If you have a forum, you need a lot of activity or it appears dead.
The same is true with most feature-rich, paid-for, community platforms. If you don't have a large amount of activity, it looks dead.
This isn't the case for a mailing list.
The e-mint mailing list can go days, perhaps weeks, without any activity.
For a forum, this would be a disaster, for a mailing list it's fine. The list is always there for people when they need it.
More importantly, people don't see (or notice), the inactivity. The community comes to them (via e-mail), they don't come to the community.
If you're not expecting huge amounts of activity, or you're looking to test your community before launch, use a simple mailing list. Once you've outgrown it, then move to something more substantial.
Many of the problems we stumble across can be solved by using a simple mailing list.