This is why most forums don't work well online. You get what you pay for, and in this case, you paid for the technology, not the content. Most times, you end up with a nicely designed forum with nothing of interest to read.
Part of the problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the internet community works. Allow me to make a broad and inaccurate statement.
There are two kinds of people who don't get social media. Those who think social media is worthless, and those who think social media is magic.Those who think the internet is worthless tend to focus on the amount of wasted time spent online. They can't see ways to make money from people "blogging," or spending time on Second Life, or recording podcasts. For them, if it's not improving productivity, it's worthless. I try to spend as little time as possible talking to clients like these. If they don't see the value, or want to see value, it's not worth it to try to convince them.
Those who think social media is magic assume that social media is this easily set-up and easily manipulated traffic engine that allows you to put in small amounts of time and money, and 'POOF',
...you make a lot of profit and retire.
Some of you are chuckling, because you know what I'm talking about. There is no shortage of people who think the can start a blog, have other people write on it, and then charge money to advertisers once you get thousands of people reading. It's a different problem than the forum issue started above, but from corporate marketers to entrepreneurs, the lure of easy money has parted many internet speculators from their capital. Blogs are just a new way to do that.
When the blog fails to produce, some go back to saying the internet is worthless. Others start looking for that next easy score, convinced it is just around the corner.
Here's the truth. Everything in life is hard work. The world of social media and blogs is not a fairy kingdom of pixels and profit, but a complicated mix of communities, columnists, spam and technologists. The blogosphere is a mirror of the real world, which means that it functions in much the same manner as the real world. There are winners and losers. Some people hit it big with little effort, and some slave away for years for no reward. From the outside, that looks accurate, but from inside, it's easy to see why some blogs are successful and some are not.
In general, bloggers who blog find a level of success equal to the time and effort they put into it, or they stop. Those who sample, or who try to extract value without putting in effort, ultimately fail (and then blame the medium).
So what should you do, as a company? Should you start a blog or a forum? What is the difference, and what should you look for from each? Luckily, Douglas Karr has answered that for us.