26
62
Gini Dietrich

Why We Won’t Shut Off Blog Comments

By: Gini Dietrich | March 27, 2014 | 
154

Why We Won't Shut Off Blog CommentsBy Gini Dietrich

A couple of weeks ago, super smarty and witty Jay Dolan wrote a blog post about closing off blog comments.

His reason?

Spam (well, that and he was finding no meaningful conversation in the comments).

He knew bloggers (like me) would disagree with this approach so he had a message to us in the post: Too bad (in more colorful language).

Because I like him a whole bunch, I didn’t make a big deal of it at the time.

In fact, I probably wouldn’t have even mentioned it except, earlier this week, Copyblogger did the exact, same thing (clearly copying Jay, we decided during a Twitter conversation).

Yes, one of the biggest – and most popular – blogs in the marketing world is closing their blog comments.

I, I…just…wow.

Because I disagree so vehemently with this approach, I set out to keep an open mind. I read the blog post. Six times.

And I kept thinking about it. And I talked to some friends (namely Livefyre) whose jobs are to keep comments moving.

Shutting Off Blog Comments

A couple of weeks ago, we had a conversation about where you should build your community.

I stand very firmly on the side of building it in a place that you own vs. renting it out to one of your social networks.

But Copyblogger is doing the complete opposite.

We’re fortunate enough (mainly because we’ve been around for so long now) that we have a lot of thriving “outposts” where conversation happens, particularly Google+ and Twitter.

So we’re going to take the conversation there (and more important, to your own blogs), and see how that works.

They’ll continue to use the social networks to promote their new content, but will use Google+ and Twitter as an outpost for the former blog comments.

The blog will no longer be a destination for their readers.

It’s admirable and a curious test. I don’t agree, but it is interesting and I want to see what happens.

Is Spam Really the Problem?

But here’s the real reason this move bothers me: They say they spend too much time filtering out the spam.

In a little over eight years, Copyblogger has published more than 130,000 approved comments. Which is pretty amazing, right?

But over that period, that’s only about 4% of the comments that were left on the site. The remaining 96% were pointless, time-wasting spam.

Of course, we’ve had a lot of help fighting that deluge from our spam filters. But spammers have gotten smarter, and the practice has evolved to the point where it takes a decent amount of mental effort to figure out the intent behind comments that are actually cleverly-disguised spam.

Based on those statistics, I set out to look at the same for Spin Sucks.

In seven years of blogging, we have 122,443 approved comments. These are all real comments. There isn’t a single spam comment in there.

Another 12,096 comments were spam, but we’ve never seen them nor have we had to moderate the majority of them.

Every once in a while, one or two will get through. Once a week I go through the blog comments and send a handful of to spam. But it takes me just a couple of minutes.

What that means is, of 134,539 blog comments, only 11 percent are spam. Nearly the complete opposite of Copyblogger.

Where Livefyre Helps

Sure, we’re not as big or popular as Copyblogger. The traffic numbers probably don’t compare. They’re a much bigger target than we are.

But I credit Livefyre for the ability to create content and build community without having to worry about spam.

Since we started using it for our commenting platform in 2009, we haven’t had to moderate, delete, or spend time working through all the crud.

I asked Kristin Hersant, the vice president of marketing at Livefyre, why Copyblogger has had such a problem with spam and we have not.

We want our customers to focus on what matters – writing your blog – which is why we’ve built real-time moderation tools that automatically filter out spam, profanity, insults, hate speech and other types of bad content.

Spin Sucks and all of our blog customers get to use the same tools we’ve built to support major media sites such as Fox News and Fox Sports, which are frequently targets of similar troll attacks as Copyblogger. Whether you’re a blog or a major media site, you shouldn’t have to give up ownership of your community because of spam.

You shouldn’t have to give up ownership of your community because of spam.

Amen.

Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about blog comments? Do you land on the side of Copyblogger or of Spin Sucks?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

142 comments
Unmana
Unmana

Don't ever shut off comments -- this is one of the most interesting comments spaces around. So many lovely people hang out here!

