The twin objectives of the Bloggers' Circle were to enable members to develop a wider audience for their blog posts and to be a source of inspiration for our own writing. I think we need to look at them both before passing judgement.
To take the last one first, the Bloggers' Circle is absolutely inspiring for me. It has become like a second news paper for me, and a valuable source of content, comment and opinion. The digest is the most helpful bit of the Bloggers' Circle as it enables me to scan the headlines to see whether there is anything I want to read and debate. There are usually two or three things that interest me and that's pretty good given I don't bother reading about 80% of the newspaper. So, I do feel like the blog posts are informative, educational and interesting. I regret I don't always have the time to debate them as I would like to as many are a source of inspiration for my own writing. 10/10 for the inspiration bit.
To take the first one last, I know the Bloggers' Circle has not expanded the number of people who follow my blog. Having said that, my blog posts have been debated a couple of times by members of the circle and that is nice. If I flip that over, I have debated a number of blog posts and I know that people who follow me (via my blog, twitter, or facebook) have followed up on those links from time to time, have read the original bloggers' posts, and have commented back to me. I do not know if any of "my" followers are now following the other bloggers but I do know that I have not become a follower of any of the Bloggers' Circle members. The digest makes it so easy to stay informed that I don't need to follow anyone directly: I can follow everyone through the digest. 5/10 for the wider audience bit.
What to do?
I love the Bloggers' Circle, truly I do, for the above reasons. It mostly meets my aims and, although I admit I wish more people followed me, I rationalise that the reason more people don't follow me is that I don't have enough interesting stuff to say. Certainly the circle has given me a wider readership from time to time, even if it has not given me a wider followership. I am ok with that. However, Matthew, if the Bloggers' Circle is not meeting your aims, it must become disheartening to manage the digest and the admin of the circle. Please at least let me now say thank you - I appreciate what you are doing.
As for taking it "to the next level" I wonder if more active networking in addition to or as an alternative to debating is an idea? What I mean is that if I read a blog that interests me maybe I should suggest to the writer someone (person or organisation) they could send the post to directly - so it comes from them (with a recommendation) and not from me? Maybe we should be more proactive in enabling posts to be sent newspaper or journal editors, think tanks or politicians directly. Are members looking for work? Are they looking to get published? Are they looking to commericalise their creativity in some way?
Maybe we could introduce a component of action among all the talking? Just a thought.