In the beginning God created the Blogs and the RSS. And it was good.
Last week, Mathew Ingram over at GigaOm published a Blog post titled, Yes, blog comments are still worth the effort. It seems like there's a movement for more and more Blogs to not bother having the comments enabled. It's nothing new. The story goes back to the early days of Blogging (now, over a decade old) where the discourse tightens over the idea that anyone and everyone should be able to contribute to content, and that the true value of Blogging content - in the first place - is how the Blogger engages and responds in the comment section. The macro theory here is that Blogging is a part of Social Media which inherently means that the spirit of community needs to be present.
Blog comments are becoming increasingly valuable.
We need to take a step back to remember how far we have come in order to get an indication of the future (and what it could mean to the overall value of Blog comments). We have to remember that Blogging (and the power of RSS) came along before it was easy (or even possible) to do the amazing things that we're doing with images, audio and video. We also didn't have much in the way of bookmarking engines or online social networks to share the content we were interested in with our peers. Remember, when online video first became more commonplace and things that went "viral" were (basically) videos being attached to an email? Back then, there was not only value in having comments on a Blog (because someone took the time to write their perspective) but there wasn't much else anyone could do - with the exception of starting their own Blog and doing a trackback.
But things have changed... dramatically.
Forget the popularity of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and more. Focus on this: if someone reads and appreciates a Blog post, they now have many more options to share what they think about it...
- They can tweet a link of it out to their network on Twitter.
- They can favorite the Blogger's tweet about the post.
- They can share the link on Facebook.
- They can comment on the link that they shared on Facebook.
- They can link to the Blog post on LinkedIn and also comment on it there.
- They can do all of that (and more) on Google+.
- They can just create their own post, on their own space about it and not even link back to it.
- They can share it as a bookmark (with comments) on Delicious or Google Bookmarks.
- They can push it out through StumbleUpon, Reddit or Digg.
- They can respond by video on YouTube or Vimeo.
- ...and a whole lot more.
The conversation is anywhere and everywhere.
What does of all this mean? The true value of a Blog comment rockets through the roof. Knowing that people can share, comment or create in their own space (with their own friends) means that the value (or dare I call it a gift) of a comment on the Blogger's environment is not only the highest of praise, but it could well be one of the highest forms of engagement. When was the last time you visited a Blog for the first time? We often look to see the activity in the comments as a form of social proof, don't we? If there are comments and some back and forth, it means that it must be valuable (whether that's true or not is another question). When brands look at Blogs as a marketing opportunity, this is one of the leading key indicators that they are looking for next to traffic. They want to know that something is going on.
Pushing it forward.
It's going to be hard to generate comments and community going forward as more disruptions and tools to share (look at Tumblr, etc...) come online and take hold. And, let's face it, it's much easier to +1 something with a "this is great, you should read it!" comment attached to it, than it is to formulate and write up an interesting perspective to bolt on to the original Blog post. It's also a lot more complex to comment on a Blog from a smartphone (at least it is for the moment). The other major opportunity is for a true community to take hold in the comments. I often lament that I have to be the one to respond to comments on this Blog. Why can't you (or someone else) respond to the people commenting? Wouldn't that make the discourse much more interesting and diverse? Is it really a community if the only engagement is linear between the Blogger and the person leaving a comment (and, once the Blogger responds to a comment, the original commentator never returns to continue with the engagement). Some Blogs have achieved this, unfortunately a lot of the back and forth banter can be juvenile and winds up polluting the bigger idea behind the content. It's still early days, but don't kid yourself, Blog comments (much like a retweet) is still one of the best metrics to gauge and measure true engagement, and that's only going to rise in value as more disruptions and other options become present.
What's your take on the death of Blog comments?