Vinay Koshy
Vinay Koshy

I take it from all the discussion that building an audience and having an emotional and loyal connection is key to building a community. 


Having said that the way in which this can be achieved can vary for different businesses or organizations. There is no vanilla flavored formula that suits everyone. 


Change in environment and business can also impact such decisions.


I guess only time will tell if this strategy works as opposed to it being a tactic. 

creativeoncall
creativeoncall

Another county heard from... you all might enjoy Nick Westergaard's post on the same subject today, illustrated by a very recent personal anecdote involving Garrison Keillor... http://ow.ly/vdI4W 

KateNolan
KateNolan

No comment.


That said... ;) I haven't read through all the comments yet, but my question is, will this actually increase Copyblogger's SEO and subscription rate? By essentially saying "in order to talk about us" you'll have to point links to us and share us with your readers and then... Colbert Bump is now the Copyblogger bump?


Of course, now I see that @chelpixie said it first. So, yeah, what she said!

Jensenborger6
Jensenborger6

I'm with Spin Sucks. I'm surprised Copyblogger is letting go of a window into their readers' thoughts. That said, it does seem like a lot of the conversation is taking place offsite for a lot of bloggers.

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

One other thing to add: commenting on people's blogs is a great way to develop relationships in a way that's just harder to do on Twitter, for instance. You contribute in a substantive way (instead of the attaboys) and in some depth, you engage in real conversation and eventually they start to notice that you've got some interesting things to say.

It's a much more organic way to start a relationship than by retweeting or replying to a total stranger on Twitter, or sending an email out of the blue. I mean, it's content marketing. Maybe even Youtility—you're contributing a point of view and additional information.

But that's all from the reader's perspective. From a Big Blogger's perspective, it's a lot less important, I'm sure.

@jason_
@jason_

Great post @ginidietrich! I enjoy posting on Spin Sucks and would hate to see comments closed. I say if it makes Copyblogger and AntiSocial happy, let them do their own thing. You never know, we might have a few new crazies show up here.

bigboxcar
bigboxcar

Agree with your post, Gina. One thing Sonia Simone didn't mention was how turning off comments might affect traffic. Maybe it won't?

One additional problem with Copyblogger's logic you didn't mention: They say I should actually post "super-thoughtful" comments on my OWN site instead of on the post that inspired me! I'm trying to imagine the effort involved to read the (currently) 104 very thoughtful and interesting comments on your post if they had instead been published on everyone's own personal site. 

nickcicero
nickcicero

Aside from having an awesome third party commenting system to combat spam, Spin Sucks uses comments in a way that many other bloggers aren't. 


You maximize what that direct dialogue needs to be for the people who matter to you. It doesn't always have to look like a comment stream! The Q+A's you host and the engagement you continue to deliver at the bottom of each article is why commenting platforms exist. You create a space each week where people want to congregate and communicate, that carries into your daily community actions.


It's really a matter of positioning. I agree with @JayBaer totally - moving from blogger to full time publisher can change the way you view that direct interaction. 

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Kudos to Copyblogger for everyone doing exactly what they wanted people to do - talk about their decision. Imagine how flat the "news" would have been if no-one had batted an eyelid... ;)

Latest blog post: Archives

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I also need to add you have zero connection with any readers if you don't allow comments. You have no idea your biggest supporters. Who comes by everyday or once in a while. You lose out on valuable insights especially those occasions when maybe you are wrong.


On the flip side look at the huffington post or the big news sites they get 1000's of comments and people talking for good and for bad. It is a data gold mine. But too much to respond too. And wouldn't you rather that data be owned by you vs fartbook?

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

very interesting. 


This is why @JayDolan really closed comments:


Jay's Mom: Great another post about marketing. That is the industry that sells bad food to little kids. I never thought of you as shifty like them. Did we not raise you right? Why aren't you a Doctor JayJay like your Dad and I have hoped for like that Silverstein kid became. You were such good friends. where did we go wrong? Your brother manages 3 mcdonald's now that is a career!


