Why some publishers are killing their comment sections

les commentaires sur les sites des médias

When Digidays says it…

Our marketing team shared this Digiday’s article today : “Why some publishers are killing their comment sections” by Ricardo Bilton. I saw April 14, thought it was yesterday —but it wasn’t. This article is 2 years old but is still perfectly in today’s context, at least for European publishers.

“The promise of the Internet, we are often told, is the opportunity to have a two-way dialogue. Anyone visiting a publisher’s comment section, however, might wonder whether that’s a promise or a threat.” – @rbilton

Basically, the article showcases why more and more publishers are putting an end to the ability to comment on articles. And no, this is not only to avoid negative comments on their own website !

1. Uncivil comments

It needs moderation: as mentioned in this article from the New York Times, “uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.” In other words: moderation takes time, efforts, and money! And you have two options: either a comment is published after validation, and you loose the instant conversation aspect; either a comment is directly published, and you can re-read the first sentence of this paragraph again.

2. Trolls & Spambots

As mentioned by Popular Science who shut their comments down in 2013 already!

3. Commenting is time consuming for the visitor

Yes, writing takes time and requires an effort! In other words: it may not be the most efficient way to generate interactions with website visitors.

4. Anonymous comments

Comments are often linked to a private profile, restraining people from interacting on your site. More and more comment zones are linked to Facebook profile in an attempt to avoid people “writing stuff under a fake personality”. It brings results indeed, but also restrains people from giving their opinions on “hot” topic like politics, terrorism or even sport.

 

Turning it off for sensitive topics

Publishers who are using comment zone are even turning off comment options on specific articles, as they know it will generate abusive comments. This is showcased by Digiday’s article : Craig Newman, Chicago Sun-Times managing editor : “‘(…)The situation got so bad that the newspaper knew exactly which stories would incite bad comments, and it then preemptively turned comments off on those stories.”

Back in Belgium for a concrete example following the terrorists attacks in our country in March 2016. Let’s take the popular french speaking daily DHnet.be. 2 articles published today :

Article 1 – Topic = terrorism related story : comments turned off.
Article 2 – Topic = football : comments turned on.
Capture d’écran 2016-04-15 à 17.32.50

Yet publishers still want to engage with their audiences and generate interactions on their channels. This can be done in other forms than “comments”. Formats with which users can give their opinion without publicity, formats that requests mouse-usage rather than keyboard-usage: clics. Quizzes, polls with images, small games, personality tests and other formats are more and more used by publishers to generate interactions, conversations and social/organic shares.


Sources & suggested articles on the topic:

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/03/opinion/sunday/this-story-stinks.html?_r=1
http://digiday.com/publishers/comments-sections/
http://digiday.com/publishers/4-publishers-killed-comment-sections-2014/
http://digiday.com/publishers/community-managers-keep-comment-threads-civil/

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