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I've been writing and running my own film and TV reviewing blog for about 8 months now, posting frequently (usually at least once a week) and what I would consider good quality content (although obviously I am biased). I share my reviews on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and I get an acceptable number of page views considering the fact that it is difficult to promote my blog any further than I already am.

However, I rarely get any comments on any of my posts. Being as films are so subjective and there are so many people who enjoy talking about films, this seems odd. How can I encourage current readers to comment more (short of asking people to comment in each post), and how can I expand my audience to include people more likely to comment?

I recently moved my blogs commenting system to Disqus as a first step.

Ideally, answers would include methods/styles of writing that help encourage discussion.

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    HitFix.com covers TV and movies (among other things) and their critics get a LOT of audience interaction. Read those blogs (particularly Alan Sepinwall, Drew McWeeny, and Daniel Fienberg) and see what makes those posts engaging. – Lauren Ipsum Jan 8 '15 at 12:46
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    Marketing is on-topic here. Adding the part from your comment about "ways of writing that encourage comments" would also be good. – Monica Cellio Jan 8 '15 at 15:17
  • I think I agree with Monica that this is a marketing question, and therefore on-topic. But I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise. – Neil Fein Jan 8 '15 at 16:31
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    I've retracted my close vote and understand the question to ask: How can I write to encourage more comments? – user5645 Jan 9 '15 at 8:00
  • Close votes will expire on their own in time. @what I think that's pretty much the only way to answer this question. – Neil Fein Jan 12 '15 at 22:13
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The question that will answer your question is:

What do you expect people to comment about?

I mean, what is there to say to a movie review? That you write well? That you accurately summed up the plot? That you missed the beaver shot at 0:34?

Most people read movie reviews to decide if they want to see a movie. They read the review, then they see the movie. They don't comment on the review, because they are not actually interested in the review in itself. And once they have seen the movie (and could discuss the movie with you), they don't read a review but talk to their friends, post on Facebook, or on a more popular review site like Rotten Tomatoes, rather than commenting on a lonely site where their comment won't be read.

I can't come up with anything that I would want to write in a comment on a movie blog. So what kind of reply do you expect? If you don't know, then how are your visitors supposed to have that insight? And if you know, write in a way that makes people want to give that kind of response. Write controversial, if you want a heated debate about morale. Write about topics that interest your target audience (love, sex, food, clothes, crime, loneliness ...) and use the movie review as a frame to fill with those topics.

But in the end, even if you have the greatest content, it all comes down to attracting a critical number of visitors. If there are too few visitors, they will see that no one comments, and they will leave feeling disinclined to comment themselves. It is like an empty dance floor. No one wants to be the first. So, in my opinion, you will have to pay to attract lots of traffic for some time, until the number of visitors and the number of chance comments and backlinks gain a critical mass to drive your blog by itself.

With a generic site like a movie review blog (of which there are thousands, if not millions), you will need paid advertising to overcome market inertia. If you want to attract a following without paid ads, you have to create something unique (and not do movie reviews).


Edit:

I just read part of your review on the last Hobbit film. You got a comment there, and it says, very harshly, something very similar to what I find: that your review didn't engage me. I have a hard time pinning down why this is so, but somehow, when I read it, I don't really care about what you have to say. You go on and on about what you dislike about the movie, then add what you like, but that does not really matter to me, because I am not you and I like or dislike movies for different reasons.

So why do I like some movie reviews that I read? Either because they give me background info that I don't have on the persons or politics behind the movie (e.g. see the "Development" section of the Wikipedia article on the Hobbit trilogy – how is that background reflected in the film?), or because they contrast the movie with general screen writing or movie making methods/theories/technologies/etc. (e.g. does the Hobbit movie have a hero, or a three act structure, or how do advances in computer animation technology set it off against older Hobbit films?), or because they use the movie to look at culture, society and politics in general (e.g. how does Jackson's Hobbiton differ from Tolkien's, and what does that say about our times?).

