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Library Blogs Aren’t Getting Comments

Walt Crawford took an in depth look at both public and academic library blogs in the September issue of Cites & Insights. He examined over two hundred academic library blogs, first in 2007 and again this year. He made some interesting discoveries:

  • 122 blogs had no comments in either year.
  • Very few library blogs averaged even one comment per post in 2007—five of them, four fewer than in 2009.
  • Only 33 of the 155 blogs with posts in May 2009— 22% —had any comments at all.

What Crawford’s study shows is that there is very little conversation that goes on in the comments of most library blogs. Patrons, for the most part, are not interacting with these blogs.

This does not mean that  library blogs are useless or that patrons aren’t reading them. Many library blogs are awesome, but they serve a different purpose. Often they’re informational and as Crawford says,  “serve functional roles that wouldn’t call for responses.” If that’s the purpose behind your library’s blog then that’s fine. But what if you actually want interaction with your patrons? What if what you’re looking for is online conversation related to your library? Blogs don’t seem to be doing the trick for most libraries.

It’s important to have your goals in mind when you implement a technology. What is it you want to accomplish? If you’re looking for online conversation related to your library and blogs aren’t working, then perhaps a different technology is appropriate. Maybe a tool like Twitter or Facebook would help you accomplish that goal. It’s much quicker to post something and these tools are more conducive to conversation and responses to posts.

It’s not necessary to do something because “everyone else is doing it.” You don’t have to stick with technologies that aren’t getting the results you desire. It’s always important to reevaluate your technology from time to time to see if it’s actually helping you accomplish your goals.

Some library blogs are great, but perhaps some libraries could accomplish their goals more effectively using a different technology.

Andy Burkhardt

28 Comments

  1. I agree. I’ve seen too many folks implement the wrong type of technology because they weren’t asking the right questions. Blogs once were a good choice for online interaction, but technological evolution has provided better (and easier) ways for creating an interactive online community.

  2. I agree. I’ve seen too many folks implement the wrong type of technology because they weren’t asking the right questions. Blogs once were a good choice for online interaction, but technological evolution has provided better (and easier) ways for creating an interactive online community.

  3. Great post, Andy. What does the blog really offer our patrons? Or has it been just an effort by the library to be more informal? What is behind that idea? What are we trying to achieve by creating an informal atmosphere? Damn! You just make me ask to many questions!

  4. Great post, Andy. What does the blog really offer our patrons? Or has it been just an effort by the library to be more informal? What is behind that idea? What are we trying to achieve by creating an informal atmosphere? Damn! You just make me ask to many questions!

  5. I think library blogs offer the reader an RSS feed of what’s going on. I don’t want to respond to a lot of library blogs, but I want to be able to get their feeds in the same way I get all my other feeds. To me, library blogs are just about giving the reader what she wants in the format she wants. It’s a different space from Twitter or Facebook.

  6. I think library blogs offer the reader an RSS feed of what’s going on. I don’t want to respond to a lot of library blogs, but I want to be able to get their feeds in the same way I get all my other feeds. To me, library blogs are just about giving the reader what she wants in the format she wants. It’s a different space from Twitter or Facebook.

  7. One of the remarkable things that can happen though, is that when we import our library blog’s RSS feed into our library’s facebook page, we get interaction – via “likes” and comments. (And in my case last week, even a phone call to the ref desk!)

  8. One of the remarkable things that can happen though, is that when we import our library blog’s RSS feed into our library’s facebook page, we get interaction – via “likes” and comments. (And in my case last week, even a phone call to the ref desk!)

  9. Kevin and Ellen: I agree, the power of RSS is amazing (though I’m not sure how many of our patrons use readers). When you import content using RSS to readers or into Facebook and patrons are finding that useful, I think that is a successful use of technology.

    At our library we have a “News and Events” blog that we use mainly as a place to put content so we can then import it to our library homepage using RSS.

    As yo_bj (Becky) and Sarah stated, we should be asking questions about our technology and seeing if it is the correct tool for what we’re trying to accomplish. In your cases it sounds like it is!

  10. Kevin and Ellen: I agree, the power of RSS is amazing (though I’m not sure how many of our patrons use readers). When you import content using RSS to readers or into Facebook and patrons are finding that useful, I think that is a successful use of technology.

    At our library we have a “News and Events” blog that we use mainly as a place to put content so we can then import it to our library homepage using RSS.

