Non-Constructive Comment Sections Are Literally Unaffordable

Or: “Why NPR is removing comments from its website.”

Photo credit: Todd Huffman (cropped), CC BY 2.0.

NPR just announced that it was removing comment sections from its website:

NPR Website To Get Rid Of Comments

In July, recorded nearly 33 million unique users, and 491,000 comments. But those comments came from just 19,400 commenters, Montgomery said. That’s 0.06 percent of users who are commenting, a number that has stayed steady through 2016.


The conclusion: NPR’s commenting system — which gets more expensive the more comments that are posted, and in some months has cost NPR twice what was budgeted — is serving a very, very small slice of its overall audience.

This in itself wouldn’t be as big a deal—more people read websites than leave comments, the commentariat has always been a small percentage of the audience—except for the types of comments NPR was receiving.

The number of complaints to NPR about the current comment system has been growing — complaints that comments were censored by the outside moderators, and that commenters were behaving inappropriately and harassing other commenters.

The post cites two of these complaints, in which NPR readers describe the comment section as “thread hijacking and personal insults” and “rude, hateful, racist, judgmental.”

I took a look at a recent NPR story about Aetna’s departure from the ACA exchanges—the same news Ester wrote about yesterday—and yeah, right near the top of the thread you see this:

Later on someone actually comments “So in your face, Mark” as a reply to another commenter. Then, when someone calls the article a “puff piece,” that same commenter replies “You’re a puff piece,” at which point I started laughing.

But the point is: NPR is not going to pay twice its budget for this anymore.

The other point is: I am so so very grateful to get to read your comments every day. Team Billfold forever. ❤

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