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Are Blog Comments Dead?

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As engagement and sharing on Twitter, Facebook and other social tools continues to increase, many bloggers are noticing a sharp decrease in comments on their blogs.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that interest is declining.  RSS and email subscriptions, site traffic and social sharing may all be continuing to increase.  These are tracked through a variety of tools and even popular commenting system Disqus scours social networks to find blog posts being shared and displays those as “interactions”.

Increasingly bloggers are concerned that even though they know that their posts are being shared through other channels, that their communities still aren’t commenting on their posts.  It’s a completely understandable feeling.  You work hard at putting together a thought or position, flesh it out, find an engaging photo or video to help enhance your point and then publish it to the world.  A comment makes us feel good and/or helps to extend the post itself.  Sometimes the comments are even better than the post.  So, when a blogger begins noticing a decrease of comments on their blog, it can be depressing.  It can cause bloggers to start rethinking their content strategy and possibly even considering whether or not they should continue blogging.

Every time I’ve been asked whether or not a blogger should be discouraged by a decrease in comments, I immediately ask them whether or not they’ve looked at the sharing of their post through other channels and what the feedback from those channels are.  Usually they tell me that their seeing their content being shared online but they still wish they were getting the comments on their blog.

I’ve been thinking about this often.  Admittedly, I comment a lot less than I used but I share tons more now.  Google Reader trends tell me that I share around 30 articles per day through there.  I also regularly share tons more through Twitter and Facebook throughout the day.  But, I probably comment on about 75% less blogs than a year or so ago.  I know, I need to improve on that.

However, as I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve been considering whether or not the decline in commenting is actually a bad thing.  If you stop by and comment on a blog, you may extend that conversation and/or let that blogger know that you appreciate their work.  Both are great.  Consider though that the conversation will only be seen by that community which is limited by the number of subscribers and the number of visitors to that blog.  But, if you share that blog post with your community on Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, then you’re promoting that content to your social graph thus extending the total overall reach of that post.  By sharing that post with your social graph, it will extend the number of eyes that may be seeing that blog for the very first time.  Or, if they’ve ignored other content from that blog, it may be that post that pulls them in and triggers them to subscribe or share it with their networks thus continuing to grow the overall subscriber base and reach of the blog.

You may think that I’m suggesting that comments are dead but I’m not.  I love comments as much as the next blogger.  I appreciate everyone that takes the time out to share their thoughts.  I also value everyone that shares my content with their social graphs because it helps to get my content out to more people.

It’s just something I’ve been debating in my own head lately so I figured I’d spill it out into a blog post and see what you had to say and where you may choose to say it.  So, what are your thoughts?  Do you prefer comments, social sharing or a combination of both as a measure of the engagement on your blog?

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Photo Credit: premasagar

  • http://dbthomas.com/blog David B. Thomas

    I like comments. They feel much more personal, immediate and direct than, for instance, seeing that someone tweeted a post. When I first started blogging in 2003, I had a small group of blog friends and we all commented on one another's blogs. That was the only way, other than the rudimentary stats that Typepad offered, that I knew anyone was reading the blog at all. So I guess some of my preference for comments is also nostalgic.

  • http://twitter.com/buzzbishop Buzz Bishop

    The problem is when FB hijacks the comment Conversation AWAY from the content. Search in google and you may find an article I wrote on making your own baby food. My article is good, but if you find it organically, you won't see the comments on my fb page from friends adding ti ny original content.

    FB is great for bringing more people to the conversation, I just wish it wasn't hijacked.

    Twitter is a little better as you can get WP plugins to bring the conversation back to the content. Where it belongs.

  • http://flickr.com/tracylee Tracy Lee

    Funny, I was thinking of writing a post on commenting earlier this week. Personally, I don't understand why people don't comment. I understand the value of sharing something on Twitter, Facebook and the like, but there are many good reasons to leave a comment. First and foremost in my mind, I like to leave a comment just to let the content provider know that not only was I there, but I read/viewed/listened to what they published and found it of value. I think it is important, and as a content provider, I do know its value. Everyone likes to know that someone out there is actually on the receiving end of what they are sharing.

