Reading blog post comments

Together with the internet, the cost of distributing written content has fallen to zero. As a result, there is an explosion of written content on the web.

This content comes from two sources. The first is professional organizations that are designed to produce content, like newspapers and magazines. Although these content producers often come from the print world (for example, The New York Times), they can also get their start directly in the online world (for example, The Information).

Professional organizations that are built to produce content have a fixed cost base (writers, editors, office rent, …) that they need to cover. In order to cover these fixed costs, they need to make a lot of money. And this means that, no matter how they choose to monetize (advertising or paywalls), their writing needs to be read by a lot of people. Depending on the size of their organization, they need to appeal to at least the early majority and often the late majority and even laggards.

Because of the nature of the readership of the content produced by professional organizations, the comments sections of these writings are superficial at best, and derogatory at worst. Although innovators and early adopters also read the same content, they don’t engage in the comments because their voices would be drowned out by the majority.

On the other hand of the content production spectrum are individuals like bloggers. They write with the goal of sharing their knowledge and experiences for the benefit of those around them. They often don’t need to monetize the content because it’s not their primary job, and even if it is they only need an income stream sufficient to cover the expenses of a single individual. Their survival doesn’t depend on the readership of the masses. Appealing to niche communities of innovators and early adopters is enough.

Since bloggers write about topics that are of interest to them and niche communities of users with a deep interest in similar topics, the comments section of these writings are informative at worst, and very insightful at best. The readers are informed and often have personal experiences about what the blogger is writing about, and this lets them build on the blogger’s writing. The comments sections of the blogs of Fred Wilson and Brad Feld in the VC community are great examples of where you can see this type of productive behavior.

If you find a blog post interesting, I strongly encourage you to read its comments. They often contain as much, if not more, insight than the original post.