The Power Of The Comment Box

You’ve got pageviews…

And it came to pass a horrible, horrible rag that epitomises everything that is wrong with 50 years of post- V II madness had to close its comment box. The situation is still ongoing as I speak, though I do not think it will last for long. Perhaps, as you read these lines things will have already reverted to normal; or, rather, pervert.

You see, a blog is very different from an Internet magazine. A blog is like a living room, the intimate space the blogger shares with a few selected friends who share his own vision of the world. The “private” blogger isn’t interested in traffic, or popularity. He wants to make some points with those who can understand them and hopefully share them with others in turn. He runs, if you want, an Internet salon.

Not so for a magazine. A magazine is a commercial outfit operating in the publishing industry. It must make profits, and it needs traffic to survive. The more popular it is, the better.

Now: as those of you know who can observe things, in a big site traffic is driven mainly by the comments. If an Internet presence has a vast audience, the article of the day is merely the starter. What really counts are the duels developing from it, and attracting a crowd of people eager to watch the fight and support, perhaps even commenting themselves every now and then, their own heroes. Most viewers are “lurkers”: they don’t write, but follow what other people write. This is whence the pageviews, and the advertising revenues, mainly come.

Every magazine has this faithful clientele, because many commenters tend to frequent and, so to speak, set up tent in one or two of these magazines, and those who like – or hate – them soon notice it and come back regularly. Many a viewer will visit the same site several times in a day, to watch the good men fight against the bad ones and take encouragement from them. This, not the articles in themselves – though they must be somewhat good to attract quality commenters – is what drives the traffic.

You can understand from this what a tragedy it is when a magazine closes the comment box. It will have to rely exclusively on the content professional writers create for them, but it will renounce to all that content that amateur commenters write for them gratis et amore Dei – basically at the only cost of the moderation for the site – and the attending excitement, and manly joy for a manly fight, they create. Take this away, and see your viewers’ statistics go south faster than Obama’s approval rates.

This sounds like a death knell to me, as I can’t imagine this is a viable business model. A successful Internet presence lives of the content generated for it by the readers, which drives up the stats, which drives up the ads revenues, which covers – and hopefully more than covers – the costs. Take that away, and you have taken the blood out of this publishing organism.

What has, then, happened by the scandalous rag in question? I seriously doubt they think they can have a permanent, successful Internet presence without the comment box. More probably, they have seen their combox permanently overrun by commenters hostile to their own editorial line, and therefore representing a threat for their own credibility. They are now, if you ask me, reorganising their moderation criteria in order to get a different set of commenters without discouraging too much the controversy they absolutely need to let the entire exercise work.

Not an easy task. Not if you are a bunch of deluded nutcases considered deranged by all but the likes of Michelle Obama.

We will see how this pans out. I am curious to see how they will tackle this problem.

Bad luck to them.


Posted on January 10, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. The same dynamic works in every opinion site. Since Rorate Coeli closed their comments, I hardly ever go there anymore. There’s nothing wrong with their editorial material, I just liked the to-and-fro of the comments, and without that, it’s less interesting and I simply forget to click on their page. There are very, very few comment-free sites that I read regularly. Ann Barnhardt is one, because she has a rather unique voice.

    Comments can have an opposite effect, too; one Episcopalian site I used to visit all the time finally infuriated me because such a gang of pro-Francis “all is well” cheerleaders took it over, I couldn’t stand to read the comments anymore. And it doesn’t seem possible to just go, read the editorials, then leave WITHOUT reading the comments. As you say, the comments make or break a site.

    • As I see it, the art in the moderation is also in not allowing their ideological bias to make one side prevail over the other, for example by bullying or banning those whose ideas they don;t like.
      This is what happened to me and other at “Homo Smoke”, and which in turn gave rise to the birth of this blog.

  2. Which rag, Mundabor? Your logic seems impeccable.

  3. M., you speak of a death “toll”. True, bells toll, but the better, English word here is “knell”. The phrase is “death knell”. When you write of a death toll, it usually means how many were killed. 😉

  4. Knell: to ring slowly and solemnly, as at a funeral.

  5. Mundabor,I have been following this blog and I do not understand this posting at all. Am I alone in this?

    • I hope 😉

      A horrible site has closed its comment box. I have profited to explain how the matter works and why unless they do something it will bring them nearer to the grave I certainly wish them, professionally speaking.
      I do not want to mention the shop because, just out of curiosity, it would bring them hundreds of pageviews from readers who want to see whether the comments are allowed again.

  6. Wait, a position that argues for a form of democracy, the ‘People of God’ approach, closed the comments so their fellow heretics can not comment? Oh irony.

    ‘I do not want to mention the shop because, just out of curiosity, it would bring them hundreds of pageviews from readers’

    You may need to becareful with your tagging then.

    • No, the tagging is all right.
      Just very few people look at the tagging 😉 and even if they did, the would have to google it etc. The link is irresistible. 😉


  7. I started commenting at the Fishwrap about a month ago, and, lo and behold, comments have now been disabled. I did my best to ruffle feathers simply by skewering arguments with a patient and eminently reasonable tone. I’m sure that bothers them much more than the supposedly vile commentary that they can disable with relative ease. So, I’m taking some credit in this step toward their eventual demise.

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