When I say “audience participation” I don’t mean how well people comment on your site or if anyone even comments on your site, I am talking about how well you interact with the people who do decide to participate on your site. Having no comments is one thing (not a bad thing at all since some subjects lend themselves better to discussions than others), but having 10 comments and the discussion dies repeatedly because you refuse to participate in it is another thing.
Now this isn’t really something we notice when we are evaluating sites, but it is something you should be aware of when running your own site. It takes time and effort for people to leave comments and it’s a good feeling when the owner of the site responds to what you have to say. Admittedly you reach a point where you can’t address every single comment, but that doesn’t give you the right to drop out of the conversation completely.
Right when you receive your first comment your site becomes a community site. Sure you run it and dictate it, but you need to keep the community happy and hopefully you having discussions with your readers will make you happy as well.