About three years ago, the Media and Cultural Studies program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison started Antenna, a massive group blog responding to current developments in media.
A motivation for creating it was that lots of people want to blog but can't maintain their own blog, and hence "the answer" seemed to be to provide a forum that involved enough people to allow them all the freedom to write when they want, but not to write when busy. Furthermore, we wanted Antenna to be open to instantaneous blogging, and thus we didn't want to plan too much, and hoped it would simply keep itself moving, with minimal prodding on our part.
Since then, we've had a lot of success. We've published over 700 posts to date, with almost 200 different writers, and over a million pageviews. Posts average about 150-200 readers each, though some peaked at several thousand. Our readers are mostly academics, but non-academics "tune in," read, and comment at times too.
The challenge has been making this work, as we've had to engineer far more than we'd hoped. Most of this work is invisible and un(der)valued, which leads easily to loss of enthusiasm and participation over time. Even the more visible labor (ie: the blog posts) is un(der)valued, meaning we've had to accept that we're usually #126 on any given writer's priority list, perpetually leaving us at risk of dropping off that list altogether.
So the question we're left with, and that I pose here, is how to make the labor "count," and how to keep and hold interest?