This article investigates how reader comments are related to editorial policies and journalistic output. It attempts to explore differences and similarities between popular and quality online newspapers in terms of readers' reaction to different subject categories. Our findings, based on a quantitative content analysis of two serious-popular and one semi-serious online newspaper in Turkey, revealed a number of parallels between editorial choices and reader comments. First, the distribution of reader comments on popular newspapers resembled each other in that sports and entertainment constituted a substantial proportion of overall comments. Moreover, subject categories that ranked high on the home pages of online newspapers ranked high in reader comments as well. Thus, the news categories prioritized by online newspapers on their home pages not only constituted the bulk of their journalistic output but also accounted for the majority of reader comments. We argue, in the light of our findings, that the public sphere created by reader comments has a number of structural limitations which seriously undermine its potential to support a more deliberative democracy and more participatory journalism. The dominance of soft-news categories on the home pages of popular newspapers not only narrows the range of information available for the general public but also largely confines reader comments into a restricted selection of subject categories which are heavily imbalanced in favour of sports and entertainment.