Media Consultant: Comments Are Bad, Please Shut Up
from the that's-not-strategy,-that's-being-a-curmudgeon dept
As newspapers have struggled to get the online world, most of them did the simplest thing of all, which was toss up some comment forms at the end of their articles. However, they never did anything to actually engage with commenters. Instead, they looked at the comment form as being a community, but never gave any incentives for the folks in the comments to do anything intelligent. They didn’t tend to the community or have the authors of the articles respond to comments (in some cases they specifically barred it!). So if you treat your comments as a place where the riffraff is just going to say stupid stuff, don’t be surprised when that’s what happens.
But, it seems that some are getting the wrong message from this. Douglas Bailey, who apparently is a “media consultant” or a “media strategist” has simply determined that all newspaper comments are dumb and should be done away with. Instead, he suggests you write a letter to the editor or an op-ed.
But his reasoning is backwards (and makes me wonder why anyone would hire him as a consultant). First, he gives a few apocryphal stories to make his point — which isn’t exactly compelling since they could be entirely made up. Second, he assumes that because plenty of comments on newspaper sites are dumb the problem is the commenters or the very act of commenting itself. Apparently, it never occurred to him that perhaps the problem is the way the newspapers set up the comments. Those newspapers didn’t do anything to try to build up community or to encourage people to post more insightful comments. The problem isn’t that the commenters are dumb and pointless, but that the newspaper failed to put in place incentives to encourage smarter comments. The newspapers failed to actually engage with their community and talk with them rather than to them. Any newspaper that wants to hire a media strategist these days should probably find one who looks for ways to help a newspaper better engage their community, rather than one who tells them to ignore the community.