    I do hear people complain (and this pertains mostly to photosharing) about getting short, non-informative comments like, “Nice job!” and “Awesome!”. Their beef is that they want more from a comment, that they are looking for constructive criticism. To those people I say, be glad someone thought enough to not only view your work, but left their mark to let you know they were there. If you want more informative comments, ask for them.

    So, as someone who does comment, I am glad to see your post and I hope you don't stop writing. I don't comment as much as I would like and I don't get around to reading nearly half of what I want to, but I do like to let people know I find value in what they contribute. In short…

    Keep it up! :)

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Great post. I just relaunched my blog a few months ago. Had a solid blog prior to it, had great traffic and good interactions but decided to take it down, take a hiatus and relaunch with a new direction. Still glad I did it but I'll admit that it's challenging when you look at stats and see X number of people visit a post and only a very very small % actually leave a comment. Comments and sharing are validation, no doubt. Let's us know that out posts / thoughts struck a cord, helped or even challenged someone. I think the Facebook LIKE button helps. It at least enables an easy and fast way for someone who read the post to let it be known that the post was interesting.

  • http://www.jesseluna.com jesseluna

    Timely topic. I love it when readers leave comments and I also love Twitter replies, Facebook comments/likes, and YouTube comments. I know Disqus allows reactions from different social sites which is pretty cool.

    The larger question is whether blog Comments are part of a blog strategy. Seth Godin doesn't allow blog comments but that's very intentional. It forces people to comment via their own blogs or on different social networks.

    Personally, I love seeing comments on my blog because I can “own” them. I've been booted off of Facebook before (I'm back on now) so I know that comments and accounts on other social networks are not permanent.

  • http://www.youintegrate.com Kneale Mann

    Show me a writer who doesn't want readers or feedback.

    I have a client who says about his blog; “I write to remind me how I think”. You have to decide why you have comments open. Feedback such as “great post” and “love your work” though flattering aren't extending the conversation. Putting a widget on your site stating the number of visitors or subscribers doesn't either but that's a discussion for another time.

    I've been in media for 26 years and I love feedback. It's satisfying when something I created resonates with others. But in media, you only hear from a tiny fraction of your audience and need to understand that the audience's role is not to add to the piece but rather digest it, share it and enjoy it.

    Most people won't comment. If you don't believe that, look at your own commenting practices.

    The best comments usually come from an in person conversation days or weeks or sometimes months after the post when someone isn't simply being nice but has truly gained something from it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mdemmick M. Drew Emmick

    Recently, I've been making an effort to comment on my favorite blog posts of the day. It has been tough. I have noticed that there are two types of blogs I subscribe to – community and informational. Community blogs encourage comments by asking their readers thought provoking questions. Chris Brogan's blog is a perfect example of this. Informational blogs present topics in a manner that makes it difficult to comment. There's not much to add except “Amen” or “Good post”. The majority of the blogs I subscribe to fall into this category. I don't know if this is due to personal taste/need or a trend in the blogosphere.

  • http://tynansanger.com tynansanger

    Twitter and Facebook forces people to be accountable for their comments, which is a big improvement over blog comments potential for anonymous flaming/trolling. But for good commenters, it's really no different than it was 5 years ago, just with more options and flexibility for ways of doing so.

  • http://twitter.com/craighuff Craig Huffstetler

    I think they go hand-in-hand. I enjoy when people utilize the social sharing aspects of blogs and comment posting (such as Disqus' feature set). However, to answer your question: I do not think it is dead. I understand your point. Many people will read a post and instead of following up, they will link it via a social media method. I have seen this trend increase. But I think it just goes with the increase of social media users (Facebook users increase, Twitter users increase, etc.).

    However, with this being said, I think it is more about audience engagement on blogs. It's hard to measure why people share a link YET do not comment. For example, did they used to comment often? Hard to tell with the rapid growth of social media communities.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    It does give those who leave real comments a leg up on interacting with the author and other commenters.

  • J. Paul Duplantis

    Great analysis Justin. Just made comments on my Facebook, Twttier and Disqus pages as well. Guess that is the point isn't it. Can't agree with you more. Thanks.

