It's a new model being proposed by Jim Nail and the folks at Cymfony, an analytics company that measures and interprets consumer-generated and traditional media.
In a previous post on the Customer Evangelists blog, they discussed the 1% rule. 1% of your readers will contribute to the development of your product. The Wikipedia was held up as a measurable example of this. I'd say that number is about right. If you look closely at the comments on any blog, excepting those posts linked to by the big blogs like Instapundit, you'll see the same names in the comments over and over. When asking for opinions, you will get theirs, but very few others.
While the comments in the blog give you an idea of what your friends are thinking, it's the traffic summary from tools like sitemeter that give you more. If you look at sitemeter, you can see which posts are generating secondary hits. That gives you a complete cross-section of your traffic. If the customers liked your product, they continued to surf around on your blog to see what else was there. If they didn't, they bailed out. I posted about this earlier. Comments are a less complete measure of customer satisfaction.
I would also argue that comments are dominated by a particular subset of Myers-Briggs personality types. My bet is that EJs (Extroverted Judgers) provide the most comments. The reader has a firm opinion and wants to express it to everyone. Confirming that would be an interesting experiment to run. In any case, I think that the online world gives you market analysis tools that far surpass traditional ones. While the comments are still instructive in describing thought processes, the ability to capture actual behaviors is a bigger breakthrough.
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