The Real Reason Copyblogger Should be Commended for Turning Off Blog Comments

by Marcus Sheridan

Copyblogger comments

It appears Copyblogger has exercised their rights as a business….Oh my!

I’m going to be short and sweet with this post, so here goes…

Copyblogger, one of the biggest content marketing “blogs” in the world, turned off their comments last week. And, as one might expect, a lot of folks in the digital space have made negative statements regarding the situation.

Frankly, it reminds me of the time my friend Chris Brogan unfollowed everyone(131k people) on Twitter. Just as with this situation, people seemed to go after Chris for simply exercising his right to listen to his personal promptings and trust in his own gut.

At the time, I defended Chris, and today, I’d like to do the same for Copyblogger (not that they need my support).

This Isn’t About Blog Comments at All

To me, this conversation has nothing to do with comments being turned on or off on a blog. It really doesn’t. Sure, we could go on all day about the pros and cons of allowing them. Heck, just this morning one of my incredibly talented employees here at The Sales Lion, George, voiced high agitation about Copyblogger’s move.

But in my opinion, George, and anyone else that gives Copyblogger a hard time, is forgetting an important truth:

We can do whatever we want with our digital space.

It’s our space.

It’s our right.

If Copyblogger wants to change their website to pink and purple and start writing about My Little Ponies (my 4 year old would be thrilled), they can do that. It’s their business and I’m not going to tell them how to run it.

Each of us has been given the ability to choose our actions as we feel prompted to do so.

Apparently, Copyblogger feels this is something they should do right now.

Maybe they’ll eventually change their mind. Maybe they won’t. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter.

But I say good for them. In fact, why would it bother any of us? They’ve done nothing but give value to all of their readers in this space for years.

Now granted, they gave this value to us because they knew it would come back to them, and it has. Today, they have an incredibly successful business, and they’ve earned every penny of their worth.

We live in a world where tolerance (for the most part) is embraced, mainly because, inherently, we’re all different.

If this is the case, why don’t we carry that same philosophy to the digital realm?

Our ability to choose is one of the greatest gifts we have as humans.

This past week, Copyblogger exercised theirs, and for that, they should be commended.

Your Turn:

I’ve said my 2 cents worth, now I’d love to hear yours. What say you? Is this an unpardonable act or is it a silly argument in the first place?

Note***Another great article was recently written on this subject by Mark Schaefer. Read it here. **

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

George Thomas March 26, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Marcus,

You make some very valid points in this article. I love the fact that you always keep it real! When I voiced my some what aggressive agitation this morning, my thoughts of course were on the community, not so much the company. Hey I am a passionate guy what can I say.

On a side note I will be waiting for a “MY Little Pony” TSL article! : )

George

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Love your passion Jorge. That’s what makes you great at what you do and also makes me dang proud to have you on the team.

Marcus

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Jamie Alexander March 26, 2014 at 5:14 pm

I think they should have just said they’ve outgrown the need to have comments these days.

The bit saying people should be writing on their own blogs was a big cheesy and I’m sure that was far down their list of reasons for turning them off.

But like you said, it’s their blog and they can do what the hell they want.

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Jerod Morris March 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Jamie,

Regardless of how the explanation about encouraging people to write on their own blogs may have come off in the post, as someone who was actively involved in the discussion and decision I can tell you … it was right near the top of the list. And for the exact reasons described.

We wanted this post from Marcus to be on HIS blog and engage HIS audience. Might he still have commented on Copyblogger AND written this here? Perhaps. Frankly, we’re curious to see if our posts now get more engagement in the form of people turning ideas that would have been comments into content of their own. It’s another way to encourage people to NOT digital sharecrop, as we’ve done in the past.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a series on ponies to write …

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Jamie Alexander March 26, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Fair enough, Jerod.

It was just the impression I got when reading it. Sounded a little like someone saying to their partner, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

But since you said it was high up on your list I’ll quite happily eat my words.

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Jerod Morris March 26, 2014 at 5:49 pm

All good Jamie. :-) I always appreciate candid discussion. Admittedly, it’s a a little strange not getting right on the post itself. Just because we made the decision doesn’t mean it won’t come with an adjustment period for us!

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Don Stanley March 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm

I love it George, I can just see Marcus penning a “MY Little Pony” article ;-) Do you think we can provide enough comment pressure to get him to do it?

I was just talking to a group about the power of comments today. For better or worse, research is showing read comments can influence people’s views of the articles (two of my colleagues at UW-Madison did a study that found comments greatly impacted readers’ perceptions of an article itself. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/opinion/sunday/this-story-stinks.html?_r=0). And the fact of the matter is some people and businesses have a stake in producing negative comments on competitors sites. It’s sad, but it’s true (very similar to companies leaving fake reviews of the competitors). And as you get bigger, often times it take more time to deal with this type of commentary.

I definitely understand the idea of preserving commenting communities. I’ve made so many high quality connections with folks who comment on TSL for example (George Thomas, Ryan Hanley, etc.), but I’m 100% behind Copyblogger for doing what they feel is best for them.

Keep bringing the roar brother!
Rhino

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Rhino, great hearing you take on this and interesting point about the recent article. Good stuff.

I think, frankly, this conversation is just beginning. :)

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Corey Pemberton March 26, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Interesting move on Copyblogger’s part, and I wonder if we’ll start seeing a few other popular blogs follow suit (wouldn’t totally surprise me, seeing as Copyblogger is a trendsetter in that regard).

I’ve certainly gotten a lot of value out of the comments section over there, but I see Copyblogger’s point. There’s no shortage of “nice post” comments that come off as spammy and self-promotional. And I’m sure moderating comments over at there was practically a full-time job!

-Corey

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 2:01 pm

We certainly will see more and more do this Corey. It’s really the natural evolution of things. Jay Baer is turning his off very soon. I know of others.

I’m not here to say it’s good or bad, to me, it’s just where they are.

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Jeremy Abel March 26, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Hey Marcus,

Saw that blog post in my email the other day and was intrigued by the title. By the end of the article I had even more respect for the company- and what they’re all About.

On the company’s About page the first paragraph reads “…Copyblogger has been teaching people how to create killer online content… that builds your business.” Two vital components to that first paragraph:

(1) Creating killer online content requires a spark of inspiration- something influences our thoughts and then cause us to take action. Part of that inspiration for marketers when it comes to blogging can stem from reading other blogs (such as Copyblogger, or TSL) and then forming opinions. Our opinions can be shared on the site that sparked the inspiration, or it can be shared on our own site- which requires us to take a leap of faith and start learning how to speak on our own platform. The more we do so, the better we become at creating content online. Talk about teaching people a valuable lesson!

(2) Commenting on other bloggers’ websites is great for networking and building relationships, but sharing our input is done on what is essentially rented space (our blog comments only live so long as the website owner keeps the site running). Certainly, we can form relationships with website owners that live long after a site has stopped running, but our published thoughts on their site vanish. Our business is built on our reputation, which is often influenced by our published thoughts (gotta love the information economy, right?). So when it comes to creating content that builds your business, it makes sense to showcase that content on your own website or your social media accounts.

Lots of respect for Copyblogger’s decision as it directly supports their mission. Awesome post Marcus- so glad you covered this one, here on your blog :)

Keep changing lives,

Jeremy

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Jeremy, good to see you man. I was actually thinking about you last night here at SMMW as I saw a lot of friends and readers and such and wished you were able to make the trip. Can’t wait to catch up soon.

Cheers bro,

Marcus

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Wade Harman March 26, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Hey Marcus, I really don’t see the big deal. Yes, I go to CopyBlogger a lot to get great ideas on different things, but I don’t go there to comment every time. If they want to turn them off, let them turn them off, I don’t care. If they want to make every comment system available to people, let them…I still don’t care.

I wanted to come by and read your opinion about it, and I think you’re correct in what you’re saying…but it’s their blog, not mine and I’m staying out of it. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading.

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Nice, “big picture” response Wade. Good seeing you man.

Marcus

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Steve Faber March 26, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Their business, their right (or wrong). Maybe they’ll be turning off their comments and making it up in social. Social media has already taken a commenting toll from many blogs, as people choose to interact on FB, Google+, and LinkedIn instead.

We’ll see if Copyblogger’s decision to get people out there, creating, works as intended. They’ve set nary a foot wrong in this whole Internet thing so far, and there’s every reason to think they’ll be right again.

The point is, right or wrong, it’s what ends up working for them, with their style and their business. Yours is different, and although they’ve set trends in the past, the trail they’re blazing is ultimately their own. You need to do likewise.

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Dittos across the board on your thoughts Steve, well said.

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Amanda March 27, 2014 at 6:01 am

Yes I agree they can do what they want on their own space. I’m wondering will they stick with it. I have a growing blog and I know getting comments seems special at the moment. Would my view change if I had to spend a huge amount of time moderating them?

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 1:56 pm

The answer is “Yes”–your views would likely change. That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it’s a guarantee that your opinion on most things will change wildly in the coming years Amanda.

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dilip yadav March 27, 2014 at 6:27 am

though i am new in this blogging , but i think what they did is right.
It’s their personal choice we should respect it.
But this is a great loss for newbies like me who used to learn and get their doubt cleared from them.
Don’t you think this will effect their loyal readers?

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Dilip, I do not. Here is why:

Seth Godin doesn’t do comments. And his blog works.

Other extremely successful site don’t allow them either.

And mark my words, more won’t allow them in the future because it can be brutal to manage.

I think loyalty will be made up for in other ways.

Just my opinion though.

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Josh Cary March 27, 2014 at 9:25 am

We all know how brilliant Team Copyblogger is. We all love, respect and admire what they do.

Don’t you think this could be a smaller piece of a much bigger business agenda? Brian Clark & Co. know what they are doing. Rarely do they operate in a ‘short term bubble.’

I can’t imagine they chose to turn off comments just for their sake and justification of doing so. I have to believe this will help tie in a future business plan!

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I’m not sure of all their motives Josh. This is one of those decisions that we could argue both sides of and win quite easily if we were a good debater. ;-)

Maybe it’s because I’m such a fan of personal property rights, who knows! ;-)

Take care brother,

Marcus

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Peter Johnston March 27, 2014 at 9:28 am

Think about this from the reader’s point of view.
They could go out and buy a magazine. But they’ve chosen a blog. Why?

Because there’s an implicit 2-way connection. It is one they may never use, but it gives them an equality – this is no longer student listening to expert, but equals sharing ideas. Often it becomes a multi-way connection, not just reader to writer, but to other readers too.

The minute it becomes “These are my ideas, like them or lump it” that connection is lost. The reader is turned into subordinate. And left to make their own connections the writer just becomes one source. That connection is much weaker and likely to fall away over time.

Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide) said we would look back at the 20th century as the broadcast era – when technology allowed us to watch and listen, but not participate. His idea was that we’d look back and laugh, when multi-way, immersive conversations were normal, at how restricted we once were.

Journalists have been trained by this era to publish – they see that as the whole task. But it isn’t. It is like laying down a single plank and saying there’s your house.

The internet connects every person to every other. That changes the way we learn. No longer are we restricted to one person’s knowledge. Now experts can come together and add their piece to the jigsaw, making a bigger, better picture for all of us.

I can take your ideas, Marcus, add Sonia’s, Mark’s and some others and feed back something inspired by all of them. If we all get into the habit of doing this the whole seam of knowledge becomes richer.

But it isn’t intuitive. The default is to talk. Especially if you are a journalist.

This is falling back into your comfort zone. Giving up on creating something better. Abdicating your role in creating the bigger picture by saying “my picture is good enough for me, thank you.”

It makes you just media. Part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Peter, thanks for you excellent thoughts, this was great.

Where I disagree with you is two fold: All the social media channels give us more interaction than we have ever dreamed possible, regardless of comment streams on a blog. So interaction and conversation has never been higher.

My swimming pool blog has been read well over 1 million times. I think there might be 100 comments total. This doesn’t mean there was no “participation”– at least in my opinion. It’s just a “different” way of interaction because of the industry, which is the case in so many others.

Just a few of my thoughts. Again, well said sir.

Marcus

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Peter Johnston March 27, 2014 at 2:07 pm

When I was young, I ran a club called Racing for Britain. It was set up to raise funds for promising British racing drivers. But we found an interesting effect. Once people had met their up and coming racing driver they turned from “occasionally a bit interested” into diehard fans. They felt they knew these people and they followed them almost religiously. Even if they didn’t succeed, they turned into lifelong motorsport fans.

You’ve just done that here. By responding and saying well done, you’ve made a much stronger connection with me than you could have by writing a thousand blogs. Subconsciously I feel I know you and I will therefore look forward to your next blog – and the one after that…

That’s the power of comments.

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Ruth Zive March 27, 2014 at 11:48 am

I just noticed this today over at Copyblogger and was glad to see your post. I thought something was wrong with my browser!

Marcus, you know I love you (yours is my favourite blog…period). But I hate to say it, I think this post is a cop out. OBVIOUSLY it’s their right. We live in a free society. Nobody is suggesting that they be stoned, after all.

But I completely understand people’s surprise and confusion. I read Copyblogger’s explanation and they provided some pretty convincing reasons for their decision, but I’m still left wondering whether or not this was a wise decision. It flies in the face of a lot of conventional blogging wisdom that even THEY espoused.

I think you should have written about whether or not (from your point of view) their decision makes sense. That would have interested me more than this “it’s a free world” rant.

In fact, I think I’ll go write a post about that myself….and maybe I’ll leave the comments open so that you can offer your 2 cents.

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Marcus Sheridan March 27, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Ruth, love your honest thoughts here.

But here is my point with your take:

You expect me to see this in a pro/con mentality, and I’m sorry, but I really don’t see it that way. You and I both, with our backgrounds, could argue each side quite effectively if we were asked to in a court of law.

That’s why I don’t feel the urge to go down the comparison tree here.

What irks me way more than a yes/no comments stance is when businesses get hammered for doing what they feel is right.

So honestly,it’s not a cop out, it’s simply where my strongest emotion lies within this debate.

Now go write that post as I look forward to reading it.

Marcus

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Davina K. Brewer March 27, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Hmm.. 3rd post I’ve read and commented on today alone (Gini Ditriech’s, then Mark’s). You’ve got a different twist here Marcus, hat tip. I’m in the camp that doesn’t care so much as I question the ‘official’ reasons why – spam, better discussion elsewhere, someone upthread mentioned rented space, blah blah – and still say ‘sure, whatever.’ I’m neither for nor against their move, it’s a biz decision that’s all about investment vs return, work vs reward. Quoting myself, again “all these back links will be SEO gold.” I don’t commend them .. as you say, their choice, their biz.

In response to the excellent points from Jeremy, Peter et al, what it signifies to me is a shift in the biz model. CB isn’t the only site that has transitioned from what I consider a blog to being a general news/media site (yes, editorial focus still on blogging). It’s always very different when your blog is for/about your business vs. a blog site that IS your business; traffic FTW.

Much like those who change how they do their version of social (and who am I to say different?), much like it’s fine that CB make this move for their biz – it’s also very ok that some of the CB faithful feel however they feel, and to say so. If they’re upset, betrayed, or bored, it’s also their choice. IMHO it was them and their comments and guest posts that helped make CB what it is. Even if I don’t agree with them, I’m still open to their views too. FWIW.

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Kevin Carney March 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm

I’m surprised this is an issue at all. Your point is valid. It’s THEIR website.

Comments provide an SEO benefit while a business is attracting their community. Copyblogger has a sizable and committed community at this time.

They’ve apparently decided the cost of allowing comments now outweighs the benefits, and by cost I mean time, effort, energy.

They may later change their mind. That too will be their decision.

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Johnny Bravo March 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm

You are absolutely right Marcus. They can do whatever they want with their site. These is no reason people should be upset with it. They are welcome to think it’s a bad idea but to be upset….really??

Sonia made some really great points. First of all it is a great idea for their SEO by (probably) dramatically increasing social signals since that will be the main outlet for people to discuss the posts, and by asking readers to share their thoughts on their own websites. Hello backlinks. I know she says its not required in any way but can you imagine anyone not linking to one of their posts when they are discussing it on their own site?

After reading that post I’m considering it myself. Very interested to see how their experiment turns out.

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Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 9:43 am

I think your open attitude about this is on point Johnny. Times are changing, and reserving judgement of online actions is often the best course of action. :)

Thanks again for stopping by,

Marcus

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Tom March 30, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I completely agree, it is their webspace and they have the right to do whatever they want with it. I’m just a bit disappointed because I enjoyed commenting and reading the comments on their site.

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Vinay Koshy March 31, 2014 at 8:01 pm

I have to say I am fascinated by all the discussion created by their decision. I too agree with the fact that they can do whatever they like on their property.

But I have to say that I am impressed with their willingness to experiment and adjust to serve their audience as best as they can. If posts like yours are any indication then they may be actually onto something worthwhile.

Looking forward to how it unfolds.

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Marcus Sheridan April 3, 2014 at 8:52 am

Agreed Vinay, time will tell :)

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Kostas April 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Hi Marcus, In some respects I can agree with turning of the comments, perhaps when a topic can illicit hateful comments or the like. However, there are ways around that as well. Comments aren’t required, but personally I think it’s nice to get feedback, that being said, your blog, your rights, in that respect I totally agree with their decision to turn them off.

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Marcus Sheridan April 3, 2014 at 8:49 am

Yep, with you man. It’s nice to get feedback, and have conversation, in all its forms. Guess we’ll see how it all works out for them and others. :)

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PheromonePro April 6, 2014 at 10:30 am

I see this as 2 things: They know that a certain number of people will generate a lot of talk about the change. And secondly as someone mentioned above, this is an ideal way to get backlinks that they wouldn’t otherwise get.

I think it’s a great idea for them. I’m not too fussed about what other people do, it’s their decision.

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Andrea Bosoni May 9, 2014 at 7:03 am

I think they made a great decision moving comments from blog to social media. When I will open my blog I will do the same, except that I will use FB instead of G+ for commenting. This way engagement on social media will increase dramatically (in fact Copyblogger increased their G+ goeth rate by more than 150%).

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Darragh McCurragh June 26, 2014 at 10:09 am

Of course they are exercising their rights. I think everyone has a reason why he/she allows comments. Some do it for personal gain in the monetary sense, as it may give them traffic they’d otherwise not have. Some do it for personal gain as it plays to their vanity being visited and commend/ted. Others may turn if off for personal gain as the extra effort is felt not to be worth the gain from the two aforementioned incentives. Hosting a comment function is a business decision like any other. We might not concur with IBM choosing the color blue for their brand, but they will have a reason for it. In reasoning, we humans may err. Others may actually be wiser. But then copyblogger will soon learn and adapt once again. One downside though: they can’t have that discussion on their blog anymore. It can lead to the three monkey syndrome…

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