4 publishers that killed their comment sections in 2014

This has been a rough year for the comment section. While comment sections have always had a reputation for being home to trolls and vitriol instead of real conversation, publishers are finding it increasingly difficult to justify keeping them around these days now that most readers are having conversations on Twitter and Facebook. And for an growing number of publishers, they just aren’t worth the time and effort needed to police them.

Here are the publishers that took their comment sections behind the barn this year, and how they justified pulling the trigger.

When their comments died: Nov. 7
Why they killed them: Readers are commenting on social media, which is better at policing bad actors.
How they explained it: Reuters puts out a lot of content. The site published 2 million news stories in 2013, which is a lot of comments to police.

“We value conversation about the news, but the idea of comments on a website must give way to new realities of behavior in the marketplace,” Reuters’ digital executive editor, Dan Colarusso, wrote. “The best place for this conversation is where it is open to the largest number of participants possible.”

Reuters, however, isn’t ditching comments entirely. Readers are still able to comment on its opinion and blog content, which Reuters says will make it easier to exchange ideas with columnists.

When their comments died
: Nov. 20
Whey they killed them: Comment sections are increasingly irrelevant for readers today.
How they explained it: Like many of the other publishers that killed their comment sections this year Re/code thinks that the best comments are the ones people are making on the social platforms, not publishers’ sites.

“In effect, we believe that social media is the new arena for commenting, replacing the old onsite approach that dates back many years,” explained editors Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

Another key factor influencing the decision is Re/code’s reporting staff, which is much more likely to engage with readers on Twitter than in the space below the site’s articles.

The Week
When their comments died: Dec. 15
Whey they killed them: Comments sections often get hijacked by trolls; publishers should stick to what they’re good at.
How they explained it: The Week, which now gets 10 million unique visitors a month, shows that the bigger your audience gets, the more nasty commenters you tend to attract. And that’s when they take over.

“It is no longer a core service of news sites to provide forums for these conversations. Instead, we provide the ideas, the fodder, the jumping off point, and readers take it to Facebook or Twitter or Reddit or any number of other places to continue the conversation,” wrote editor-in-chief Ben Frumin.

When their comments died
: Dec. 16
Whey they killed them: Low reader usage; social platforms do it better.
How they explained it: Mic may pride itself on being the voice for the millennial generation, but it says that those voices are best heard on places other than Mic.com.

“The passionate discussions we see on our Facebook page — as well as the conversations our audience is having with our writers on Twitter — are more productive and organized than what tends to happen in our comments section,” the site’s editors wrote.

Chris Altchek, Mic’s CEO, points out something else: Its commenting system wasn’t really being used, at least not by the site’s target demographic. “What we saw was that older people were commenting on the site and younger people were more active on their social platforms,” he said. “They’ve spent many years developing their profiles there. That’s where they’ve grown up having conversations.”

Photo:Baloncici / Shutterstock.com


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