Reader comments, widespread on news sites and blogs, are:
- Three-quarters of CBC's online audience read the comments. A third have written them.
- More people respond to news with comments than on Twitter or using social media.
- Polarize the opinions of readers.
- Readers can trust commenters more than experts.
- They bring opposing views together.
- They reveal politics suppressed elsewhere.
Reader comments are not taken seriously. My research suggests they are worth paying attention to. They provide insight into what people think. I have a scholarly treatment of this in my Ph.D. thesis. This site explains some key ideas, and provides a number of analyses of actual discussions and topics.
Begin with the significance of comments. The criticism of them is worth considering, but often falls prey to the myth of community. Commenters judge the stories they respond to, and make them meaningful. A comparison with discussion forums illustrates the characteristics of comments. My research looks at several instances.