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  • http://www.ryanhealy.com/ Ryan Healy

    I like a combination of both feedback via blog comments and sharing via social networks. Blog comments are a great way to find out what my readers are thinking, while sharing on Twitter and Facebook is a good indicator for whether I've written something really good or not.

    But I often find that comments and number of “social media shares” correlate. If I've written something good, I'll see a spike in both.

  • http://primecutsblog.com justinlevy

    Definitely agree! Also, it provides an opportunity to expand on a thought that would be too long for Twitter and Facebook.

  • http://primecutsblog.com justinlevy

    Thanks for stopping by and helping to share the post around! :)

  • http://www.redheadranting.com/ redheadranting

    I don't know if comments are dead, but they sure do tank during the summer months. I've noticed this pattern for the last four years so I haven't really given it any thought that they might be dead. I don't think they are, I think people are just busier outside this time of year. I usually end my articles with a call to action so that people feel compelled to throw in their two cents. My comments are down but then I haven't commented on many blogs lately myself.

  • carlon

    I prefer comments on my blog. I mean how can get you can a 3-page rant full of name-calling into a 140 character tweet? Hate mail/comments are fun. Hate tweets? Well, I haven't gotten one yet, but just doesn't seem as satisfying.

  • Ian from CommentFlock

    Very true – I'm seeing more and more blogs only having 1 – 2 comments per quality post. “A comment makes us feel good and/or helps to extend the post itself. Sometimes the comments are even better than the post.” – as a blogger you need to realize that even though comments may be low, it's not necessarily because your content is bad (but it might be!).

    Ian

  • http://judysoped.blogspot.com/ Judy Helfand

    Justin,
    I read this post on Friday and tweeted to you that I would come back to comment. I have nothing scientific/statistical to offer to this particular conversation. I have only started to get a few comments on my personal blog, although I have been told over the years that my posts for our business blog always received the most traffic – but very few comments.

    If I read a provocative post and I have something to add either in the way of a question or anecdote, then I will comment. And I like it when the author comments back to me. In fact, if they don't (outside of time constraints) I have to wonder why they even have comments enabled on their blog. Some bloggers, like Seth Grodin, appear not to be writing for engagement. It is business, pure and simple.

    You may or may not know that I recently started a personal blog which is pretty much based on my comments on other's blogs. A crazy idea, but it is a way to share some of my comments and the original blogger's post with more people, outside of tweeting.

    Here is my bottom line…if you write a blog and invite (call to action) comments, I comment and ask a question, then a response would seem appropriate; however, a lot of bloggers don't respond back. And to me, that is why the conversation might be slowly grinding down.

    I look forward to meeting you in person.
    Judy

  • tessel123

    Please delete

  • http://bcroke.wordpress.com Brandon Croke

    That's a really interesting question Justin on comments vs. sharing.

    Today I left a comment on a blog, but then only tweeted a quote from the article and cited the author. He seemed like he was confused why I was sharing the quote and not the link. (which is understandable)

  • http://www.couponcodes4u.com promotional codes

    It does provide those who leave real remarks a support up on interacting with the author and other commenter’s.

  • polpqaa

     Bartender Economy. Nice analogy! So that makes the comment section sort of like Cheers?
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  • http://www.casquettespascher.com casquette new era

    do hear people complain (and this pertains mostly to photosharing)
    about getting short, non-informative comments like, “Nice job!” and
    “Awesome!”. Their beef is that they want more from a comment, that they
    are looking for constructive criticism. 

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  • Anonymous

    Take a deep breath and a step back before your respond to
    any negative blog comments. Remember that you’ve created a blog to exchange
    information with readers and ultimately, your readers come first. Take an
    objective stance and respond openly.

  • Jaqcky Daniels

    Agreed. As a reader, I feel like my time is being wasted reading lame, thoughtless comments. Especially on cooking sites, where new ideas emerge, and somebody comments how they’re allergic to this, or isn’t interested in that or, hey, can’t wait to try it. Well, it would be alot more useful if you tried it, then came back with some useful input about how it did or didn’t work and what suggestions you might have. “This sounds cool” is such a waste of bandwidth.