Wanted: The Comments Section, Dead or Alive
Where did all the comments go? It’s time for communications professionals to talk about the evolution of the “Comments” section on news and other outlets. WIRED elaborated on this recently: The Brief History of the End of the Comments. Comment sections have disappeared from many outlets or shifted to social media platforms, as with CNN.com, while in others, comment activity eclipses stories.
Whether your favorite site still allows comments or not, we’re certainly witnessing a general shift away from visible comments on traditional news sources, in favor of prioritizing curated comments or only showing a scroll of recent ones in a sidebar (see the New York Times for an example). In other arenas with different commenting frameworks, such as Gawker and related media sites, commenting behavior takes on a different form, often becoming part of, as important as, or more entertaining than the original story.
There is logical rationale: the cost of managing and curating comments so they enrich the conversation is too high for most organizations. Many companies already invest in social media management, so consolidating the task of moderating comments, navigating copyright and coping with trolls onto social media offers efficiencies. Social media also encourages content to spread more rapidly: the content that moves fastest in Twitter and Facebook comments are posts with links to source materials (articles, images or video).
The decline of what we now know as comment threads is likely to continue, accompanied by shifts in opinion sharing itself. Many who take part in online conversations favor less-risky commenting tactics, like remarking when retweeting or sharing an article — a move much less open to direct criticism and also more ephemeral. Twitter may lift its 140-character per post limit, enabling users to say a little more about their favorite topics.
It’s wise for communications teams to consider implications before replying on social media or in comment sections. For example, commenting on a critical article may mean it spreads more widely. Speed is another factor; social media responses need to be made faster than some traditional corporate decision making processes can operate.
How do you prefer to share online opinions? Leave us a comment!