There’s a great post on The Next Web that calls out the increasing importance of the comments sections in online pieces. Written by Dan Ma, CEO of comment service/discussion platform Disqus, the piece points out “readers are spending most of their time on the south side of web pages. 66% in fact according to data [complied by content analytics company Chartbeat].”
In his post, Ma prescribes four ways “revenue hungry publishers” can leverage the news, but I’m most intrigued by how writers can use comments sections to enhance online stories. Comments already add dimension to stories. Whether commenters post helpful links that expand the dialogue, correct author mistakes outright, or simply post a crude comment or judgment about the topic, they can be far more riveting than the original matter.
Comments sections are unpredictable & unbridled by nature, which is why they can be such entertaining content, but when they go too far they can have really damaging consequences. In the case of Shreveport, LA meteorologist Rhonda Lee, an unsolicited rogue comment about Lee’s natural hair style ultimately sparked a racially-charged viral firestorm that led to Lee being fired from her job. In another case, a little girl named Adalia Rose Williams suffering from an extraordinarily rare condition called Progeria was victimized by vicious comments.
To the chagrin of many writers in the digital space, offensive comments that keep them on the defensive are now part of the job description. For the creative writer, there has to be a way to incorporate comments into the story. Perhaps the story unfolds between two or more commenters? Revelations posted, links added… I don’t know. Something. How would you use comments to tell a story?