I sometimes buy paper copies of newspapers and magazines, and actually prefer the paper format to the digital version for the purpose of reading, yet there is one feature of the digital version that is really interesting and extremely valuable: readers’ comments. Like any other internet forum, there are many trolls and people with weird or extreme views, as well as those who seem rather intent to direct abuse at the person who wrote the article, rather than the argument in the article, where the argument is delegitimized solely because of the person who wrote it.
Despite the infestation of trolls and other interesting people, some of the comments on the newspapers and magazine sites are really insightful and thought-provoking. The reason, for example, that I visit the Guardian website regularly is to read the comments as much as the articles themselves. Comment is free has been a good read on many occasions. Dare I say it, the comments can be more profound or better written than the articles.
Often, I wonder how much time people spend writing their comments, since they can be very long as well as well-articulated. Perhaps an interesting question is why people are willing to spend time and effort writing comments. It is probably for the same reason as many people write blogs and me maintaining this site: using the comments form as an outlet to express ideas and thoughts. Newspaper and magazines sites are arguably better, since they are likely to attract a larger audience.
It is also a great way for the newspapers and magazines to engage their readers, which translates into increased and more repeat visits, and that in turn may well mean more revenues from the sites.