While there has been a significant drop in comments compared to 5-10 years ago, I don’t think there has been much of a drop in comments compared to 1-2 years ago. Looking back to 1-2 years ago the majority of random news stories get 1-5 comments. It’s the more controversial, or bigger stories that get significantly more comments, that and reviews and (surprisingly) the Have You Played? articles.
AFAIK, though I have no way of verifying it, they said that the number of readers is higher than ever. So it’s not that no-one is reading the site.
Over the past 5+ years there has been a general decrease in commenting on most sites. I think it’s because a lot of that functionality has moved over to things like twitter or reddit or facebook. A fair number of sites have turned off comments entirely.
I wonder if the shift to mobile browsing also affected that.
My feeling is that it’s a combination of that, plus them having more posts in general, which spreads the comments thinner, plus a lot of those posts being general news that I might read, but I don’t really have anything to add to.
The front page redesign may have also had an effect, as it allows readers to skip the content they aren’t interested in. I’ve never had an interest in the hardware section, so I almost never even glance at that section, so I’m unlikely to comment on it.
Paradoxically, the new front page makes it easier for me to focus down on the sections that interest me, which makes me less likely to comment on the other sections.
I still think the top section isn’t working well, and the way it goes static for about 3 days over the weekend doesn’t make a good impression, and has had the effect of hiding things like The Sunday Papers that used to get a lot of comments.
I’m not sure if it’s due to the new design or something else, but I do notice that a lot of articles will only get comments for a very short time after they’re posted. Maybe they get pushed out of view faster? Several times I’ve come to an article a few hours late, and asked a question, but my comment has remained as the final comment on the article.
It might also be pandemic fatigue, but I also tend to find that I don’t have much to say about a lot of the articles. Not because there’s anything wrong with the articles, but because I don’t seem to have much insight or experience to add.
I do agree that it’s kind of a shame, as a critical mass of comments can provide a lot of useful information. But the most interesting articles do still generate a fair number of comments.
I ignore videos, and I don’t seem to come across half as many deal posts as I used to, so I’m not sure if those are a factor. (I don’t browse on mobile though, and autoplaying videos on mobile would be a dealbreaker for me).
Avatars would be nice, I agree.
PS/ It’s worth noting that Sin’s articles tend to generate far more comments than most others… still think letting her go was a big mistake.