    As yo_bj (Becky) and Sarah stated, we should be asking questions about our technology and seeing if it is the correct tool for what we’re trying to accomplish. In your cases it sounds like it is!

  11. It would be useful to compare rates of response on library blogs to those of other blogs. My personal experience with starting a blog is that the rate of comments is a small fraction of the visitor rate. Unless the post is particularly engaging, controversial, or directly solicits response, my guess that few blogs see much comment traffic.

    Although it is a common measure of blog popularity, my sense is that it only applies to certain kinds of blogs. Visitor rates or RSS subscription counts are probably more robust measures for blogs that are more informational than conversational.

  12. It would be useful to compare rates of response on library blogs to those of other blogs. My personal experience with starting a blog is that the rate of comments is a small fraction of the visitor rate. Unless the post is particularly engaging, controversial, or directly solicits response, my guess that few blogs see much comment traffic.

    Although it is a common measure of blog popularity, my sense is that it only applies to certain kinds of blogs. Visitor rates or RSS subscription counts are probably more robust measures for blogs that are more informational than conversational.

  13. I agree with Gene Golovchinsky that blog comments are the exception rather than the rule in all spheres not just library blogs. There will always be more consumers of information than contributors so it’s true that other metrics would be more useful to gauge success.

  14. I agree with Gene Golovchinsky that blog comments are the exception rather than the rule in all spheres not just library blogs. There will always be more consumers of information than contributors so it’s true that other metrics would be more useful to gauge success.

  15. I think you’re right Gene and Elisheba. Comments do not necessarily determine how much traffic a blog gets or its usefulness. But I do think that you should have some tools in place to determine how much use your tools are getting (like analytics for example).

    As for comparing library blogs to other types of blogs I think that would be difficult. There are so many types of different blogs out there: personal blogs, informational blogs, news blogs, gossip blogs, etc. I think that as long as you have a clear goal behind your blog (or any technology) and a way to measure that goal and know whether or not you’re succeeding then you’re fine.

  16. I think you’re right Gene and Elisheba. Comments do not necessarily determine how much traffic a blog gets or its usefulness. But I do think that you should have some tools in place to determine how much use your tools are getting (like analytics for example).

    As for comparing library blogs to other types of blogs I think that would be difficult. There are so many types of different blogs out there: personal blogs, informational blogs, news blogs, gossip blogs, etc. I think that as long as you have a clear goal behind your blog (or any technology) and a way to measure that goal and know whether or not you’re succeeding then you’re fine.

  17. I certainly agree that comments aren’t a key measure of whether a library blog is successful–unless it’s one of those that begs for comments (there are some, but not many).

    As for comparisons, I can make one: Of 523 liblogs (blogs by library people) with posts in March-May 2008, 433–more than 80%–had comments on those posts, and about 80% of those (that is, of the 433) had more than four comments during the three-month period. (That’s all in the June 2009 Cites & Insights and in the book it mirrors. I’m working on a 2009 update.) So it’s fair to say that blogs by library people, by and large, get more comments than blogs by libraries–and that shouldn’t be surprising.

  18. I certainly agree that comments aren’t a key measure of whether a library blog is successful–unless it’s one of those that begs for comments (there are some, but not many).

    As for comparisons, I can make one: Of 523 liblogs (blogs by library people) with posts in March-May 2008, 433–more than 80%–had comments on those posts, and about 80% of those (that is, of the 433) had more than four comments during the three-month period. (That’s all in the June 2009 Cites & Insights and in the book it mirrors. I’m working on a 2009 update.) So it’s fair to say that blogs by library people, by and large, get more comments than blogs by libraries–and that shouldn’t be surprising.

  19. Thanks for all your work on those reports Walt. They were really interesting to read. I can’t wait to read the one you did about liblogs. As for comments on blogs by people versus blogs by libraries your stats make sense. People would rather have conversations with other people than institutions.

  20. Thanks for all your work on those reports Walt. They were really interesting to read. I can’t wait to read the one you did about liblogs. As for comments on blogs by people versus blogs by libraries your stats make sense. People would rather have conversations with other people than institutions.

  21. I have not yet read the entire article but I am wondering if he isolated comments by library staff?

  22. I have not yet read the entire article but I am wondering if he isolated comments by library staff?

  23. In scanning the article I didn’t see that that was the case Tyrone, but I may have missed it.

  24. In scanning the article I didn’t see that that was the case Tyrone, but I may have missed it.

  25. I took a quick look at Mr Crawford’s report on his study (
    http://citesandinsights.info/civ9i10.pdf ), and it appears to me that you may have focused on only one set of findings and left out some rather important information.

    1. Mr Crawford does not state whether or not all of the blogs in his study were set to allow comments, so it’s quite possible that counting only those who did allow comments would have produced less dismal results.
    2. Only 68% of the blogs he checked had been updated during the previous month. The remainder appeared to be updated infrequently or not at all.

    3. All of the blogs he checked had been around for quite a while. This
    was a comparative study, limited to the same blogs Mr Crawford surveyed for his 2008 book. It did not include any blogs that had been created since May 2007.

    For example, today at his “Building A Digital Branch” webinar, David
    King Lee cited the Ann Arbor Public Library as a library that makes excellent use of social media to engage their patrons. Their website
    includes numerous blogs, some of which Mr King said have received as
    many as 100 comments on some posts. Mr Crawford appears to have looked at one of the Ann Arbor blogs (one out of many they have) and dropped their information from the study. He did this because he found their blog’s current format made it difficult to count the number of comments posted, and because their results were so high as to skew the study.

    All in all, the conclusion I drew from reading Mr Crawford’s report of his finding was that although blogs are often not used effectively in libraries, some places have managed to make them a very effective tool for two-way communication.

  26. I took a quick look at Mr Crawford’s report on his study (
    http://citesandinsights.info/civ9i10.pdf ), and it appears to me that you may have focused on only one set of findings and left out some rather important information.

    1. Mr Crawford does not state whether or not all of the blogs in his study were set to allow comments, so it’s quite possible that counting only those who did allow comments would have produced less dismal results.
    2. Only 68% of the blogs he checked had been updated during the previous month. The remainder appeared to be updated infrequently or not at all.

    3. All of the blogs he checked had been around for quite a while. This
    was a comparative study, limited to the same blogs Mr Crawford surveyed for his 2008 book. It did not include any blogs that had been created since May 2007.

    For example, today at his “Building A Digital Branch” webinar, David
    King Lee cited the Ann Arbor Public Library as a library that makes excellent use of social media to engage their patrons. Their website
    includes numerous blogs, some of which Mr King said have received as
    many as 100 comments on some posts. Mr Crawford appears to have looked at one of the Ann Arbor blogs (one out of many they have) and dropped their information from the study. He did this because he found their blog’s current format made it difficult to count the number of comments posted, and because their results were so high as to skew the study.

    All in all, the conclusion I drew from reading Mr Crawford’s report of his finding was that although blogs are often not used effectively in libraries, some places have managed to make them a very effective tool for two-way communication.

  27. Riven, I agree with your conclusion. I’m excited when I hear success stories in libraries, like 100+ comments on a post for Ann Arbor. But as you say, “blogs are often not used effectively in libraries.”

    I was ruminating on why this is the case. Like #2 in your comment perhaps the blogs don’t get updated and lie dormant, or perhaps like #1 they don’t allow comments.

    And that’s what I’m getting at at the end of my post. Libraries should examine what they are trying to accomplish with technologies they implement.

    If it is simply an informational blog then comments are not a good measure of success (probably traffic is a better measure). But if the purpose is to have two way communication with patrons about library issues and they aren’t getting comments, then maybe they would be better served by something like Twitter, where it’s easier to post and built more for conversation.

    Keeping your goals in mind when implementing a technology or reevaluating a technology is paramount for its success.

    Thanks for the comment.

  28. Riven, I agree with your conclusion. I’m excited when I hear success stories in libraries, like 100+ comments on a post for Ann Arbor. But as you say, “blogs are often not used effectively in libraries.”

    I was ruminating on why this is the case. Like #2 in your comment perhaps the blogs don’t get updated and lie dormant, or perhaps like #1 they don’t allow comments.

    And that’s what I’m getting at at the end of my post. Libraries should examine what they are trying to accomplish with technologies they implement.

    If it is simply an informational blog then comments are not a good measure of success (probably traffic is a better measure). But if the purpose is to have two way communication with patrons about library issues and they aren’t getting comments, then maybe they would be better served by something like Twitter, where it’s easier to post and built more for conversation.

    Keeping your goals in mind when implementing a technology or reevaluating a technology is paramount for its success.

    Thanks for the comment.

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