A question that many media executives are asking these days is what do we do with comments? Is it even worth spending any time on them? Many publications have already decided to completely drop comments, while others are spending an enormous amount of time trying to keep them in check.
Meanwhile, many media gurus will tell you that you have to have comments no matter what and that you cannot miss out on the conversations and the connections they bring. They think having comments is a sign that they are different from the old and out of date media companies with the digital natives.
Then there is the question of where we should place the comments, if we have them. Should they be placed on our website, or is it better to just outsource them to our social channels? People have a million different opinions on that as well.
But are comments always bad? Is it vital to allow comments? Is there some magic way that we can fix it?
Let's talk about that.
Before I start though, I just want to point out that if you can make comments work, you definitely should use them.
Comments are problematic by nature
One of the key things to understand about comments is that they are defined as open discussions with an open audience.
What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that there is a massive difference between having a closed discussion among a few friends (which is usually very nuanced and balanced), and an open discussion in public (which is not).
While open discussions can sometimes be very useful, they also polarize whatever it is that you are talking about. This happens with any kind of open discussion, not just with comments. Go to a town hall meeting and just listen to what issues people are raising. They are always polarized.
So, the first thing to understand about comments is that they will always take whatever your article is about, and polarize it.