Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 12, 201210:03 AM

The Value Of Blog Comments

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?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Hayley Barlow
    Mitch Joel

    As a newish blogger, reading feedback on my site or leaving feedback on someone else's rank up there with the joys of finishing a post. Surely that's the basis of blogging and this new shift in the way we communicate. It's not just a one side affair, but about maintaining a digital interaction with fellow cyber chaps and chapesses.

    Reply
    • It's also worth a lot more because these people leaving comments, could be doing it anywhere. So, it's no longer just about comments on the Blog... it's about the general discourse everywhere. That being said, a Blog comment is much more valuable because of these options.

      Reply
  • Posted by Alain Lemay
    Mitch Joel

    Don't know if they will skyrocket but for me the discussion following a blog post often provides as much or more valuable information as the blog post itself. I think this is a trend that is not only here to stay but that is slowly branching out to other mediums than just blogs.

    Reply
    • I agree, Alain... I meant skyrocket in terms of value and measurement but not in terms of the quantity.

      Reply
    • I also agree with you, Alan. Comments are easily overlooked both by the blog owner and by the reader, but sometimes different insights and further discussion educates your mind even more. AND they show what the blogger is actually made of, if he can drive a conversation, respond and make an argument or if he can't discuss his own ideas (something I find difficult... perhaps it's just laziness for some).

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Great stuff, Mitch! Comments are one of those things that are under-appreciated, under-utilized, and under-valued. Often times the conversation generated by a stream of comments adds a great deal of value to the original blog post. Differing perspectives presented in the comment stream gives a much more full and satisfying experience for the reader, comment writers, and the original author. Everyone wins when thoughtful comments are posted.

    Reply
    • True, but I've also seen instances where one point gets picked apart and the spirit of the initial Blog post is darkened by an underwhelming debate about something unrelated. You take the good with the bad, I guess.

      Reply
    • Everyone wins indeed, Jonathan — good observation right there. I think it's also important that the commenters are aware that they must *add* something to the discussion, not just agree or disagree with the author or another commenter.

      Reply
  • Posted by Jeff Riddall
    Mitch Joel

    Bloggers should keep in mind that if they don't allow for comments within the context of their blog those comments will likely go elsewhere where they may not reap the benefits or lose track of the thought they started.

    Reply
    • True, but that's happening (and should happen) anyways... simply because it's easier for the reader and it also gives them more control over their comments. I'm fine with that. And, that's the point of this Blog post: a Blog comment is worth more (in terms of engagement and value) because of it.

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Too often I find it easier to just click the "tweet" button on posts I like. But thanks to this post, I vow to leave comment on blog posts I find most thought provoking. This is a great reminder that leaving a comment can lead to a stronger online community.

    Reply
    • It will also help to improve your critical thinking and you'll actually consider and take-in the content more... trust me. I often think long and hard about leaving comments on other Blogs, but the ones I simply RT or +1 are forgotten the second I click that button.

      Reply
      • Posted by Tony Faustino
        Mitch Joel

        Based on what you and Marissa are saying, it sounds like responding with a constructive or thoughtful comment is now the unmet need or hidden opportunity to differentiate oneself to the blogger and the blogger's community.

        Has having the myriad of commenting options you described earlier made us complacent? As I think about it, leaving a quick "way-to-go" or "I couldn't agree more" via a tweet, a +1, or a "like" now seems superficial (because we're already in a rush to get to the next thing on another platform). I'm as guilty of that behavior as anyone.

        So then, what's really authentic engagement or interaction? Because from that perspective, it seems now that the retweeting, the +1'ing, and the liking aren't really true metrics of engagement or interaction. Perhaps, we've mistakenly perceived them as such because they're easy and convenient to count.

        Reply
        • I think it's not an either or scenario. A healthy Blog has all kinds of different comments. Sometimes a simple, "way to go!" goes a long way to let the Blogger know that people are reading and connecting to the work. Beyond that, the deeper comments add a new layer to the content.

          Reply
          • Agree. Tweeting and +1ing is good, but comments add a whole new constructive potential to the blog itself. After that... well, your insights provide increased or decreased layers of interaction. If you feel like saying "good one", that's ok; but if you add much more of your own ideas, I think it's the best.

