email discussion group or a message board

Listserv vs Message Board: Which is Better?

Should you use an email discussion group or a message board for your community? How do you choose? Is one better than another? Or are they good for different tasks?

Email discussion groups (also known as listservs) and forums are similar in that they allow groups of people with the same interest to share, to ask questions, solve problems, and share experiences with like-minded people. They are more like communities they most of today’s modern social media, which encourage individuals to attract followers instead of building a group. But there are differences between the two mediums and one may be better for one community than another.

What’s the Difference?

Email Discussion Groups

  • Messages are sent through email, and everybody receives it in their inbox.
  • Email discussion groups are better suited for being a full time participant of the group. They get every message delivered into their inbox, so they do not have to remember to visit a web site.  And they can easily reply to any message when they have time.
  • Email discussion groups tend to form communities.
  • On a listserv, almost everybody has joined with their main email address, uses their real name, and probably has a physical address in their signature.
  • Listservs don’t have rankings.

Message Boards

  • Web forums put all their messages on a web page, and your surf to that page and login.
  • Message boards are perfect for people that only use it occasionally. They can visit the web site, and search for an answer to their problem. The entire history of the web forum is available to them. And if they need to post a question, they can check back in a while, to see if anybody has responded. But their email inbox is never cluttered with the messages from that group.
  • Web forums tend to be knowledge bases. (Of course, if an email discussion groups adds a searchable web archive, then it has the best of both worlds.)
  • People on a web forum almost always have handles or nicknames (like IceGiant, PowerEDS, Limbo, CueBall), they rarely use their real name.
  • Web forums usually give people a rating or title, that is displayed next to their nickname.  This tag reflects how many messages have been posted by that person.  Something like Newbie if you have not made many posts, or Expert for somebody that has made lots of posts.

How to Choose between an Email Discussion Group or a Message Board?

Which medium is right for you? An email discussion group or a message board? To find out, you should ask yourself some questions.

  • Am I more interested in privacy than accessibility? (Then you should choose an email discussion group.)
  • Do I want topics to be more easily accessed by the world as large? (If yes, choose a message board.)
  • Do I want my members to notice their community every single day? (Choose a listserv.)
  • Do I want to make sure most of my members are real people? (Get a listserv.)
  • Do I want provide a feeling of anonymity through nicknames? (Build a forum.)

In the end whether you choose an email discussion group or a message board depends on what you need. Think it over though, because it’s difficult to convert from one to another.

Which kind of community do you like best? Post it in the comments below.


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mark david mcCreary

mark david mcCreary is the founder of Mail-List. I've built the best Email Discussion Group system on the Internet, and I invite you to try it for free, for 30 days.No credit card is required.

Our web interface makes it easy to customize your list and add your subscribers.Our email delivery reporting system shows you any glitches in delivering email to your subscribers.

Our pricing is based on the number of unique subscribers you have, so you can have multiple lists at no extra charge.

And most days, I work on the Help Desk, so if you need support, I'll be happy to help you.

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