Copyblogger comments: The real economics behind the decision to pull the plug

copyblogger comments

The well-known Copyblogger site sent a shockwave through the blogosphere when it announced it would no longer entertain comments on its blog. No more Copyblogger comments? Has the world gone mad?

While some may judge this to be a questionable move, I don’t. Anybody can do anything they want on their blog if it makes good business sense. But here is my question: Why does it make good business sense? They really didn’t say.

The talented Sonia Simone provided three reasons for the move in her post, but avoided this question. Her explanation:

1) The blog-related conversations are also taking place on other forums like LinkedIn and Google+. Why is it necessary to have a conversation on a blog, too?

2) If you have a comment, putting it on their site isn’t the “right place.” It should be on your site (and they are encouraging you to link back to the original article, of course).

3) 96% of the comments they receive are spam.

If you are an experienced blogger these explanations probably strike you as strange. Maybe even forced. They certainly don’t tell the whole story.

Forcing the conversations into other spaces fragments the conversation and makes the reader take an extra step of finding it and commenting in another place. I can’t get my head around any reason why leaving a comment on a blog is “the wrong place” for a comment. Certainly it diminishes the power of the conversation stream if it is in a dozen places.

And spam? Sure, we all get a lot of spam, but spam filters do an excellent job. I would say far less than 1% of true spam ever makes it onto the blog.

Copyblogger founder Brian Clark has an excellent business mind. This is a big decision for him and his company and I guarantee you the economic impact of this move was carefully debated beyond “this spam is really annoying.” So, what is the ECONOMIC REASON for this decision?

I can imagine at least three big ones.

  • First, by encouraging conversations outside the blog they are sending Google juice back to Copyblogger. The SEO value of a comment is negligible compared to a mention on Google+ or a backlink on a blog. In this very example, the fact that Copyblogger has earned a blog post from me and a backlink on {grow} (a site with very high “authority” in Google terms) earns them real economic gain.
  • Increasing traffic through Google search benefits provides increased ad revenues or perhaps affiliate income through increased eyeballs and maybe inbound leads.
  • Maintaining a comment section takes valuable resources. It is not uncommon for me to spend three times more effort addressing comments than writing the original post. Think of the client work or content creation I could focus on if I disallowed comments. Now multiply that times three or four for Copyblogger and you can see the real economic advantage of cutting out comments.

So, even though their explanation was shrouded in veils of altruism, Copyblogger undoubtedly made a level-headed business decision based on a thorough economic evaluation.

Or did they?

SEO will always matter to some extent. But here is what matters even more in the long-term: True emotional connection.

In our increasingly information-dense world, backlinks and Google mentions can only carry you so far. In the end, people buy from the real people they know and trust. Reader loyalty will trump everything in the end.

Creating a blog community is a historically-important opportunity to begin to know real people from all over the world who may eventually buy something from you. By disconnecting blog commentary from the content, Copyblogger is certainly risking community development for the sake of “traffic.”

In the end, a powerful site like Copyblogger will probably succeed by turning their community into a broadcast channel. They are smart folks and I would not bet against them.

But for most of us, I think the value of blogging for business results from a community dialogue that leads to loyal, emotional connection.

All posts

  • Todd Lyden

    Mark, I immediately starting doing the cost analysis the minute I read about it before even reading the reasoning. Think you have nailed this…
    so when are your comments disappearing?

  • great post, and timely. we’re getting ready to kill comments on Convince & Convert, too, and I’m interviewing Brian today for Social Pros.

  • Chuck Kent

    I’d comment, but I want to give you your due on Google+ etc.

  • Interesting, Jay! I hope you’ll post your reasoning as well

  • Kitty Kilian

    I agree. And I think it is an annoying step away from what they preach. Or used to preach. Connect, be a real person etc.

  • Mike

    Copyblogger has become less of a blog and more of a sales platform. I will agree that most blogs are a platform for selling something though I see Copyblogger becoming more and more “salesy.”

  • It’s not a binary, “comments on” or “comments off” decision.

    Too many people get hung up on, and debate the decision itself, and the “right” or “wrong” with that binary decision. There is no right or wrong, no debate about this.

    If people find your blog interesting enough, they will share, comment, excerpt, refine, discuss, etc… they don’t have to have a comments section to do that.

    But, if you have one, you do enable ONE method of discussion.

    Obvious stuff, right?

    The point is blog comments are only one way to enable discussion, but they are not required to do so.

    The best question to ask then, isn’t “Should you have comments on or comments off?”… it’s “Is your content interesting, valuable, and shareable enough to have a deep impact on the lives of the people who consume it?”

  • Kitty,

    No motives are hidden here … which I can say first hand since I was involved in the actual discussions about removing comments.

    While extra backlinks from other bloggers who read a Copyblogger article and comment about it on their own blog are great, as Sonia mentioned in the post, that was not the primary motivation for encouraging bloggers to do so.

    It is a different way to encourage our audience to avoid digital sharecropping.

    If you have a great thought about one of our pieces, create content on YOUR site to house it. Share it with your audience and discuss it. Let us know, and we’ll probably hop in and join the discussion too (because we love the actual conversation part).

    We obviously can’t know exactly how many people who would have left a well-formed, lengthy comment on Copyblogger will instead post it to their blog … but we’re curious to find out.

  • Kitty Kilian

    Thanks Jerod, but why on earth would Copyblogger discourage comments for that reason – people could still comment AND discuss the same piece on their blog or on G+ etc – which is happening anyway, usually.

  • Because of the difference between *could* and *do*.

    And again, it’s just one reason for the decision. But I wanted to dispel the notion (which I’ve seen a few places) that this was some deceitful way to get more backlinks and then obscure the true motives. Any backlinks would be a pleasant byproduct of a decision made for many other reasons.

