At the end of the day it's all about list building and advertising. If I've got their email address and they get to see (and perhaps click on) a few ads, then I'm happy. Usually a handful of users do all the posting and the rest are inactive and that's OK. They're still useful.
I'm not gonna lie, there are times that I only registered on a forum because the information I was looking for was only available to registered members. I got in, got what I needed, and got out. That's not to say I won't ever visit the site again, but I didn't have any interest in becoming a regular active member for a variety of reasons. I don't have time to keep up with hundreds of different forums like that.
I've done that, too, OhioTom. And actually, I've only done that when I was desperate. If I can find the information elsewhere, I'll go do that before resorting to registering on a site that forces it.
That being said, once upon a time, I lurked on quite a few forums because I enjoyed reading the conversations, but I didn't want to actively participate in them. Or I thought I might want to eventually, but then didn't really usually.
They're not really causing any harm. I'd rather have a lurker than a spammer or someone who was causing all kinds of mayhem with other members. Plus, at the end of the day, even if they aren't posting, they are providing additional traffic to your site in general if they are coming back to it on a regular basis.
The vast majority of people 'lurk' on forums, only a small number actually post, and a smaller number stick around for the long term. On a forum I run I still have members posting going back 10 years..... they really need to get out more :laugh:
Lurkers are not a big problem. Usually, the more traffic a forum gets, the better. Lurkers are neutral, although they do do not provide anything, they also do not disrupt everything. All in all, lurkers are not a problem.
I've registered to obtain restricted content on, ahem, blackhat sites. But other than that, I feel if I'm lurking at least I'm providing impressions for the forums adverts and their alexa rating. I'll usually jump in once I feel comfortable. So as a user... I don't feel bad when I lurk.
I've been a phpbb admin too, and when I first started out it was just me and my friends who were posting. We didn't even know what lurkers were for the longest time. Just having a good time until one of the lurkers decided to login and join us. Then we were all thrilled that someone actually liked our posts enough to join in!
I don't mind at all. You're getting traffic for people who only read your forums, so it's not such big of a deal if they prefer not to contribute. It makes me quite happy to see people on my forum whether they are posting or not, as it's a proof in my eyes that all the SEO I did for my website didn't go to waste.
A forum owner should get the lurking-only members to join the conversation by making the conversation more interesting and sometimes a little more 'provoking' to the lurkers to join the ongoing conversation. If your forums have more sections and topics that have very interesting conversations going on, then there will be more activity and hence more active members. There will always be a lot of lurking members who do not take active part on forums, but do not worry over them if you have a very busy and active forum otherwise. Give them time to join activity, and know that there is nothing much to make them write if they are not willing to.
I agree. I also frequently lurk on many forums and will register and being to post if the community seems lively/welcoming of new members. However, this is very hard for newer forums because many of them do not have the luxury of having a community built, which in turn prevents them from building up a larger community. It's quite a strange cycle.