Spot.IM Contributor

Jun 14, 20173m read

The Pitfalls of Blocking Comments

As trolls continue to wreak havoc across the internet, it’s no wonder that some publishers have decided to shut down their comments sections. Beyond ill-intentioned comments simply being negative, they often detract from the content and can even alter how users perceive it.  Popular Science’s then-digital director, Suzanne LaBarre, shed light on a University of Wisconsin study which proved that insulting and uncivilized comments polarized readers and changed the way they interpreted stories, writing that “even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story.”

But the truth is that commenting—and moderation—have come a long way and publishers are missing many huge opportunities if they take away a user’s ability to comment. Negative comments certainly pose concern without any moderation, but the benefits of having an on-site discussion combined with automatic moderation technology (a feature offered by Spot.IM) far exceed any of the drawbacks. So, while you may think that shutting down your comments section is protecting your site and brand, abolishing this platform for your audience to connect may actually do more harm than good. Before you abandon it all together, consider the pitfalls of not having a commenting section.

The Risk of Disengaging Your Audience

If you’re looking to stay relevant amidst all of the commotion in today’s social landscape, engagement is key. While there are a number of ways to engage your audience, one of the most organic, easiest, and advantageous ways to do so is through user-generated content (UGC). By blocking comments, you are taking away an essential opportunity for users to directly engage with your content. If your audience doesn’t feel like they are able to interact with your content—or with each other about your content—it may deter them from visiting your site altogether, leaving you lost in a sea of publishers fighting or coveted attention.

There Goes Your Traffic…

Speaking of fighting for attention—It’s tough enough as it is to compete with walled gardens and giants like Facebook and Twitter. By denying your audience an outlet to discuss the content on your own site, you’re actually forcing them to take their discussions elsewhere, making it that much harder to remain top-of-mind. Regardless of how interesting or captivating your content may be, audiences often value speed and convenience above all else, so if they have to navigate away from your site just to engage in a conversation about your content, they may not think the hassle is worth returning.

…And Your Revenue

By driving the traffic away from your site and into walled gardens, you’re hurting business in more ways than one. Not only are you toying with your relevancy and risking the retention of your readership, but according to Matthew Ingram, now senior writer at Fortune, “telling the community to go elsewhere depresses the revenue opportunities.” Plain and simple—If you drive away the audience, you drive away the money.

Readers’ Lack of Voice

The comments section isn’t just a platform for your audience to engage with each other. It’s also a place for you to get to know your readers and their opinions. By shutting down your comments section, you’re missing a market research opportunity. Which pieces of content are garnering the most interest? Which pieces are stirring up controversy? What are some ways you could expand on concepts? These are all questions that can be answered in the comments section. To keep your audience continually satisfied, delivering content they care about is key and the best way to gauge what they care about is by giving readers a voice.

Ready to activate the next-generation of commenting technology on your website? Drop us a line at love@Spot.IM.

Spot.IM Contributor

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