Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90-9-1 rule that characterizes most online communities. With blogs, the rule is more like 95-5-0.1.
– Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, Participation Inequality: Lurkers vs. Contributors
I can’t say I’m really surprised by Jakob Nielsen’s observations about the percentage of lurkers on the web. I need to look no further than my readership and the number of lurkers on this blog to see that the trend holds very true.
**But my instinct is that the lurker mentality is less true for those who fall into the younger demographic. **The younger generation is more comfortable with the web and technology. They are also especially bold in sharing their opinions. I doubt the change would be staggering but I would gather there would be a different breakdown if users were segmented by age (let’s say users under the age of 30 would count as ‘young’).
Lurkers are quite frustrating if you are trying to build a community around your blog or website. One of the things that has been a problem for me is the lack of ‘customer’ feedback on this blog. The only way I’ve been able to identify what has resonated with readers is based on traffic stats and links. The comments I receive are few and far between despite a decent subscriber base.
Nielsen provides some direction about overcoming “participation inequality”. But the presupposition is that the best you can do is lessen it – you can’t avoid it altogether. He provides some helpful hints to encourage more participation, as does ProBlogger Darren Rowse.
My 2.0 cents is that you should write about what you are passionate about and not necessarily worry about participation inequality (that’s one of my seven ways to avoid blogging burnout). With good content comes greater readership – and that in itself will yield a larger number of contributions even if the 1% rule holds true.