            Reply
    • Precisely my opinion as well. I was the typical guy that read a lot of posts but didn't add to the conversation... well, not any more. Who knows what else you can learn just by exchanging ideas with two or more people?

      Reply
  • Posted by Bob Farnham
    Mitch Joel

    Although I don't always agree with all of the ideas you share in your blog posts or podcasts (ok, MOST of the time I do) but in this case I couldn't agree more.

    I have been disappointed with many brands and people that have blogs and specifically ask engaging questions in their posts. It's as though they really want you to comment. I've invested time and thought into responding to a good number of blog posts and I'm surprised how often I'm disappointed that there is absolutely no response. I don't hear from the author nor any readers.

    I was excited to read in your post today, (http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/what-is-your-marketing-trying-to-do/) "...we're going to also see many brands (and the agencies that serve them) start thinking more seriously about blasting (or broadcasting) strategies tethered with touching (or engagement) strategies." Maybe I should worry less about whether or not bloggers participate in their own blogs and just let them blast away. Or should they recognize what you've made very clear, that they need to have two strategies and broadcast AND engage.

    Reply
    • It's not a zero sum game. I'm fine with people like Seth Godin not having comments. I'm just appreciative of everything that he shares (and for free and frequently). I really don't need more. Being a Blogger, I'm also sensitive to how hard it is to handle a full-time job, family, business travel, community service and still try to answer every comment (especially when a comment doesn't really need a response).

      That being said, I also know that a reply back on a comment is like a handshake or autograph and it makes the person who left the comment feel special and be thankful.

      So, no real answers... just more thinking.

      Lastly, take a look at the string of comments: It's always the same: someone comments, I respond. I wish more people would jump in and respond and share. I'd love for this to be less about me (you get that in the Blog post) and the comments are where everybody plays.

      Reply
      • From what I can add, I'm trying to do precisely that. Sorry if I'm nagging a few with extra comments but the fact is — honestly — I'm starting to enjoy a lot more chatting with blog comments than just reading the post and moving on with my life (or, worse, moving on to other blog posts in an endless stream of content).

        Reply
  • Posted by Paul Merrill
    Mitch Joel

    An analogy to your point is using a real letter to communicate. That grabs attention more powerfully than an email or a Twitter direct message.

    Similarly, a blog post comment shows that the commenter felt like it was worth their time to read the whole post and provide some valuable additional input.

    Sadly, quality input is increasingly rare.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ryan Connors
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch I like how you summed up what's playing out between blogs and social networks today. Comments are a great way to get an unbiased taste of what's on the community's mind, remembering the community itself has biases. Blogs being plugged into Facebook, Twitter ect. make it so that worthy content properly marketed will transverse the internet and spread as intended. Thanks for the read! - @MrRyanConnors

    Reply
  • Posted by Alan
    Mitch Joel

    I think they are alive and kicking. As an example, @djwaldow posted recently about email and a lack of a call to action (http://waldowsocial.com/thank-you-for-being-one-of-our-best-customers/). I politely disagreed. He responded, and then even created an entire second post from just that interaction (http://waldowsocial.com/does-every-email-need-a-call-to-action/). Is this the norm? Probably not. What I liked about it (trust me, it wasn't seeing my name in [10-point Helvetica] lights) was that it felt as close to a conversation as we could have, despite DJ being in Utah and me in Massachusetts. It's as if we were at an event, having a conversation, and it spurred tangentially to something else.

    Reply
    • Without question, Blogs also create conversation and communities that simply overcome both geography and timezones... another huge "big ups" for Blogs.

      Reply
    • Posted by DJ Waldow
      Mitch Joel

      Thanks for the shout out. I really like what you said here: "It's as if we were at an event, having a conversation, and it spurred tangentially to something else." Never thought of it that way.

      Reply
    • Agree or disagree, the important part is the exchange. After all, if you have an idea you need to communicate, why should you not be receptive to feedback? (don't answer... I know most of the times this is the exception :)

      Reply
  • Posted by Tinu
    Mitch Joel

    I think you're right. They're really only dead for people who aren't paying attention. I've been holding on to a post about the retweet showing up on a blog vs an actual comment in terms of value as a conversationalist. And it seems we're up against the tipping point of them switching places in terms of perceived value, even though the comment is worth more.