@JayDolanMAAAAAA! Every day Mom. Every Day! You come by my work and you humiliate me. You forget I get ill at the sight of blood. When will you stop mom. It's like you cut and paste your complaint. Every day Ma! I do really well for myself. In fact I run the Silverstein kid's facebook page for his bunion surgery practice. I am as close to be a doctor as one can be without the degree.


happens to the best of us.


My question is this: Can you be taken seriously in social media if you do not allow comments? NO. End of story.

NancyCawleyJean
NancyCawleyJean

For a long time I was totally pro social media networks and building communities there. But your thinking is spot on -- we have to build our communities on something we own so we can have control over it. If not, we are just at the mercy of what the social networks decide to do. It doesn't matter if we have a community of 100,000  followers, or a million for that matter, on a social network. As we have seen from Facebook's limiting organic reach without advertising dollars going to them, it's pretty plain to see what can happen to the community we've spent so much time building. And stopping comments on something you own to just move it to somewhere you have no control? Thinking it's a reaallllly bad move. Thanks for another great post, Gini! 

TimPio
TimPio

Hi Gini:


Was going to RT this post on Twitter but wanted to comment.  When I first started blogging six or seven years ago, my comments were my lifeline.  The traffic to my blog was terrible, but those comments helped me to understand and realize people read and sometimes appreciated what I was writing.  Through those comments on my blog (and my comments on their blog), some real, honest-to-goodness friendships emerged.  One commenter, who became my friend, ended up designing my blog header - something I'll always be grateful for.  


Yes, I fully understand why Copyblogger and other sites may be closing comments...but I'm glad sites like Spin Sucks and many others will keep the comments flowing.  Thank you for keeping comments on Spin Sucks!

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

I don't know Jay Dolan and I don't want to be disrespectful, but in this one you are right and he and Copyblogger are wrong.  You're spot on with keeping them ON YOUR REAL ESTATE too. 


Sorry, I just feel as vehemently as you do on this - had to chime in.

Rodriguez247
Rodriguez247

Some people (me) won't return to a blog that has no comment sections. I realize that spam is such an issues that I'm one of those commentators that will flag spam continuously, just to help that blog. Thanks for staying the course.

jjudge
jjudge

I don't understand that either. Comment systems like Disqus and Livefyre make this a solvable problem as they provide both the administrative and community management tools to block spam and squash trolls.


I can understand exhaustion though. Comments can be just awful at times.

JayBaer
JayBaer

As mentioned below, the real difference is that this is a community; Copyblogger is a news source. Bloggers that have taken the time and pursued the strategy of true community-building (here, @Danny Brown  @markwschaefer  @thesaleslion  among many others) cannot fathom turning off comments. It's like severing an arm - or an aorta. 


But if you think of your "blog" more as a daily magazine (which is what Copyblogger really is, and what Convince & Convert has become) comments are superfluous to the larger strategy. Which is why we're turning them off as well (I think. I want to run it by our guest bloggers first). We were planning to do it anyway in our coming-soon redesign, but Jay and Brian doing it first gives me a little more confidence to do it. 


The larger lesson here is that as blogging and content evolves, different styles and strategies naturally evolve alongside. To me, this comments question is similar to debating the merits of publishing your thoughts as a Linkedin, Forbes, Entrepreneur blogger, or writing on Medium. Good audience, but you're renting it. 


It's all about being a digital dandelion and understanding (for you and your business) what is your stalk, and what are your seeds.

Pete Herrnreiter
Pete Herrnreiter

I think that comment sections are a key force for audience/community building, however there simply are some content pieces that shouldn't have a comment section. 


That said, I'm not sure I can comment on why they did this, or if it's a good idea for them, but what I can say is that this opens up a larger question of "should all websites that allow comments really be doing so?".  