    Transparency has always been an essential part of the Copyblogger ethos, and that hasn’t changed.

  • Kitty Kilian

    I thought so too – in fact I interviewed Sonia at Sobcon last year and I was as impressed by her (and her sharp mind) in person as I am by her elegant writing – nonetheless, the post really does not ring true.

    What are those many other reasons? Not the spam, I agree with Mark. I can’t believe it is for backlinks either. You are getting tons of those anyway.

  • They are all there in Sonia’s post. As I said, the motives aren’t hidden.

  • So, if “transparency has always been an essential part of the Copyblogger ethos”: what are the true reasons behind this decision?

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  • Kitty Kilian

    Weird. It’s a weird post. It even starts in a weird way.

  • Your comment assumes that the true reasons aren’t right there in the post by Sonia. They are. That’s why I jumped in here to comment.

  • Not the case at all.

    We created MyCopyblogger and Authority to give us additional methods of interacting with our most fervent and dedicated readers and customers (and in the case of Authority, an additional revenue stream). And we remain happy to engage in discussion socially and others’ blogs, as I’m doing now.

    Plus, it’s about time allocation. I was the one tasked with comment moderation — a process I enjoyed. But if me not doing that allows me to, for example, create additional episodes of The Lede around topics that readers have asked for, we are still paying just as much attention to our readers … just in a different way. And for where Copyblogger is as a site and a business, it makes more sense for us right now.

  • I hope the comments section of the {grow} blog never goes away.

  • Maybe I’m the fifth wheel here but I thought blogs were designed for engagement with your loyal readership. You know, creating conversations. Hence, the comment box.

    On a practical note …
    Copyblogger could have hired me to respond to comments on their blog — in the event they’re too big and too busy to handle it. Would have been more than happy to tackle that task for them.

    This point, Mark, is very well taken:
    “Forcing the conversations into other spaces fragments the conversation
    and makes the reader take an extra step of finding it and commenting in
    another place.” I’ve been blogging for eons and in my experience, expecting people to jump through hoops is very unrealistic.

    Just my nickel’s worth.

  • I’m sure there are going to be a lot of articles about why this is or isn’t a good idea. Here’s mine, in its entirety:

    Lessons Learned From Copyblogger On The Value Of Removing Commenting: Step One–Already Be Copyblogger.

    What I think some people will take away from the fact that Copyblogger is doing this and that Jay Baer is apparently doing this is that it’s some kind of best practice, since both companies are the home of some formidable marketers. I thought about this, deeply, for a few minutes. It’s bold. I see how it makes sense for them (Copyblogger has an active paid community, for instance.) I see how it does not make sense for me–yet (or maybe never). But so many marketers emulate what they see on Copyblogger and Convince and Convert that some may be tempted to mimic this as well. It’s kinda like a new indie band thinking they can ditch their record label and “pull a Radiohead.” Step One: Already Be Radiohead.

    I hope this doesn’t become “received wisdom” for bloggers. It’s a business decision–and a fascinating one–for two businesses that have vastly different models, and levels of success with those models, to many other blogs and bloggers.

  • Kitty Kilian

    Do I interpret this well if I say that – really – from now on people will have to start to pay to get in contact with the Copyblogger folks?

  • What Copyblogger’s reasons miss is the value of *reading* comments. Of the posts I read (and we all know we miss the vast majority of posts that might prove valuable), I estimate that on 30% I spend more time and get more value from the thematically-connected comments than from the post itself (Mark, your posts are no doubt excluded from this ;-).
    The flow is: something attracts me to a post and gets me to read it. That power is what attracts others with similar interests. And their thinking is part of the content.
    Of course, I also sympathize with typical bloggers simply fed up with the low ratio of commenters to readers accompanied by the explosion of comment spam (which never gets on the blog, but must be eliminated).

  • Copyblogger isn’t a blog anymore – it’s a trade magazine. And just like Popular Science turning off comments to prevent anti-science trolls and misinformation, Copyblogger probably figures its time to turn off comments to really emphasize they’re no longer a blog.

    No reason for them to have comments – they’ve already got their audience and further (lack of) interaction only serves to prove that they’re too big to manage one more commenter.

  • Interesting move. To me it seems if the conversation moves completely away from the blog, it seems that
    we’ll be missing out on the opportunity to easily hear other points of
    view on a particular blog post. Even if someone we follow on a social
    channel posts something about it, there’s no guarantee we’ll see it.

    I also find blog post comments to be a great resource to find people that I’d like to connect with in social channels.

    Things that make me go hmmmmm

  • Definitely want to hear more about this.

  • Kitty Kilian

    That’s why Simone says, in the blog where she announces to do away with the comments, that for other bloggers it’s not wise to do the same. She knows the move is pretty contrary to what she herself has been writing for years..

  • Exactly! Missing out on multiple perspectives was the very first thing to came to my mind as well. Often comment sections are as valuable if not more-so (IMO) than blog posts because of debate, discussions and additional questions that come up…Ideas from ideas from ideas!

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  • Deidre Huff

    But all that’s being said, if I understand this correctly, is that the location of the discussion is moving outward. You can still have your opinion; still have your discussions. Just share the link, and have them. It takes the discussion to your home turf; your business’ turf. Makes sense to me now, because to a large degree this was being done anyway. It brings those contacts to your page, and your business in front of your audience. It is no less personal. Only one location of discussion is closed; but discussions can still happen…and perhaps even in more effective a format as well.

  • I agree that often-times the comments have as much if not more value than the blog post!

  • The answer, of course, is no. You didn’t have to pay to get in touch with me here, nor do you on Twitter or Google+ or email, etc.

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  • My thoughts exactly, Tom. At least Sonia had the wisdom to say “this move probably isn’t for you.” And, she’s right. What works for them isn’t going to work for 99% of the other blogs out there.

