but they certainly make a difference.

Scott M. Stolz
Complete Hosting Guide, Editor-in-Chief
WisTex, Director & CEO

BradR's picture

I think most forums close

I think most forums close nowadays because the admin either isn't patient enough or there's no activity. As said above, if there's no activity and the forum is completely dead, who would want to post? Think about it. Would you post on a forum without any activity?

Spence's picture

Activity

Activity (and thereby interesting discussions and not just spam) is key. Social media has taken over a lot from many communication platforms and for a forum to survive it needs to either be one of the biggest, to retain activity, or be in a niche with interested participants who ensure quality. I see forums as the online version of paper newspapers, they've lost popularity due to the natural upgrades of our communication but still hold a strong place.

WisTex's picture

Forum / Social Media Hybrid

What's interesting is that blog comments, forums and social media posts are all discussions that are simply displayed in a different way.

Even from a database standpoint, they are the same. You have the main post, and then all the replies.

I think what would be interesting, and a major boost to forums, is if discussions could be displayed in multiple ways, since each way has its own benefits.

Imagine having the structure, archiving and searching power of forums, combined with a page that gives real-time updates, and the ability to share and follow content you like. And, you can access the same conversations both ways.

I think something like that would reinvigorate forums.

Scott M. Stolz
Complete Hosting Guide, Editor-in-Chief
WisTex, Director & CEO

WisTex's picture

Forums and Social Media are Different Beasts

One thing that is unique about forums or discussions on a website is that they are more easily found and referenced later than social media posts. For certain things, like asking for technical support, forums provide an advantage.

For example, when I search for things about Drupal, the Drupal forums almost always comes up, and many times has useful information.

Social media posts usually disappear into the ether within a day or less. Perfect for chit chat and sharing. Not so good for archiving valuable information.

So a forum based on chit-chat probably wouldn't fair as well as a forum about a more substantial topic.

Scott M. Stolz
Complete Hosting Guide, Editor-in-Chief
WisTex, Director & CEO