The Power Of The Comment Box
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.