The Audience Analysis Cookbook [Part 3/4]

Recipe for Analysing Comments

You will need:

  • A handful of relevant blogs
  • A copy of the codebook
  • A free account on SurveyGizmo, SurveyMonkey or equivalent
  • Excel, OpenOffice, Google Docs, or equivalent spreadsheet


  1. Take the same sample of blogs and survey that you used in recipe 1 and recipe 2 – analysing blogs and posts;
  2. For each blog, review the most recent posts and count how many posts it takes to generate the latest 5 comments (not including replies from authors);
  3. For each comment, assess overall tone of the comment;
  4. Where comments are attached to a username, follow the link for each of these and assess the demographic profile of each person who leaves a comment;
  5. Complete your online questionnaire for each of the blogs, also considering the level of conversation between commenters and authors;
  6. Download your data into Excel and compare the findings with those from the other recipes in this series;
  7. As an extra, you can ‘snowball’ sample the sites that are associated with the people leaving comments on your original blogs by repeating the recipes in the cookbook for those sites.

When applied to a sample of nine blogs on women’s economic empowerment, this recipe produced the following findings.

By comparison with overall blog intentions, comments on posts were most often made in people’s personal capacity (18%), with comments in a more ‘official’ role (professionals, academics and business people) each being apparent in 13% of cases. However, if we sum these different ‘official’ roles, then it does appear that double the number of comments are made in a formal rather than individual capacity.

Comment authors were predominantly female, with 40% of comments attributable to a female audience member compared to 20% to a male audience member. They were also predominantly young (36% aged below 30 compared to 11% above), White (24% compared to 13% Asian, the next most frequent group), and from high-income or middle-income countries (only 2% were clearly from low-income countries).

The majority of comments were focused on affiliation (51%) and emotional support (36%). These were blended with commentary (also 36%), but there was very little information seeking (9%). Again, some comments were classified as having multiple tones. Only one linked-from site (an anonymous discussion among male economist ‘bros’) was abusive in tone.

There was very little interaction on most blogs, with only 11% of comments having a response from the author and 31% being part of a conversation among readers (mostly on two sites).


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