A recent blog post by Arik Hanson, that looked at seven trends impacting every blogger, caught my attention the other week.
I’ve read Arik’s blog for a good few years now, and his content is always informative, and not afraid to poke the bear and challenge standard thinking when it comes to content. This blogging trends post was no different.
It covered topics like RSS being retired soon (which I agree with), the changing face of content presentation, and social sharing losing traction, amongst other things.
One trend that stood out, though, was Arik’s belief that blog comments were “officially dead”.
Based on the examples of Copyblogger and others, Arik feels that we’ll see even more content creators and blogs switch off comments in the months ahead.
That may be indeed be true – but as anyone that’s read this blog for a while will know, it’s not something I buy into, and an approach I wouldn’t recommend for one simple reason.
You Care, But You Don’t Really
Imagine you go to an event where there’s a guest speaker. You pay your dollars to attend, and you allocate a certain amount of time to be at the event.
The speaker is entertaining, the topic is something you’re interested in, and the speech gets your mind buzzing with so many follow-up ideas.
Ideas that need answers.
Ideas that only questions to the speaker can answer.
So, you wait in line after the event so you can meet the speaker, thank them for their work, and ask your follow-up question that would expand the speaker’s talk.
Finally, you get your chance to ask a question, and…. silence. A blank stare. A look that acknowledges your presence, but nothing more.
Undeterred, you ask another question. Equally undeterred, the speaker offers the same response as before.
Suddenly, you realize that it’s not just you that’s being ignored – everyone is.
Everyone that wanted to publicly thank the speaker is being ignored. Everyone who wanted to add to the topic is being ignored.
Instead, there are various rooms that are roped off where you can go instead, with the vague promise that there may be an answer or two there.
Time is Investment Too
We have a lot of distractions. Both as content creators and content consumers, there’s a hell of a lot of competition vying for our attention.
Because of that, the readers that choose to visit your little part of the web are investing in you. Sure, they may not be financially investing – but they’re investing nonetheless.
That time that could be spent elsewhere. The exchange of knowledge that could be shared elsewhere. The referral of other readers in search of somewhere they can invest too.
All of that comes from comments.
Yes, the content attracts. Yes, the content educates. Yes, the content sparks ideas.
But the content eventually draws a blank – because it’s a finite resource.
If the content on display doesn’t quite satiate the reader’s appetite, the comments after the post can. And usually do.
Because now you’re not just tied to the one-directional broadcast of the content creator – now you have the years of experience, wisdom and ?questioning viewpoints of other attendees.
Because of that, your investment is rewarded. You leave wiser, and you help others leave wiser too.
Whether the wisdom comes from extra knowledge about the topic at hand, or a new mindset about an offshoot of the topic you’d never considered, it’s return for your investment in that part of the web.
Spend Your Money Wisely
The kicker for many of the blogs that have switched off comments is the invitation to “continue the conversation elsewhere”.
This is followed by a link to that content creator’s Facebook page, or Google+ community, or Twitter stream, etc.
All well and good – after all, they’re not saying they don’t value your opinion, they just want to have it elsewhere (after all, that’s where all the cool chat is happening).
But then you land on one of these other channels, and the two-way dialogue is equally non-existent.
Instead, it’s a broadcast-fest of links to their content. You know – the very content they don’t want to talk to you about, but come to this channel you’re on now to continue the conversation…
And so the circle goes.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Switching off #blog comments doesn’t enhance a reader’s experience – it hinders it. ” quote=”Switching off blog comments doesn’t enhance a reader’s experience – it hinders it. “]
Look, I get it. As I mentioned earlier in this post, time is a commodity we have increasingly little of.
So I get that you don’t want to spend that time talking when you could just as easily be broadcasting.
Just be honest about it.
If you want to be a broadcast channel (whether that’s your blog, social network, email blast or whatever), go ahead and knock yourself out.
But let’s not pretend that blog comments are being switched off to “offer a better experience more attuned to the reader’s choice.”
Instead, if you really care about the thoughts of your readers, and the discussions they want to have, it’s a simple decision – leave the blog comments on.
And if you’re a reader/commenter, choose better places to spend your investments – there are enough of them about.
And they really do care about your investment – you can trust me on that.