    Reply
    • Value will be on both sides... a ton of retweets counts for a lot too.

      Reply
    • Maybe it's worth more because it demands more of yourself. ReTweeting is as easy as... clicking a button. Sure, you can add a short comment (on some third party apps), but it doesn't match to the more complex task that is to take a piece of content and actually comment something useful and constructive. If you go that extra mile... you also provide more value. And with that reap greater value in return.

      Reply
  • Posted by Tonia
    Tonia

    Thanks for the mental floss Mitch. I think a lot of us social media/blogger types are a little ADD and get caught up in the mission and sometimes forget our manners... If I were to attend a function where you were the speaker, would I just leave without thanking you for your time and insights? I would not... And as a long time blogger, I so appreciate the people who take time to acknowledge my efforts whether they agree with me or not. I do love the interaction. Again, thanks for the gentle reminder, I vow to do better!

    Reply
    • It's not always easy to thank a speaker or leave a deep comment and it's not always a necessity. What's important is that we, as Marketers, embrace the deep value of a Blog comment rather than dismiss it as a good metric.

      Reply
  • Posted by Ana Hoffman
    Mitch Joel

    When I first started my blog, I craved to have more comments - who doesn't, right?

    And now that I got my wish and then some (27,000 non-spam no-pingback comments in 18 months), I now wonder how much time exactly I spend on reader interaction.

    Don't get me wrong: I still love the fact that my readers make the effort to let me know what they think, but the amount of time I spend on this every single day is draining my time.

    So yes, I am thinking of closing my comments for older posts.

    But then again, the thought keeps lingering in the back of my mind "Are you CRAZY?"

    Reply
  • Posted by Freedman
    Mitch Joel

    On the death of comments, you have to look to the rise of alternative interaction (tweets, likes, reposts and so on.) What is the driving force behind a tweet or a bookmark? It seems to me that most alternative interaction is fueled by endorsement of the material. When we share a post or an article, what we are saying is "Hey, I saw this and I agree with it. You should see it too." ('re-sharing' something we read and found interesting has also become a way many of us form internet identity.)

    Comments of Praise and Agreement are amongst the hardest things to write. When one writes in agreement to the original post, he or she often runs the risk of simply reiterating the points that have been previously raised. What is the value of a comment that doesn't have any additional (and original) support? In my opinion such a comment contributes little more to the community than a retweet would, perhaps less. This kind of a comment does not even offer the chance of bringing new readers to the table, because the only people who will stumble upon it are the ones who have already read the original post.

    I think that we have also begun to mistakenly identify dissonance with critical thinking. One can think critically about a subject and still come out the other end of the tunnel in agreement. It just happens to be that it is much easier to rail out a comment of disagreement with the subject matter than it is to provide a thoughtful comment of assent. Who can blame people who take to retweeting and bookmarking as a way of agreement? It's not only easy, it's fun. To me it seems that alternative interaction isn't stifling discussion and community, only relocating it.

    Reply
    • This is very in-line with my thinking as well. And, when pushing your idea further it only reenforces that the value of a Blog comment then must be significant. I know that this comment added much more value to me than a simple RT... and I'll remember both your name, how you think (and even what your avatar looks like).

      Reply
    • "What is the value of a comment that doesn't have any additional (and original) support? In my opinion such a comment contributes little more to the community than a retweet would, perhaps less."

      Sums it up. Agreeing is easy, extending the line of thought by adding your own ideas is the real challenge. That's why I value creation over curation (don't get me wrong, I love curation as well); it demands more but it also shows you're willing to give more for something higher than yourself.

      Reply
  • Posted by Lesa
    Mitch Joel

    New comments is one relatively easy way to keep your blog posts "fresh" in the eyes of the search engines. So, from this very basic SEO perspective, I don't see the need for blog comments going away anytime soon.

    Reply
  • I want to focus my observation on this piece of your post, Mitch:

    "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."

    I think it cracks the reason for why blog comments are supposedly dead. Because, the way I see it, people either focus on the blog post and don't care about the comments or they care about the comments but not enough to write an original argumentative piece. As you say, it's easier to +1, auto-tweet or share with a click than to actually say something USEFUL and UNIQUE about it.

