For all the fuss we’ve made over commenting in the past year (and by ‘we’ I mean my newspaper), the funny thing is that since we’ve turned it back on a little over a month ago with strict moderation, we’ve had a grand total of 13 comments.
We said we would only turn them on for certain stories. Our biggest fear this whole time has been whether yours truly will be able to manage the moderating duties along with my other duties. I often pictured myself buried under an avalanche of PENDING COMMENT emails and did everything I could to push for the use of excellent self-moderating systems like IntenseDebate or Disqus. Instead, we use the quaint Town News commenting system and so far have not shut off commenting for any story – because we’re not really getting many. We actually get excited when we see the PENDING COMMENT email. But I think for right now, we’re going to just opt out of allowing commenting on certain stories when or if commenting picks up and just leave them open on everything at the moment.
Of the 13 comments we’ve received, 9 of them are in response to an editorial or letter to the editor – 3 of those from the same person. The other four are reactionary to local stories.
I find myself surprised. Did we turn it off for too long? Are we too strict? Are the readers put off by the rules? Are we just not writing stories that are comment-worthy? (I say ‘no’ to that one, we’ve definitely written stories that we thought would have oodles of comments.) Do people just not realize they can comment again? We do place the commenting on a separate tab within the story. Maybe that’s a roadblock. Have we done a poor job of promoting the fact that commenting is back? Maybe readers are just mad at us for taking it away in the first place.
We’ll continue to futz with the process and make adjustments as needed. Perhaps we’ll work on a small marketing plan to promote commenting. Perhaps the comments will pick back up and I’m just being impatient. I guess months of fear-mongering over them made me expect too much right out of the gate.