During our sometimes-regular, sometimes-not phone calls, my sister Andrea and I often analyse social media, how it works, and what place it has in our lives. One of the things that has come up recently is how blog comments seem to be a thing of the past. It's not that readership has dropped, but while more people read my blog than they used to, less people leave a comment than they used to.
At first I thought it might be just me. I don't post as regularly as I once did, and I don't read as many blogs as I once did. Perhaps I killed the conversation all on my ownsome. But as I've wandered around my favourite blogging haunts, I've noticed what seems to be a trend. I know very little about anything, so this is just my personal observing skilz in action, but even on sites that boast readerships into the thousands and millions, the number of people engaging in conversations directly in response to blog posts via the comments section seems to have significantly and proportionately reduced. As an example, I watched a video on an MTV blog the other day and noted that it had thousands and thousands of views. But the comment box below the video was startlingly empty. This posed an interesting question: if comments are/were ever the way we measured success and/or interaction, what does a lack of comments tell us?
This semester, I've been taking Children's Media as one of my final classes, and one of the topics I've found most intriguing -- possibly because I'd already been thinking about it a bit (don't you love it when two different parts of your personal world come together?) -- is that of transmedia and convergence. If you're not familiar with either term, wikipedia it up, but in the meantime, an oversimplified summary (thanks to my lecturer, Dr Elizabeth Hale) could be that convergence is the delivery of content across multiple media platforms while transmedia is the creation of content across multiple platforms, with various media working together to create one story told in numerous places (the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a perfect example of this). You'll likely be familiar with the concept, even if not with the terminology.
I think that convergence and transmedia could quite possibly hold the answer to why commenting is happening less while reading is happening more. Most bloggers no longer confine their blogging world to just, well, blogging. I'm a major dork and pretty old-fashioned with a lot of my approaches to communication, so my use of the internet is fairly standard, but even dorky old me tends to cross-post links to twitter, tumblr, and sometimes even instagram whenever I publish a new blog post, and many bloggers use pages on facebook to drive traffic to their blogs. Because I am talking about and sharing my blog post in media other than just my blog, readers tend to respond in kind. Someone might send an @reply on twitter, while another might leave a comment on my instagram account. Someone else might reblog a post on tumblr, while another texts me to add their thoughts. Less people are leaving comments, but it doesn't necessarily mean less people are engaging with the words.
The MTV video I mentioned earlier is powerful proof of this. I'd found the video initially by following a link from a tumblr post. The tumblr post itself was a gifset someone had created from the original video, and it had been reblogged tens of thousands of times. If reader involvement were gauged based on the comments at the blog post hosting the video, things look pretty grim. But many thousands of people had engaged with the media, just not in the form of commenting.
So while it might appear that commenting is dying off, engagement and reading is not. Content being delivered across a range of media means the conversation will be continued across a range of media, which is always a healthy thing.
Having said all that, if you're the commenting kind, keep it up. I love me a good comment conversation.
- Amanda Holmes -- if you don't want to buy it new, try op shops. It's a classic!
- Asea -- I love your idea of reading one book per week for fun. Keep me posted on which ones you choose! (and which Hawkeye are you up to?)