    This reminds me of when a number of A-listers unfollowed everyone on Twitter and then tons of people followed suit.

    I hope people remember to make their own decisions instead of blindly following others.

    All that said, this is truly fascinating and I’ll be curious to see what comes of it!

  • Whatever works for Copyblogger. But to the point made by Tom Webster, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all scenarios.

  • The significance is that that the blog community is ending, a unified comment thread is ending and this signifies a significant new direction for an influential blog.

  • Interesting. 2014: The year the community died? Look forward to hearing more.

  • Glad you have my back Chuck!

  • What does digital sharecropping mean? You’re making comment sections sound like they are bad because it is “rented space?” If there is not an economic incentive behind the move I sincerely don;t understand why a healthy comment section can be characterized as the “wrong space” for an authentic dialogue, as we are having here. If you value comments, why scatter to them to the wind? Intellectually, it makes no sense unless there are economic considerations as I surmise.

    Thanks very much for commenting by the way. It is awesome you are helping us understand the issues.

  • I would say it’s the year community migrated.

  • Once again, I do appreciate the dialogue but you are contradicting yourself.

    Above, you state Sonia’s post was complete and transparent. But in this comment you state that the economics of responding to comments played a part in the decision. That is one of the reasons I stated, but it was not stated at all in Sonia’s post. It makes a lot of sense (and I know first-hand the commitment this requires!), but it would have been helpful and fair to state that plainly as a reason in the original post.

    If you guys truly did not consider the economic benefits of a decision like this before pulling the trigger, please call me first next time. I would be glad to add my two cents the discussion! : )

  • This is not a reader-centric move.

  • I agree Drew. The comment section on {grow} is typically more intreresting than the original post!

  • I think scale probably does have something to do with it and it might make it a really smart decision. It’s kind of like this — Could Elvis be a blogger that answers every question? No. Can I? Yes, most of the time. Somewhere in between the strategy has to change.

  • Beautifully said Tom. There is definitely large audience out there looking for a quick entry into the space by copying others and this is definitely a risk. I don;t even like it when new bloggers moderate comments.

  • I think another great reason to turn off comments = mental and spiritual. I don’t write blog posts to generate comments. I write to change people’s minds, or to at least make them feel a certain way. If I can nudge them just a little toward reconsidering their position on whatever, I feel great. Comments, as Seth Godin has said, can absolutely ruin your day, your week, your blog. If you don’t want to blog anymore because the hate train is always going to be paying a visit, that is a shame. If it were me, I’d turn off comments and keep blogging. Yes, perhaps people like Seth can afford “not to listen,” but I’d rather absorb his wisdom than have him retreat from public view.

  • Quite true Melanie. Moving the conversation means killing the conversation. “Comments” out there somewhere are not the same as a conversation. But, that might be OK.

  • You have to be valuable, for sure.

  • I think the comment section on {grow} is part of the value and what people come to expect from the “brand” of the blog.

    Having said that, I can never say never. As I mentioned below, Elvis could not manage a blog comment section, right? As {grow} continues to grow, as does my business, as does my desire to slow things down at some point, there will probably be a crossroads.

    The comment section brings me more daily joy than any other part of my job so it would have to be a pretty drastic decision indeed but I just want to be honest about the time it takes to maintain this level of activity.

  • I disagree. I don’t think it is that simple. Disconnecting comments on a major site like this also disconnects community, opposition, insight and a critically important feedback mechanism. It is a big deal.

  • Sonia outlines digital sharecropping here:

    Essentially, it’s creating content that someone else owns and benefits from. We feel really honored that so many well thought-out and lengthy comments were posted at Copyblogger. They created great dialogue. (And believe me, some of that is missed. This wasn’t a black/white decision.) They helped Copyblogger grow into what it is today. But we also felt like encouraging people to take the conversation elsewhere would encourage those folks to take those great thoughts to their own websites. Would some people do both (comment and post on their own blog)? Probably. But a lot of people don’t. It takes time and effort to craft a valuable comment. And while there is certainly value to the commenter in leaving it on Copyblogger (again, the value scales here don’t tilt all in one direction, and some is lost in certain areas while gained in others), there is likely more to be gained by creating new, useful, thoughtful content that engages your own audience.

    Again, this was just one factor in the decision. We’ll see how it works out. We’re as curious about that part as everyone else. Other aspects of the decision certainly were business-based, especially in terms of how having comments or not having them would frame decisions about time allocation.

  • I have no problem with that if it works for them. There are no rules really. I like that fact that they are making a bold move.

  • From Sonia’s post:

    ” … the practice has evolved to the point where it takes a decent amount of mental effort to figure out the intent behind comments that are actually cleverly-disguised spam.

    And that’s real time spent, 365 days a year. That’s time we could be writing content, making connections with people who aren’t spammers, going for walks, fueling our creative engines, dreaming up crazy product ideas, swinging kettlebells. Whatever.

    Moderating, clearing out, and managing comment spam is a singularly unproductive activity. And because the conversation doesn’t ever die out, because there are so many other fruitful places to have those conversations, we have an opportunity to find out what happens if we just … quit doing it.

    The whole team is intrigued to try this experiment and see how it goes.”

  • Here is the key question. If you don’t have comments, how do you know you are changing people’s minds? If you don’t have comments how do you know people are even out there? If your goal is to change minds, why wouldn’t you want to give people the easiest possible way to let you know that?

  • It’s a great question. As Copyblogger said, conversations are had on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. One can take a temperature of the mood there. Of course, yes, that does beg the question, “Well, if you didn’t want comments on your blog because of how it could throw you off emotionally, how will comments on common social media sites be any different?” I think the answer to that could be that it would be pretty darn hard for a blogger to ignore comments on his or her own blog, but easier to ignore comments on external sites like Twitter and Facebook. Of course that begs yet another question: “Well, if you don’t review what people are saying about your writing, how do you know if you’re changing minds?” Two answers: 1. Spending time in person with people – networking, masterminds, just coffee – will often lead to discussions of your blog topics. 2. I think it is OK to write, and not always gauge what people think.

  • I think it is strange that Copyblogger would make a decision, at least in part, by implying that leaving a comment on your blog is not in the reader’s long-term best interest because of this sharecropper notion. I can think of lots of benefits a reader can derive from leaving comments.

    If you look at the people commenting today, I have some business relationship with almost every single one. I hired Laura and sent her business, Billy and I have collaborated on tons of things, Joseph recently interviewed me, Rizzo (Chris) recently called me for help on his book. Tom and I do a podcast together. Chuck did an eBook for me. And so on.

    It all started HERE. Is that sharecropping?

    Whether you have comments or not, let’s let the readers decide on their own what is in their own best interests.

  • That was a comment directed at the spom, not answering the comments. I don’t want to get into splitting hairs. I applaud Copyblogger for the bold move. I wish you guys well and I truly thank you for taking the time to comment. Probably would have saved you time to have it all in once place though huh? : )

  • Deidre Huff

    I didn’t mean to imply that it wasn’t a significant decision nor change. i agree that it is. I suppose that it seems to me, this was a direction some blogs were heading to begin with. For instance, Linkedin, or G+ (as two examples); I get the link, but the discussion happens on the person’s page who initially shared the link. So, there is no disconnect there. Same with Linkedin. Now if it’s the author you want to converse directly with, I would hope that the blog is linkable to formats that include a page from the author. That would make that easiest. But perhaps that is not the point.

  • I’m a bit shocked by Copyblogger’s decision. Since I respect them a lot, it will make me think again about blogging and what it’s really for.

    But my first reaction is that it feels arrogant and short-sighted. Bold and brave too, of course. Can’t wait to see what they discover.

  • that’s for sure! 🙂

  • To put another musical spin on this, at the height of the rap sales boom KRS-1 lamented that when he was coming up to even get in the studio, first you had to be the best on your stoop, then the best on your block, then the best in your hood, your borough, and eventually your city. But virtually any rapper, regardless of skill, could get a multi-million dollar contract in the early 2000’s.

    Similarly, up and comers could look at Seth, and Copyblogger, and Jay and anyone else that follows suite and think they can hit it big without putting in the years of effort, grinding it out to build a community and earn their trust. All of this leaves me with one thought, which was my initial gut reaction after reading the Copyblogger post:

    I hope my brand gets so big I don’t need comments anymore either.

  • Pete Herrnreiter

    I’d argue that you can never truly know if you are changing peoples minds with or w/o a comment section. I believe that you have to “keep the faith” that people will read your article, digest the content (which can take place hours or days after reading) and then write their own opinions or discuss their opinion with others. Truthfully, I love the idea of turning off the comment section. Too many people abuse it and too often these are not “discussions”, but rather people vomiting opinions. Will it change the web? Maybe not, but it gives us something to chat about in the comment section!

  • I guess I’m just lucky here. I rarely see people vomit on my blog. If they do, I just give ’em the boot : )

  • A wise and important addition to the discussion sir. Thank you.

  • I will have to think about that. I get a lot out of comments on my posts too.

  • I love Copyblogger. The comment section on their posts had a lot of SEO value in my book because the replies kept me returning to posts I would’ve never revisited otherwise.

    I’m sure Brian Clark and company have their reasons, and I don’t doubt that they’ll prove successful.

    But I generally avoid blogs w/o comment sections. As a reader, it gives me the impression that they don’t want feedback or perhaps have serious reputation problems.

  • Mark;

    I also felt that something was left out of that post from Sonia, but I have a different idea of why they might have made that decision.

    With Facebook throttling back posts from pages to only those who are most highly engaged moving comments from the site to social sites would increase engagement there and perhaps increase the number of people who will see those social posts (without buying ads).

    But I could be wrong…

  • Very interesting perspective Katherine. Had not thought of that angle.

  • I agree Doug. A little mind-bending to think about but interesting!

  • A legitimate view Brad. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Brian Clark

    Violating the unquestioned status quo does that. Remember, this is our decision for us and our business, not about “blogging” in general. And if it turns out we’ve made a mistake, I’ll be the first to tell you about it.

  • Brian Clark

    >>>how do you know you are changing people’s minds? If you don’t have comments how do you know people are even out there?

    Sales. I think people have lost sight of what content marketing is intended to do.

  • Matthew “Kaboomis” Loomis

    Hi Mark, I’m glad you chose to write about this and you bring up some great points….I mentioned the “sharecropping” aspect yesterday on the giant G+ thread where CB made the announcement….like you I wasn’t satisfied with the answer.
    CB has been teaching people to not blog on “rented land” like G+ because you don’t own it, which makes total sense…..but now they’re choosing to conduct their conversation with their audience on rented land…sharecropping their engagement. Strategically I just don’t get it.
    Like you said, they are spreading themselves all over the place and are going to end up either spending more time on comments by engaging with all these backlinks they hope to get, or they are going to end up turning into more of a journalistic type of website that just publishes but doesn’t engage.
    I wonder if Copyblogger will one day take the “blogger” out of their name? That would be sad considering their roots, but hey, IBM started out selling meat slicers, so it’s possible.

  • I can see your point, but comments “on” a blog isn’t the only way for community, opposition, insight and feedback to be generated.

    If Copyblogger, which is a good example, lets the community decide where they want to share and discuss the posts that Copyblogger produces… so long as Copyblogger does a good job of following and participating in that discussion… they should be fine. 🙂

  • Brian Clark

    Dealing with spam takes time, Mark. And that is an economic cost related to having a comment section. I’m afraid you’re the one splitting hairs.

  • Pauline Baird Jones

    I will admit to be taken aback as well. I didn’t comment a lot, but found much that was useful in the comments section. So we’ll see…

  • Props for making the move.

  • Definitely Mark; even I have issues and I have ~10-15 comments each time. I LOVE my community but most of them write me emails, too… so I struggle (and feel guilty) when I can’t get back to ’em. At the same time, I can’t stay up til 3AM to answer every commenter.

  • Been there.

  • Mack Collier

    Fabulous discussion. I noticed a few people suggest that Copyblogger nixing comments isn’t in the best interests of the reader. Not sure I agree. As Brian mentioned below, there’s a real economic cost to managing comments. One way to look at that cost is that the time Brian spends moderating comments means fewer posts he can write. So it’s a tradeoff. Would you rather have the ability to comment (and read comments) along with 3 posts a week from Brian, or would you rather have no comments and 5 posts a week from Brian? Honestly, I don’t read Copyblogger for the comments, I read it for the articles from Brian and his staff. So if nixing comments means I get more great content from the Copyblogger staff, I am ok with the move.

  • Yes, I agree. That is definitely one of the economic benefits I mentioned. Thanks for commenting Mack.

  • Brad

    I’m glad to read other people also see CB is more and more salesy in their posts, and removing comments goes in the line of letting readers in second place too, regardless of their explanations.

  • Kitty Kilian

    It won’t be any comments anywhere. Just on the big blogs.

  • Kitty Kilian

    But they don’t have to answer every question. And they don’t, they jump in every now and then. Talking about economics – Jerod says he is the person who is moderating, so is cutting the cost of one man worth loosing all that comment-info plus the direct access?

  • mediasres

    Yet Mark, if the plan is for the conversation to move to Google Plus threads I’m not sure at all where the saving of labor hours is. Is it really that authors no longer will be interacting on Google Plus discussions that theoretically are going to become more populous (saving those hours)? If so, one is simply opting out of “being social”. If instead one is simply moving those hours from hours spent on-site to off-site, then the labor question becomes moot.

    Also, there is another option that was possible – one that may have been mentioned in other comments, I haven’t read through the entire thread as yet – and that is if indeed this was an issue of hours simply adopt a policy of non-response, some blogs do this, and leave the comments as a donated space, on-site, where people can register their opinions. This would save all the hours and yet would preserve an element of what a blog domain is, the public dimension.

  • mediasres

    I agree. I think there was something in this thinking. My own read is that it was a Big Picture move, a hypothesis that this is the future of blogging and social platforms, and an attempt to get ahead of the curve, to start moving some of one’s social capital, early. Although other internal issues were likely also involved.

  • mediasres

    This is one of the differences between Broadcast Social, and Social Social, especially in the realm of ideas. It is in part a branding decision. The Copybloggers believed, if we read correctly, that the comment culture they had lacked real substance, while readers may have experienced this differently.

  • mediasres

    Chris –

    I do suspect that this has to do with the “spiritual” effect of dealing with comments, maybe more than anything else. There is a kind of burden of response that comes when you allow the public to “write” ON your post, on your site. And even though many of the challenges to a position stated might be “positive” in the attempt to discuss or debate, there is a kind of emotional drain from having to defend, clarify or convert, in print. Even if it is good work done. It has to do with blog comment culture, and a specific sub-culture that grows on a particular domain.

    What is really interesting is how this is a blogger’s extension of the Popular Science move to eliminate comments. The debate comments there were leading people away from Science, so it was argued. Here they are, supposedly, leading people away from blogging itself. Wow. Irony.

  • mediasres

    That to me is one of the biggest issues Mark. The theoretical idea is that this is all moving to a dynamic, rich environment like Google Plus. But Google Plus is one of the most systematically fragmented, silo’d discussion environments there is. Conversations happen in thread closets that are almost impossible to get out of or find – keyword searching is not discussion. Unless you personally (socially) already are active in a network of people there, a network built up through the blog network, it is almost impossible to find the “center” of an idea or topic. The future center of thread-thinking has been mortgaged.

  • mediasres

    This is an incredible statement, and likely true “Copyblogger probably figures its time to turn off comments to really emphasize they’re no longer a blog.”

    What it also means though is that this is the way of blogging itself. There was a long while where blogging pushed hard against the Broadcast method of content distribution, and this was the reason why Google SERPs rewarded blogs which such high rank. You could not fake blogging, it took time, and it involved audience building through comment investment. They reached a threshold where they became a trade magazine, yes! But that with the pressure of content production, and perceived social rewards (on other platforms), the threshold has likely been lowered for many more blogs that are perceiving themselves as small trade magazine publishing houses. The question is, when this shifts, will Google shift in its very high SERP esteem for blogged content? Or, will the ever-pursued social signals do enough to counter this?

  • mediasres

    Hey Ken, what is interesting about comment quality is that it acts as a kind of social proof of the worthiness of the original post and domain. Long term it may like Amazon removing all product reviews from Amazon, and saying that people can talk about Amazon products on Google Plus and Facebook, in a way.

  • mediasres

    How I wish all these wonderful, interesting comments were cast like seeds across 20 Google Plus account threads…#not

  • I can’t count how many times I’ve written the words, “there isn’t a best anything for everyone” and yet people continue to follow the advice of the best time to tweet without testing it for themselves.

    It’s quite likely that this could become “best practice” if others skim the article and make a conclusion to give it a shot without considering and testing how it works for their content/blog/followers, etc. It can happen, it has before, no matter Sonia’s words or intentions. 😉

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  • Great point, Tom. But Copyblogger wasn’t always Copyblogger. And one of the things that got them where they are is their responsiveness to the community they were building.

    I don’t doubt that they can now afford to turn off comments.
    But it feels dangerous and a bit arrogant.
    If it fails, will they be able to turn them on again — or will we all feel that they don’t care about our thoughts anymore?

    There’s no control group for this experiment. It’s all or nothing – so we can only speculate about how much better their business could be if they kept this channel open.

  • I look forward to your reports on this.

    As a marketer, I admire the contrarian impulse and the balls to see it through.

    As one of your readers, I feel just a bit… hurt. And that my previous comments were not valued.

    (And every once in a while the unquestioned status quo turns out to be good sense…)

  • You are bang on that Copyblogger wasn’t always Copyblogger. From a high-level perspective, I’m not sure exactly what constitutes a “community”–I suspect that some who think they have a community actually have a collection of commenters. This blog, I think, has a community–many of us have come to have business and personal relationships with each other. But I suspect Copyblogger has a narrower definition of community (customers), and that may be fine for their business. I’m not one to second-guess business decisions without access to the same inputs.

    Having said all that, it’s notable that there are more than a dozen comments here from Copyblogger employees. I do not know if this validates, or invalidates, their decision. It can be argued either way. But look what has happened in this post: Copyblogger posted an article without commenting, and the comments happened here. Is this good, bad, or indifferent for Copyblogger? Dunno. It’s probably good for Mark. It might be good for you and I.

    Anyway, given the active participation here of Brian and Jerod from Copyblogger, they are clearly not ignoring comments–the opposite is true. But now poor Mark has to moderate them 🙂

  • Mia Sherwood Landau

    These comments were at least as interesting as your article, Mark. And you know that, so you still welcome comments. At least that is my assumption. Until the day comes when you (or any of us) has enough readers in a paid membership site we will benefit from the contributions of others who take the time to leave a thoughtful comment. As I type this, 90 comments have enriched your original post for me. I like that. Thanks for welcoming our comments, Mark!

  • True – if they thought they were saving time and effort, this might backfire!

    I don’t want to second-guess their decision either. My first reaction is more as a reader/follower/fan.

    (I’m sure their business can survive my hurt feelings. But I imagine they’d want to know how people feel about their move).

  • The bigger you get, the more spam you attract. If they had Disqus, they could blacklist IPs and shut them down. But turning off your fans. Sounds like a selfish move to me.

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  • Chuck Kent

    Arrogant, definitely. Maybe not short-sighted… they obviously aim to be just plain old media, not social media.

  • Nice metaphor. And to extend from Mark’s economic points, reviews on Amazon for mission-critical while comments on copyblogger are probably perceived by their team as a rounding error in why people come to their site.

    I have long respected a lot of the content produced by the copyblogger team. But to say the reason for eliminating comments is a true desire for engagement across blogs seems either confused or disingenuous. Even if one could convince oneself that legitimate conversation could happen across blogs with posts referring to other posts, that would only apply to a conversation among bloggers. It seems quite obvious the people who read and comment but do not create their own posts are out of that conversation.

  • Okay… you beat me to it. Was JUST over at Gini Ditriech’s blog, where I commented that the social shares are what will drive the business model. Think my exact words were ‘surely all these back links are SEO gold.’ Then I went into a ‘Comments and a True Community are Work’ rant, and you covered that too. So jinx Mark, I owe you a couple of Cokes.

    I’ve been planning my own “Save the Comments” post for a while, as more media sites pull the comment sections and sadly, that ‘simplicity’ has trickled down to biz/brand community. It’s that emotional connection you speak of – sometimes a consumer really doesn’t want it; they just want the quick and easy deal. That’s not what social – networking or a blog – are really about, so it is an economic decision for businesses. It’s deciding if social and a hosted blog are just about clicks eyes leads sales – or are you aiming higher, willing to invest, willing to push for the fewer but potentially far more worthwhile, more valuable relationships? FWIW.

  • The more I read this, the more I like it. You’ve asked a really good question about the economic drivers behind the decision, and provided a good analysis. I can’t fault Copyblogger for making an economic business decision (search/SEO = money….). But I’m afraid of the long-term impact on overall reader experience that this (is it a trend now?) implies. There was a time when comments showed “activity” and brought a much needed interactive Customer Experience element to what is otherwise a “post it and forget it” medium. Have we moved to the point where interactive is no longer required? I’m not sure we have.

  • I’m seeing a connection here to chat-lurkers… Are you participating in the chat or watching for insights… Good point, Mack!

  • Mack Collier

    Brian isn’t running Copyblogger to ‘be social’, he’s running it to make money.

    He’s also giving us a lot of great content, for free. Personally, I think it’s a bit selfish to happily take Brian’s content for free, then complain about how he’s managing it.

  • Thanks for COMMENTING Brian (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

    Just so you know, the 1 time you personally replied to my comment on CB totally made my day. #justsayin

  • Good point.

  • I think this decision is not just about the value of blog comments, but on the relative value of Google+ among other social networks going forward. While we have more fans on Facebook than Google+ followers, Google+ is by far our top referral source among social networks given its presence in Google search results.

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  • Seems somewhat crazy to me. If you want to get rid of spam and improve commenting, go with Disqus or other comment solution. To me, G+ is really not great as a comment engine. Depending on the interface (cell, tablet or PC) you get a whole different look and feel when viewing and trying to find the original article with search can be difficult at best.

    But what really has me baffled is why they just didn’t come out with a comment solution that would tie in with their popular StudioPress line? With this move, they have just given up and waved the white flag and deferred to Google. This certainly can’t be a plus for anyone looking to become a blogger. When one of the top blogs in the country gives up, why would anyone want to buy one of their blog templates?

  • I’m a bit late to the game in terms of commenting directly on this, but the decision by Copyblogger did cause me to finish off a post about the value of blog comments.

    I won’t rehash everything since it’s not really about the Copyblogger issue. But to me the issue is that you remove the one place that reactors (9%) and creators (1%) hang out. It’s no surprise that so few comment, that’s the way communities work via participation inequality.

    But you’re making it difficult for the important creators and reactors who will carry your brand to new content (whether it’s a reference in another creator’s post) or a comment on another creator’s content. Without that central place where they like to hang-out – you instead chase them away, you introduce friction which is never a good thing.

    I think of it like this, the blog comments are the front stoop where you can have a friendly (hopefully) yet heated discussion. Creators love this type of dialog! Pushing comments elsewhere – to Twitter or G+ – is like having that same conversation on a crowded subway platform. It’s noisy, there are a lot of strangers milling around and at any point I might jump on the next train that comes through the station.

    So not only are you just making it tougher to talk about and make your content better (which is what comments should do) but I believe you’re removing the one place where creators (aka influencers) are most prone to spend what little time and attention they have at their disposal. And that … doesn’t bode well.

  • I think there are solid economic reasons for the move. I don’t think this is an indictment of blogs, comments or commenting systems. It’s an experiment that fits for them, but probably not for all John, Thanks for commenting,

  • In defense of Copyblogger, engagement is difficult to scale and I do believe there is a diminishing return at some point. I actually like that they made the move but think they were not forthcoming with the whole story of why, which is puzzling. This is an SEO play (and there is nothing wrong with that) so I don’t see why that obvious advantage would not be mentioned in the reasoning.

  • Very relevant questions sir.

  • I know a thing or two about SEO and I don’t really see that as a driving motivation.

    The belief might be that more conversation on social platforms creates more downstream links (because social in itself is not a major factor if at all). The problem? I don’t think that’s what will happen in real life.

    How often do you see people share something after they’ve commented on it? It’s a pretty normal thing to do (ego and all that). There’s very little motivation for people to do that if the content isn’t … there, just the conversation.

    Downstream links from social come from the participation of and reference by creators. People like you or me who engage in the comments and then go off and do something because of it.

    Not only that, but by fracturing the comments so much, creators don’t see their fellow creators reactions. They might miss that someone they’re simpatico with had an opinion to which they’d want to respond.

    Introducing friction to the one group (the 1%, the creators) who powers the link graph doesn’t bode well for links. I wish them well because I like them but … ugh.

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  • I once heard an SEO person say the best way to drive backlinks is to write a controversial article and then turn off the commenting system. I think there is something to that.

  • mediasres

    Oh, last I heard being “social” was a marketing and business strategy. I guess I’m behind the times.

  • Kitty Kilian

    I agree. Totally. Thanks for putting it into words.

  • Kitty Kilian


  • That does work Mark. And it’ll work for this particular piece. But it’s not repeatable. It’s not scalable. Can’t go to that well too often.

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  • For a lot of people, the Copyblogger family of products is what blogging is all about. I have a pro license for their Studiopress templates, I use Premise for landing pages, and have used Scribe for years for SEO. When you have spent hundreds of dollars over the years on products you love, you have something invested in the company. To cut off a conversation just seems like the wrong move. Time will tell. I was actually hoping that Brian Clark would bring out the next big thing that would move blogging forward, not backwards. We certainly need something to revitalize the powerful conversations blogs used to provide.

  • Yeah…and you also think guest blogging is a waste of time…clearly you & Copyblogger view things differently.

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  • That site started going downhill months before they made this move. I mean, a lot of their posts now aren’t even written posts but podcasts.

    For months I couldn’t leave a comment because they always went to the spam folder. Mainly I think this was because I challenged them on the fact that their users were no longer getting valuable and relevant content from them.

    I just don’t see things improving for this site, and expect them to reverse this decision within 3 to 6 months.

    I stopped reading the site (when I can read it) months ago and removed them from my bookmark bar. Haven’t thought about them much since.

  • I find it very hard to believe that they don’t have the financial resources to hire a “blog comment person.” Really, I think they’ve stopped caring about their users.

  • Golly, they post about the benefits of free content quite often.

  • Entertainment. And entertainment keeps people on a site a lot longer than information.

  • Seems like a poor use of resources to me. Also, what happens when someone like Matt Cutts comes along and says this isn’t a good idea anymore? We all know how the big sites have to jump to words like that.

    I also don’t understand why you’d effectively off-shore one of the most effective traffic-drivers to your site.

    But maybe traffic isn’t important in SEO anymore.

  • But how do we know if it’s working for them? Are they going to release their new analytics to us in 3 months, or just their word that this was the right move?

    How do we gauge the success or failure of this, and when do we begin that process?

  • You know, I don’t know what “social and blogging” are about. I think they are about whatever works. I have my own beliefs, I know what has worked for me, but I am open to new ideas and certainly won’t judge experiments like this that might very well be an evolution. Who knows?

  • Thank you Mia.

  • “Sales” does not equal changing minds and not all people blog to make money. Some people do blog to actually change minds.

  • If I made a change on my site, I would not feel compelled to tell you or anybody else if it works. Why would you be entitled to a company’s private business data?

    I think this is binary. If they leave comments off,it is working, if they bring it back it didn’t.

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  • Bronwyn Clee

    Alas I’m a late comer to this conversation, however it leaves me no less impressed with:
    a) Copyblogger’s latest strategic move albeit cloak and daggerish
    b) your well disseminated and insightful article Mark and
    c) the brilliant comments in response to this blog!.

    The purpose of my blog is to connect with readers interested in my content, read it and want to interact with me. Its also about raising my online profile and positions me in my community as having genuine, ethical and emotional communications, creating trust and loyalty.

