It’s been awhile since I posted. Real life got in the way, as they say…
Since I last posted, a fair amount of events have transpired. Fear not, nothing untoward has happened, but it was enough to distract me from being able to write. My work volume increased, and then things crawled towards the holiday season and the attendant pickup in business on my end.
Also, admittedly I didn’t feel as inspired as I normally did to write my usual insights on photography, video work, the state of the web (mostly annoying with a chance of intellectual discussion), nightlife (mostly EDM with a chance of decent music), and so on.
And yes, I’m off the market. Doing things with my significant other is more fun than rambling on my blog. Even though she encouraged me to post here again. Yes, the mighty confirmed bachelor of Miami has fallen. But it doesn’t bother me in the least. She puts me in a good mood.
And in business news, I’m the proud owner of Talk Nightlife, officially.
For awhile, the status of ownership was uncertain. As has been stated here and elsewhere, TNL had fallen into a ‘parking orbit’ of sorts. The initial work to get it off the ground was long-completed, but the work of actually growing it was stopped, as other priorities for myself and Ryan had taken over, most notably Venue Driver.
TNL, as it’s hosting costs were nominal, fell by the wayside. Not shut down, but not actively grown, either. Six years of mostly organic slow growth.
Fast forward to January of this year. Changes in the original investing company led to TNL being declared an unneeded asset under that firm’s new order. As it wasn’t dead, the fate of TNL was deemed to have it sold to me for a tiny sum.
So, bingo, it’s mine, for real.
Personally, I’m glad. I’ve invested a lot of time posting and growing the community without spending any real money, nor exploiting it to it’s fullest potential, due to the murky question of ownership. The general feeling was to keep things slow and steady, as to not precipitate any disastrous actions which could violate the prime directive of “Don’t Kill TNL - DKTNL”. I fanned the flames of discussion and posted my own scurrilous news items, and obviously connected my nightlife photo work to TNL itself. However, without a clear path on ownership and control, I never exploited the resource, save for the occasional few hundred bucks for a banner ad, or in-kind services from a friend. And, of course indirect promotion of my photo services.
With the question of ownership settled, the next question is, is the idea of a messageboard obsolete?
Successful forums still exist for innumerable topics of discussion. Whether it’s for Canon camera equipment, America’s favorite black rifle, or Mercedes-Benz automobiles, the messageboard/forum still thrives.
However, all those forums have a bit of an issue, and that is the social media juggernauts. Now, forums could be construed as social channels, especially since one can integrate social sharing functionality into all the popular forum packages (yes, I finally wired in some basic sharing widgets into TNL!) and bridge the gap of old-style forum and new-style social network. But, the social channels have engendered a change in the way discourse happens on the internet, in that they have harmed the art of the long-form post.
Twitter is mostly the culprit here. If one can’t say it in 140 characters, the masses deem it not worthy of their attention. “TL:DR” (too long, didn’t read), as the Millenial children are wont to say. Facebook, even though it lacks a character limit, is not optimized for the long post either. FB’s algorithms promote content-rich (pretty pictures and videos) over extensive posts. Forums, on the other hand, spawn non-realtime arguments, where the participants will posts paragraphs of text per post. Even if your subject matter is popular (clubs, cameras, etc…), the amount of people willing to expound extensively on the subject is small.
The only saving grace traffic-wise is the lurkers.
TNL is a great example of this. We have a small body of active posters, but an insane amount of lurkers. Everyone knows of TNL in Miami nightlife, but few actually post.
But it’s an uphill battle. These days, it is increasingly difficult to get people to leave their comfort zone of social networks. Especially the younger generation. In constant need of validation, the millenials post to their social channels in a quest for the ever-present “Like”. Most forums aren’t equipped with a “Like” functionality. Plus, the nature of the beast (a semi-closed environment), tends to lend itself to pack dynamics where a few alpha posters and contributors dominate the discourse.
Of course, that is what drives people to a forum. These ‘super-enthusiasts’ generate all the compelling content for no compensation. Their compensation is their ‘notoriety’. TNL thrives on that. Our active users generate the most traffic. Their posts inspire discussion, controversy, and even anger. Your average child used to 140 characters or posting a filtered selfie or unoriginal meme on Instagram can’t digest that. Forums aren’t part of their universe.
However, the saving grace of the forum is the focus. Forums aren’t like social networks in that regard. There’s no one ‘topic’ on Facebook. Sure, things trend, but there’s no one coherent topic. Advertisers spend untold hours and millions of dollars trying to target their audience in the morass of the FB membership.
With a forum, the focus is already there. You’re a nightclub operator in Miami? Sure, advertise on Facebook. It’s like the mall, you should probably have a billboard in there just because of the sheer mass of people in there. But, not all of those people know or care about your club, even if you target them somehow. FB ads are fleeting and even the sponsored stories are usually lost in the noise.
With the forum, or any focused website or blog, your audience is there and reading, often for many minutes. No need to specify targeting, the site has already done it for you. They serve a niche, which is great for building up those insanely loyal clients for your business.
Forums might be not as prevalent as they once were, but the one saving grace which may save them from extinction is that niche and focus on a single subject or groups of subjects.
And that focus is what produces the compelling content. And, at the end of the day, content, especially long-form content, is king. There’s a sense of permanence in the forum, one which will never be found on a social network.
Sidebar: I’ve just completed the ad rates breakdown for TNL. If you are interested in advertising, let me know.