CommentsDavid wrote last month about the arrogance of media outlets dropping their comment sections. Here’s Techdirt with another piece about how outlets continue to drop comment sections because they “just really value conversation,” linking to a Nieman Lab look at seven news sites who had gotten rid of theirs in favor of social media.

I tend to agree with Techdirt here: the thing about offloading your comments to social media is that it frees you (as a publication) from having to worry about pesky things they might say, such as pointing out mistakes in your stories. You can simply just ignore any of that kind of feedback. Sometimes there isn’t even an obvious way to contact the writers of said articles at all.

And speaking as a writer myself, one of the things that drives me crazy about discussions being offloaded to social media is that there’s often not even any way to see what people are saying about you there. It kind of drives me a little nuts sometimes to look down at the social media share icons under my articles and see the numbers next to the Facebook one, because I don’t have any way to find those Facebook shares.

I have no idea what sorts of comments anyone who reshares my articles to Facebook makes when they post them (are they saying “This is really well-said!” or “Geez, what a moron”?), or the replies they get when other people respond. There’s no way for me to find them, either; you just can’t search Facebook that way. And that makes me kind of sad—especially for the really popular articles that get dozens of Facebook shares. I’m happy that people are sharing them, mind you—I just kind of wish I could see what they were saying about me. I gather that Facebook might be providing tools for publishers to locate Facebook conversations about their articles, but I have my doubts that I’d ever get to use those tools.

I’m really happy about our own comment section. Honestly, I wish more people would use it. It’s great to get feedback on what I post. Even when (as often happens) that feedback is someone pointing out where I made a stupid goof. Personally, I’d rather know when I got something wrong so I can go ahead and update the article to fix it. Offloading that kind of discussion to somewhere I couldn’t see them is just plain dumb.

Of course, we probably have it easier than a lot of these other places, because we’re not exactly a high-traffic blog. I wish we were. I wish we did have so many site visitors that we had to contend with an unruly comment section; that would be a great problem to have. Oh well, maybe someday.


  1. @Chris: Yes, the farming out of comments to Facebook, Twitter and others is one way the media can dumb us down. I don’t see this as deliberate. But the effect is the same. TeleRead commenters explore things in greater depth here than they could with a Like and a short comment on Facebook.

    The same media stupidity downplays the concept of online communities. What’s a community if you can’t talk back to the people running it?

    And, yes, as publisher of TeleRead, I agree with you about value of our comments section in calling our mistakes to our attention. People shouldn’t just complain on Twitter if we sin. Tell us about it! As hard as we try to be right, we aren’t always!

    Conversely, if we’re doing a good job, let us know via the comments section so we can do more of the same.

    People can also help with Likes and Tweets and the rest to bring Chris’s posts and our others to the attention of the masses, but we’d much prefer that the real conversation happen right here on our own site, in more depth. David

  2. I refuse to join Facebook or any of the other social networks, so the worst thing about the offloading of comments is that, on some sites, you have no choice but to sign up for one, usually Facebook, if you want to comment. I can’t help but wonder if Facebook offers some kind of incentive. Compulsory signups would certainly pump up its numbers — and its bottom line. After all, most people will think “As long as I had to join, I might as well use it.” Voila! Another potential customer for advertisers.

  3. Comment sections cost a great deal of time/money to moderate least they devolve into cesspools that can lead to bad user experiences, bad PR and even civil liability. Tens of thousands of people are employed in the Philippines moderating American comment pages. Those services aren’t free.

  4. @Mike: Thanks, but here at TeleRead, our experiences with community members have been overwhelmingly positive. We try to set the tone: “The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments.”

    As noted by Chris, our current system offers many pluses. Commenters point out our inevitable errors, which we dearly want to fix; and they also add new insights and new facts.

    I especially liked that detail from you about all the money going to the Philippines for moderation of U.S. sites.

    If/when TeleRead draws thousands of commenters each day, we’ll experiment with software to crowd-source moderation or at least the ranking and display of entries.

    I also think it would be cool to highlight the favored comments that we humans favor.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail