Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Memoriam: Frontburner Comments

Today, D Magazine publisher Wick Allison announced that Frontburner, the magazine's blog, would no longer allow comments on posts. I can't say I'm really surprised. If pressed to deliniate a time frame, I'd have to say that in the months leading up to the 2008 election, commenting on Frontburner became somewhat like that scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest, Bubba and the rest of the soldiers are following Lt. Dan, cautiously walking, ready to jump behind bushes and into trenches at a moment's handwave of possible gunfire. More often than not, you'd lob a comment onto that road, and hope that nothing blew up. Lord knows that I've been the butt of many a diatribe in the comments section of Frontburner. And yes, I've admitted before that it was annoying, and brought down the level of conversation - partly because it discouraged the non-trollesque commenters from putting in an appearance, and partly because so many times comments were completely deleted, leaving giant, gaping holes - much like if I decided to black out key words in the last chapter of a Harry Potter book. But I do take issue with Mr. Allison essentially calling the experiment a failure. It was not. It produced hilarity. It produced good, salient points. It produced, many times, at least one little corner of the print product. Commenting made readers feel engaged with your product. Sure, I can drop Wick Allison an e-mail, but having done so, well, let's just say I do know that the chances of a reply are slim to none. Not to mention he is completely devaluing the importance of comments. It drove visitors to the Web site. Now, anyone can simply add Frontburner to his or her RSS feed, and since there are no comments to read, will never have the need to come to www.dmagazine.com. I do know having to delete comments and constantly monitor things is a hassle, and with a smaller staff, something that can be difficult to do. But I also know that Wordpress offers several comment approval options, as do many of the other blog options out there. Gawker requires you to basically audition to comment, which is also an option. But don't discount the power those comments had. They corrected instantly when erroneous information got out. They gave you instant feedback. And, more importantly, they gave you a relationship with your readers. In fact, Frontburner is what made me subscribe to D. I wonder how many others did so, as well.