    It's my view on the subject, of course; a third option would be, of course, that there are some people who do care about blog comments — I mean, just look at Mitch's own blog posts. I'm sorry I don't have time right now to focus more on what other fellow commenters are saying here, but I'm proud to be able to discuss this with anyone in this or any other post at Six Pixels of Separation. Dead or not, blog comments matter, even if just to force you to think about what the consequences of a blog post had in your own way of seeing the world.

    Reply
  • Posted by Bob Williams
    Mitch Joel

    Recent blog posts are more likely to gain comments either because the content is about a recent topic or the post is at the top of the list of a RSS or social feed. On my blog, I have a few dated posts that continue to be at the top of the most viewed content. But no one comments on the post.

    What are your thoughts on the age of a blog post and readers propensity to comment?

    Reply
    • I think people are sadly more focused on consuming more content and not producing even one tenth of what they consume. That's why even if a blog has lots of views it has little volume of comments. From experience, I believe most people just have no time to process that information — they have 50 other blog posts to read today!

      A ridiculous example but still a valid one for me. Why? Because I used to be that person. :)

      Reply
    • I think that Blog posts have a very short half-life and so the discourse is similar. I tend to not go back and comment on Blogs post comments from way back in the archive unless the moment feels right. I'm sure many other Bloggers would agree that it has to happen pretty fast.

      Reply
  • I being a new blogger entirely agree that blogs are another form of social media. Many bloggers (such as yourself Mitch) not only entice but request that you "join the conversation". Your posts are conversation starters, you state your position and fully expect that others will join in with new thoughts/ideas.

    As for those who read blogs startng at the bottom looking for social proof before reading the content...shame on you! Someone always has to be the first to find that gem and share it with others. Why not you?

    Again Mitch, thanks for all that you do! Love both the blog and the podcasts!

    Reply
    • It's a shame so many bloggers: 1) speak for themselves; 2) don't reply; 3) do nothing but replicate other people's content; 4) have no writing personality.

      All fixable flaws, but flaws nonetheless.

      Reply
    • It's not a perfect world and there are no right or wrong ways to publish - so long as the person publishing is happy with the results. I'm not always great in responding to comments and I often struggle with it...

      Reply
  • Posted by Celine M.
    Mitch Joel

    I also think that blog comments are a vital part of blogging. If you don't choose to enable commenting or resent the time it takes to at moderate comments, then why not just have a resource page on your site or news section for your announcements?

    More than ever I appreciate bloggers who write about relevant issues/questions in their industry and provide enough thought, or background research and data to inform their readers or get them interested in the issue. (So thank you for this post!)

    As one of your commenters said, getting a conversation started is a valuable contribution of blogging.

    There are so many business, social questions we need help on, ideas to test, creative solutions we are looking for that 'maybe' talking about it---and hopefully getting the attention of more experienced people in the industry and even 'fresh' perspective from newbies can clarify or point us to a solution.

    So hopefully bloggers would also appreciate their commenters more.

    Reply
  • Posted by Zara
    Mitch Joel

    What's a blog without comments or conversation? Just web copy in my book. It's about information sharing and engagement. It's about hosting the conversation, despite all the other venues for it to happen. Totally agree.

    Reply
  • Posted by Alice Madeleine
    Mitch Joel

    Its really important to hear the thoughts of the blog readers and other bloggers. BUT, its always the bloggers choice if he/she wants to receive some comments. (Please dont kill me)

    Reply
    • Of course, the one who writes the content always has a choice. My question is why wouldn't you want to know what people think of your thoughts? (honest question, no judgement intended)

      Reply
  • Posted by blog submission
    Mitch Joel

    Most of the people use different types of plugins to doing comments but in my opinion facebook and twitter are the best plugins. Due to increase demand of blog commenting and its benefits in improving website ranking this is the easy way to get traffic on blog and get high ranking in short time. That ranking is genuine and Google updates are also consider that in White Hat SEO.You describe very well about blog commenting and i would like to share with others also.

    Reply
  • Blog comments will always be valuable as long as the right users comment. Its all about interaction and sharing of thoughts. The more you post the better.

    Reply
  • Τhanks for finslly talking about >The Value Of Blog
    Comments | Six Pixels of Separаtion - Marketing and Communications Iոsigɦts -By
    Mitch Joеl at Twist Image <Liked it!

    Reply
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