Your review is just a description of the movie and a judgment of wether it was good or bad. If I wanted to decide about viewing or not viewing the movie, a Wikipedia plot synopsis is better for that, because it is concise and to the point. If I wanted to read something intellectually stimulating (independent of having or not having seen the movie), that is completely missing from your review (at least the one that I read).

I feel that you need to read some good movie reviews, maybe in some national newspapers, and analyse them, to understand what they actually do. They don't summarise the plot, and they don't (for the most part) judge the film, but they use the film to do something else. And that is engaging and makes me go "But...!" and want to comment.

After that general critique, lets look more closely at your first sentence as an example of your writing. It reads:

A lot of people love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it isn't hard to see why - you've got an epic, sweeping story of an adventure over an imaginative, richly detailed work with it's own unique back story that boils down to a story between good and evil.

In your first sentence, you presume too much (e.g. I didn't love the LotR trilogy, although I'm a fan of the books), you raise a false claim (in truth it is quite hard to explain why so many viewers, who did not previously care about fantasy at all, did go see that movie and now buy the books), and you spell out a banal and common phrase (about epic and good and bad) in too many words, making it sound like you repeat something that you have read elsewhere.

I started skipping your text at the first sentence! I may not be your target audience – you need to define who that is and not just write for yourself! –, but maybe this will give you an idea about how your writing is perceived.

Also, do something about spelling and grammar. "they are maybe to long" (too), "3 hours had past" (passed), etc. Maybe get someone to copyedit your writing, it is often too difficult to find your own mistakes.

Generally (as a judment on my part) your writing is okay and a good starting point, but you got a lot to learn.


And please don't let my opinion discourage you. Here is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. Those that will make it as professional movie reviewers ignore the opinion or grow a thicker hide, digest the critique they agree with, and keep working to get better. What you do isn't bad at all, it just isn't brilliant enough to succeed in a highly competitive field such as movie reviews.

Good luck!

  • That's a great point. I was hoping to encourage readers to discuss what they did or didn't like about the film, but due to the nature of when people read reviews it makes sense that most people won't have an opinion yet. – Dr R Dizzle Jan 8 '15 at 12:20
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    Harsh criticsm but I need it. Thank you. My Battle of Five Armies review is actually one of the posts I was never happy with before publishing - my criticsms of the film came from the nature of the trilogy as a whole, rather than the film itself and that wasn't a problem I could fix. – Dr R Dizzle Jan 8 '15 at 13:00
  • Googled Uwe Boll - ouch :) – Dr R Dizzle Jan 8 '15 at 13:01
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    Don't discount Boll. He did make a whole lot of movies, people and companies hired him, the movies got financed, he got paid, etc., so he is no loser. There are many wannabe filmmaker who do not manage to shoot one single film, much less a second. Boll, to me, is not a failure (that would be someone forever wanting to write a book but never writing one), but a beginner stuck at a beginner's level, unable or unwilling to learn, but with the mental power of a real pro. So learn that part from him (perseverance), and just don't get stuck on the other (craft). – user5645 Jan 8 '15 at 13:36
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I'd say always end with some questions & appeals for comments, like "What did you like or dislike about the movie? Am I being too harsh when I criticised $Actor for the way they portrayed their character in $Scene? How should they have done it? What would you like me to review or cover next time?" Then when you do get comments, engage them in a friendly, non-defensive way. You appealed for opinions & they gave them. You may not agree, so engage in friendly debate about it. Encourage them to back up their assertions. Draw them out. If you find your answer to a question or comment is overly long, make that a new post & put a reply comment in saying "That's actually a very interesting idea! Thank you for that: I think it's interesting enough to devote a bit more time to it so I'm going to make a new post about that when I have time to give it the level of thought it deserves." - guaranteed to make them get a little rosy glow.

protected by Community Aug 19 '15 at 19:20

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