We Have No Comment At This Time

February 25, 2013

A raging debate recently broke out over at the Same Rowdy Crowd about how to deal with comments on their blog. The heart of the issue is that a few bad anonymous actors have caused those who administer the site (including our own Mike Keliher) to insist that all commenters on their site have to begin using their real names. (They’ve since backed off and have said they’d start moderating comments instead.)

The issue, they say, is that under the cover of anonymity, several regular commenters are getting very personal and ugly in their exchanges. The result, they believe, has been a decline in thoughtful commentary and reasonable exchanges of ideas and opinions, as a slew of long-time readers looking for smarter, more civil discourse have been turned off.

But the decline in meaningful engagement on the Same Rowdy Crowd might also be attributable to a larger trend we’ve been discussing here at Fast Horse: Civil or not, people generally don’t comment on blog posts, and when they do, it’s now usually via Facebook or Twitter. While most posts at SRC do generate some comments, it’s usually the same six to 12 commenters going back a forth. Been that way for years. And while I remain a loyal reader, I can’t remember the last time I commented there.

blog comment memeConsider this, we have posted 1,311 entries here at the Peepshow since its launch. During that time, those posts have generated 1,619 comments, or 1.2 per post. Further, a large percentage of those comments were generated by Fast Horse staff, making the situation even more dismal if our goal is to engage with those who might be interested in what we have to say here.

The issue has not been lack of readership. Our traffic has grown from 25 unique visitors per day when we started the Peepshow, to nearly 500 per day last year. Further, the average length-of-visit has continued to hold steady as our readership has grown. As a brand-building and awareness tool, the Idea Peepshow has been invaluable, and for those reasons alone, the considerable effort we put into it is well worth it.

My gut tells me, however, the value of most blogs as an engagement tool is quite limited. They are simply not places to have meaningful conversations or discussions. As one of my sharp young colleagues here recently sniffed: “having comments on blogs is so 2009.” If she’s right, perhaps we should end the charade and officially move opportunities for the occasional Peepshow commentary and other engagement entirely over to our Facebook page. Such a move would allow us to clean up our site a bit, and would certainly eliminate the rather demoralizing goose egg next to the number of commenters on most of our posts.

But before we do such a thing, here’s your chance to weigh in. Anonymously even, if you must. Should blogs like this one continue to include commenting features in the face of Facebook? And why do you believe such a miniscule percentage of readers offer comments here or anywhere else for that matter? Content isn’t compelling? Not enough time during day to weigh in? Afraid to offer a view because it might be a career-ending move? Other?

We’d love to hear from you, our loyal Peepshow readers. Truly. Hell, I’ll even take a simple “No Comment” just to avoid a goose egg on yet another of my lovingly crafted posts.