    Lonely little old bloggers like me value the few crumbs left in comments, but even more so, the relationships we develop in our blogging communities

    The end!

  • garysanchez

    It’s odd that copyblogger is moving towards training under the Authority sub-brand yet is wiling to diffuse the authority by fragmenting the discussions it creates.

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  • Tiffany Lambert

    Thank you! You said what I said, only not as bratty. I operate my blog business on relationship building. It’s why I enjoy 30-50% conversion rates compared to the sometimes 3-10% sterile content marketers. To close off my comments and shut down my community is saying I don’t care about my readers. And yes, spam filters do an amazing job. Bet a VA could handle the rest for them.

    Other good reasons not to that I’ve read: People often gain just as much value from a blog’s comments as they do from the blog post itself – and social networks get outdated or you get shut down – so then all comments are LOST.

    It seems condescending to me to say, “No more conversations here – but go out and discuss us online so everyone knows how great we are – oh, and link back please.” Pfffft! No thanks. Not chasing conversations – I’ll just visit blogs like this instead who DO treasure participation.

  • Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts to the discussion Bronwyn.

  • Thanks Tiffany. I agree with you. More often than not, the comments o this blog are better than the post!

  • I’d hate to think of 2014 as the year community died. I’d rather think like @jasonbaer:disqus and say it’s moving elsewhere, evolving perhaps.

  • Highlighting the economic aspects of their decision is a new perspective for me. The takeaway for me is that something like this needs to be weighed up for each business in light of their business model and overall strategy.

    Building a community and continuing a dialogue that leads to emotional connections seem to be very much at the heart of building a blog audience.

    I can’t see Copyblogger not engaging their audience.
    In fact some of Jerrod’s and Brian’s response on this and other blogs seem to support this. I do however look forward to seeing how things unfold for them and others who have chosen to remove blog comments.

  • MouseHelp Rouzell

    Without experiments, science finds nothing new. I’ve been indecisive about this since I first published my first blog. It seems to make perfect sense to allow for a conversation in one forum on any topic. At the same time, I can see the benefit of forcing people to take another approach by linking to your article in something original they’ve written (for SEO value). On the other hand (that makes three hands, I think), engaging with your audience is SO important. So, I, too, will be looking for the outcome of their bold move. Maybe we all learn something new, or something old. Let’s keep this conversation going and see where it leads. Thanks for sharing. BR

  • MouseHelp Rouzell

    Funny, I had the same reaction. When I shared a bit of banter about typos on blog posts with Brian, that feeling of engagement did improve my spirits that day. Whenever I get a response to a comment I’ve posted, I marvel at the idea that somebody cared enough to write a reply. Good things have come to me as a result, in a couple of cases. So, I comment.

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  • Jill Levenhagen

    At first look, you think…maybe that is a good idea. Then you think about all the times you search for something , and a two-month old article comes up. You want or need to comment, and the social media threads are long gone. Everyone knows that the value of a post goes way beyond its publication date. And readers finding the articles later will be put off. Sometimes I even spend time reading through a long list of comments on an old post.
    I think it is dumb.

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  • JD Ebberly

    This entire business about copyblogger shutting down their comments really reeks. We are not being told everything. The lack of transparency at copyblogger is beginning to remind me of politics here in Washington DC. I have had to put up with this noxious atmosphere in DC for decades.

    We ARE being told that there is too much spam to deal with, they they are getting so much spam that they can’t handle it [tremendous laughter, people rolling on the floor snorting red bull straight out their noses from laughing so damn hard geeze ha ha too much spam for such a BIG company to deal with ha ha ha], and that copyblogger has made a _business decision_ to shut down their comments at the expense of their audience. Well copyblogger? What is the _Business Reason_ you are subjecting us, your audience, to this shutting down your comments? Pray tell us WHAT EXACTLY is your business reason for doing this to us. (What are we anyway, your guinea pigs?) Do you even actually HAVE a business reason? [More laughter] Level with us last year already! PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH!!! After all the ebooks, after all the preaching – Let’s see you live up to your own advice!!! I would NEVER EVER shut down comments if I had a blog with that many people reading it! I’d invent a software solution to solve the spam problem and end up one of the wealthiest persons in this world. They have the money. They have the talent base. They have people who completely revolutionized blogging. Their Genesis Framework really helps bloggers focus on blogging and not have to worry about coding issues. So why is it that Copyblogger chooses not to develop a comprehensive software program that greatly reduces the spamming comments on blogs? I am sure it can be developed. Pattern recognition software has become sophisticated and will get even better. This _too much comment spam_ excuse is valid but solvable. It is not as intractable as the fine people at copyblogger would have you believe.

    Nothing matters in life nearly as much as YOUR AUDIENCE. Never take down their comments. That’s sacred trust right there.
    Tell your audience everything, level with em. Be likable, knowable, and TRUSTABLE. Tell your audience exactly what your business plan is at all times. Don’t ever be a cloak and dagger practitioner.
    Practice what you preach, especially if you are a preacher or a highly visibly copywriting entity like Copyblogger lol.
    Hire people to deal with the comment spam until you develop a software solution to deal with it.

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  • I was definitely left scratching my head after reading Copyblogger’s reasons for doing away with comments. Reading your blog post made me want to comment, but there’s no way I would jump over to LinkedIn or G+ to do so.

    While CB has the right to do what they wish, this strikes me as a “holier than thou” move. It sends the message: “We want you to consume all OUR awesome insight and advice, but we don’t care about YOUR input or feedback.” This is similar to those “VIPs” on Twitter who have thousands of followers, yet they’re following ZERO (Mr. Godin, I’m looking in your direction). When people use new tools in old ways, I question whether they should be using them at all. Copybroadcast, anyone?

  • karnika

    i understanding , it is accurate ,thank you

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