So your blog network blew up: My experiences from fallen communities
Sucks. That's happened to me multiple times. It's not fun.
There is a silver lining: many of the blogs that were loss in the SciAm prune have writers whose communities and audience interact through social media outside of their blog comments. In many cases I've been a part of, interactions were all within the site.
As DrugMonkey said, there absolutely is a life-span of a community. In my experience, 1 to 3 years is a life time to be in one place on the internet. That's something that you can't really avoid -- people's interest changes, writers or writing changes, audience changes, etc. It's inevitable that communities die and communities reform.
What's also inevitable is the exclusion and loss of audience because of a "restructuring" or a "reforming" or a re-whatever-ing. SciAm is afraid of renegade scientists who have strong opinions on "controversial topics". Okay, fine. You want to protect your brand and you don't want someone plastering the blog-side of your site with a potential I Can't Breathe post, creating an "unwelcomed environment" or whatever you would frame it as if it were to happen. Sure, it's your shop, sell whatever you want. But to literally axe down over 20 blogs without much notice is pretty wild. It's up there with one of the most wild take downs I've heard of.
The first music forum I was on: once had 20k members -- then 20.
The first time I encountered a community shut down was on a music forum for a band I really liked. The person who operated the forum couldn't pay the fees anymore, so one day... poof. It disappeared.
Some of the admins were able to get access to the member directory before the ultimate shut down. Once we found a new forum to be on, they sent an email to >20k people. Our first attempt brought back about 100 people. That was clearly a very low number, but in terms of the "regulars," 100 people was pretty good.
That forum ended up shutting down because it was ad-ridden and people were getting spyware installed when they registered (free forums, ugh), so we bought a domain that would just be a forum. 20 people came. And because it wasn't based around any one particular band, we never gained members.
We were together for about 5 years. The first iteration lasted 1.
The second forum I was a regular at had a community of 50k -- then 3.
This forum was based around a game I used to play. The community was massive. Then the game creator shut it all down.
The forum stayed up, but not for long. A handful of us tried staying together, but it inevitably fell all apart. I communicate with two other people from that game. Every blue moon, when we are all on Skype at the same time with others from the game, we'll start a call and reminisce. But that's extremely rare and has been non-existent for some years now.
We were together initially for 2 years before the shut down.
The last forum takedown I was apart of had ~150k active users -- then 0 (for awhile)
I was a part of an invite-only forum for two years. It was extremely exclusive -- invite only, but specific to certain windows of invite. They were afraid of letting in the "wrong" people. Well, they did let in the wrong people and got shut down by INTERPOL. Ouch.
There is no emailing old members when that happens. The site gets seized. No one is notified.
So for something like a year and a half, all these displaced members were floating around the internet. I communicated with no one from that site outside of the forums.
That community lasted for 3 years.
Places get shut down. Big deal, right? Not quite. Communities matter.
When we shut down communities, we inhibit the ability for people to communicate through comments. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, the silver lining is that many bloggers have an active interaction with their audience that isn't contained through their blog comments. But that doesn't mean their entire audience has twitter.
There is probably a positive correlation between those who post comments and those who have an active twitter, but the people who don't use twitter often, or people who choose to only communicate through blog comments, are now without platform.
The thing I lost from my communities when they parsed down in size was the quantity of people speaking. The quality is relatively the same -- we will ask certain questions that everyone else is also thinking -- but the tangents and different lines of thought is what I loved the most. And SciAm has eliminated over 20 of those venues.
That's over twenty anecdotal stories like the ones I have above, times 200,000. One for each visitor to SciAm blog domains.
With social media, it will make the transition to a different blog better -- even though some are no longer blogging -- but you won't get everyone back. And that's really unfortunate.