Monday, January 23, 2006

Dealing with unwanted comments

The CBS blog linked to something I wrote last week. And that link led me to look at CBS' entry in the blogosphere for the first time.
And what I found concerned me.
The post that mentions me is fine. Most of the posts on the blog are fine. Things are well written. There is a degree of the inside-the-newsroom talk that I like to see in mainstream media blogs. But the comments to the post were disconcerting. Take a look.

None of the comments are about the actual post. Instead, the readers apparently used the blog's comment function to complain about CBS' coverage of the president. Now there's nothing all that unusual about off-topic comments. They happen. Just like comment spam happens. And every blogger has to develop a plan to deal with them. (Note: Comments to this blog are moderated. Nothing is posted unless I approve it. I screen out spam, crazy people, most off-topic posts and foul language. Until a few weeks ago, I didn't moderate comments, but a sudden slew of comment spam prompted me to change my mind.)
But a look around the CBS blog indicates that off-topic comments are everywhere! The blog, it appears, has become a place for CBS' many critics to dump their anger.
And although allowing for customer feedback is a function of a blog, I suspect that the folks at CBS must be disappointed to find that fury has become the norm.

Just days after I made note of CBS' comment woes, the Washington Post announced that it was closing the comment function on one of its blogs following an outpouring of inappropriate comments. It's an unfortunate move, but one that I understand. I've gone back and forth on allowing comments on this blog several times.
Nonetheless I can't help but feel that between those two major media players, it is CBS that has taken the wiser course by opting not to silence the angry customers.
More importantly, I worry that B2B publishers will use the Washington Post problem as an excuse to avoid adding comment functions. I'm convinced that would be a huge mistake. I'd rather put up with a hundred screaming fools than silence a single insightful reader.

For more on the Washington Post issue and the questions it raises about feedback functions and conversational media, look at this piece from Poynter. Then read this piece on Susan Mernit's blog and follow the links to additional conversation.

tags: , , , , , conversational media

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