I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a reader of Ask Little Falls indicating that he didn’t see a lot of activity on this site. In fact, he noted that there are hardly any comments and I seem to be answering my own questions. He wondered why I haven’t advertised the blog in order to get more readers and commenters.
What might not be apparent is that I wrote a press release that I sent out to area media within a 30-mile radius of Little Falls and the result was that one media source – KLTF Radio – used the release, which resulted in a large temporary spike in readers. As for conventional advertising, it costs a lot of money, more than I have to spend on getting the word out, and there’s no guarantee people would see an ad and respond.
So, I’ve done what I can via social media, but there are a few other factors that are preventing people from taking part. I’ve had locals tell me directly that they can’t leave comments because it is against their employers’ policies. I’ve also heard that business owners won’t get embroiled in community discussions because it will negatively impact their businesses. Such is the nature of small-town life. A chat with a friend who has lived in other small communities said that it is no different elsewhere. Little Falls is not large enough to get lost in anonymity. What you say gets around and has political and social implications.
Another factor in this blog’s languishing on life support is that blogging has changed considerably since I started in 2006. Blogs as a form of conversation have been overtaken by other social media venues, ones that don’t require long posts to take part. Blogs are no longer the sole domain of individuals seeking to get their thoughts out. They have been co-opted by larger media organizations and professional writers as a way to share news and information in a format that seeks as many hits as possible and success in search engine optimization.
When I began Ask Little Falls, my intent was to pose neutral questions to the city’s residents and former residents in order to generate ideas without leading the conversation in a specific direction. Whether by design or accident, too much of this leading occurs in community idea generation meetings. This is why I never immediately answered the questions I posed, waiting until a week had passed with no comments before I chimed in. Perhaps the concept of staying neutral was a mistake and more context would give people something to bounce off of in writing comments.
Ask Little Falls was always meant to be a short-term project, just one year in length. Based on the email I received and my observations of what’s happening with the site, perhaps it’s time to pull the plug and have it end as a very short-term project.
What do you think? Is there value in Ask Little Falls as a blog, or might there be a better forum for this type of discussion?