April 10, 2012
Why do news sites spend so much time and effort on comments when they don’t make money and hardly anyone reads them? Those are the questions being asked by Joel Johnson at New York-based Animal:
Comments don’t make any money. This, to me, is the most damning of all: comments are likely a cost-of-doing-business for most content sites, not a revenue generator. This has been somewhat known for years for any high-volume site that is forced to require human content moderation — humans cost money, whether they are hand-moderating content, shepherding conversation, or building automated tools to allow user-moderated content.
But don’t comments help generate traffic at least?
But here’s the new thing: I’ve had two separate discussions with friends who run mid-sized internet properties–we’re talking high hundreds of thousands to millions of unique users a month–and they’ve both recently completed heavy analysis on their traffic and come to the somewhat shocking conclusion that the people who actually read comments are a small fraction of one percent of their entire readership.
I’m still of the mind that comments have their place, especially on a news site where people are expected to have opinions on what’s happening in their community. But we do need to keep working at them and coming up with a system that more people will be comfortable reading and taking part in.
Update: Mathew Ingram has a rebuttal to Joel Johnson at Giga Om.