Case in point:

- The Chicago Tribune posted a very short (~200 word) article about the Bears signing Austen Lane.  Nothing special here, unless you read the comment section which VERY quickly turned heated and filled with insults which detracted from the article.  We've all seen this, whether it's sports, politics, on YouTube or the NY Times.


So again, my question is "should all websites that allow comments really be doing so?".  


Does the Trib or any other news outlet really NEED comments?  Does it detract from journalism? 

What's the value of comments if they're nothing but an opportunity to engage in idiocy?


I'd really advocate for people being a bit more cautious of the value of comments and how it either adds or detracts from the contents value.  If there is no value, then remove the comment section.  



stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

Honestly it depends. If Spin Sucks were to shut down its comments, I would be disappointed. Here the comments are an extension of the post itself. However if Huff Post shut down its comments I would rejoice. 


Not all comments sections are communities and I think that is where the disconnect is. If there is no form of community building, no level of real conversation, but frankly trolls or people trying to promote themselves - why have a comment section at all?  


Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

Ok Gert- survey... how many people who are "regulars" to the comments are NOT Spin Sucks Pros?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Jensenborger6  I'm at Social Media Marketing World and it's the talk of the town. Brian is here and some mutual friends have asked him about it. Based on what I'm hearing (and I haven't talked to him directly), I think it's a few things: 1) He's known for making bold moves and this is likely an experiment; 2) He's doubling down on Google+ and thinks it will help with search; and 3) They really were spending too much time getting rid of the spam.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@bigboxcar  You did leave a comment! YAY! 


You're right...it would be very hard to go to 104 sites and read their take on my blog post. I would do it, but it would take a very long time. It's less about me, though. And more about providing the opportunity for all of you to get to know one another with our pouring the drinks.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Danny Brown  Ha! True...we were just talking about that, in fact. More link building for them.

Rodriguez247
Rodriguez247

@NancyCawleyJean  the best way to combat this control that the networks have over us and our clients is to collect emails and add value to the continuous conversation. 

KyleAkerman
KyleAkerman

@Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes  


Yeah but Copyblogger did not invite me to their house.  I CHOSE to go their because I get utility from their content.  


I don't get a lot of utility from their Comment Community so little changes for me.   Readers who DO get value from their Comment Community have a right to be upset.



Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@JayBaer I disagree on that - business blogs are news sources. Personal blogs are news sources. Hobby blogs are news sources. I'd say Copyblogger is an education source as much as it is a news source.

Nothing against anyone doing what they want on their property (and I certainly could fathom turning off comments, I just choose not to) - just that the reasoning of spam is a moot one, given the options available to control (especially given Brian Clark's statement about G+ being a better option - make G+ the default commenting system then, if thats the argument).  

Latest blog post: Archives

jjudge
jjudge

@ginidietrich @jjudge  For sure. It's discouraging for me personally to visit a site where comments are not allowed.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

@KyleAkerman  I don't think we agree on this. Copyblogger isn't a personal blog. 

They are marketing, selling and promoting products/services and part of how they built their reputation was by providing a comment section for two way communication.

If they hadn't had a comment section would they have reached this moment in time?

I don't think so. The comment section allowed that dialogue and helped them build credibility and that was the springboard.

 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Todd Lyden I actually don't know the numbers. I'd venture to guess it's probably split in half. I don't always put the blog post on my FB page, but when I do, I know who's come from there vs. who subscribes. I do know less than two percent of our subscribers comment.

Trackbacks

  1. […] an interesting hypothesis based on some firm stats. Also, two folks who wrote solid retorts from Gini Dietrich and Nick […]

  2. […] Dietrich explains why she won’t close blog comments, and I was like yeah, ‘comments are work.’ Next I had to buy Mark Schaefer a Coke, as […]

  3. […] is the one that is discussed in Why We Won’t Shut Off Blog Comments Spin Sucks.  Since we run a green blog and believe in recycling good posts we are going to share our initial […]

  4. […] me supporting their move. They have built a large enough presence you’ll find more than a few posts about their new policy but this really isn’t one of […]