The occasional brilliant comment maintains the illusion of the worth of comments in general. This is the trap in which Gawker’s Nick Denton is currently gnawing his leg: every once in a while on the internet, for reasons largely outside of individual author control, you get a crazy good comments thread that is full of information, often outshining the post that provoked it.
But here’s the new thing: I’ve had two separate discussions with friends who run mid-sized internet properties–we’re talking high hundreds of thousands to millions of unique users a month–and they’ve both recently completed heavy analysis on their traffic and come to the somewhat shocking conclusion that the people who actually read comments are a small fraction of one percent of their entire readership.
I turned off comments here back in January. No one seems to have noticed.