Newspaper Wants You To Pay To Comment

from the well,-that-seems-safe dept

It’s no secret that many online publications struggle with how best to handle their comment sections. Should they allow anonymous comments? Should there be some kind of moderation? Well, it appears that the Sun Chronicle, which appears to be based in Massachusetts, has chosen to go to a pretty extreme position. Reader Shawn alerts us that The Sun Chronicle disabled their comment system a few months back, after it got upset about a few anonymous readers “disrupting” things. Shawn says “When the comments went away I found myself spending less time on the site but didnt care enough to complain.” However, he recently went back and was surprised that, in order to comment you need to hand over your credit card, and the paper will charge you $0.99. Obviously, this is more to prove that you are who you say you are, but it does seem a bit distorted when the newspaper wants to charge people just to comment. Also, once charged, your name and hometown are automatically associated with your comments. I can’t see how that’s all that appealing to most people. The newspaper says this is “a necessary step,” but I’m not sure how many people in the community will agree. Instead, they might just go elsewhere.

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Comments on “Newspaper Wants You To Pay To Comment”

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64 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Which is pretty cool actually. The heuristics are good enough that we’re able to share links w/each other, sometimes even to personal items/sites. Lord knows I’ve referred people to the Doc Stoc link where I have one of my novels several times, and I always worried it would come off as spammish.

On the other hand, it seems likely that the spam blockers may be focused more on offending IP addresses and/or domains as opposed to heuristic methods…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“On the other hand, it seems likely that the spam blockers may be focused more on offending IP addresses and/or domains as opposed to heuristic methods…”

Probably, but unfortunately the U.S. government is now seeking to turn the Internet into the same advertisement filled nonsense that everything outside the Internet has become.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100616/0137529843.shtml

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, that’s not true. IIRC Mike has some Bayesian filter that only catches comments that resemble spam. Those comments are held for moderation, only appearing after they’re approved. All other comments are immediate.

I’ve never had one of my comments delayed by it.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, that’s not true. IIRC Mike has some Bayesian filter that only catches comments that resemble spam. Those comments are held for moderation, only appearing after they’re approved. All other comments are immediate

This is correct. We have a filter that catches most of the spam (we get on the order of 10,000 spam comments per day). It also tends to catch a small number of legit comments in the process (and miss a small number of spam comments that get through). We review what’s caught in the filter pretty regularly and release it when we spot it. And if we see spam that gets through we delete it.

For the most part the automated system works with a little bit of oversight.

average_joe says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“This is correct. We have a filter that catches most of the spam (we get on the order of 10,000 spam comments per day). It also tends to catch a small number of legit comments in the process (and miss a small number of spam comments that get through). We review what’s caught in the filter pretty regularly and release it when we spot it. And if we see spam that gets through we delete it.

For the most part the automated system works with a little bit of oversight.”

10,000 spams a day?!?! Wow!

You don’t sleep much, do you, Mike? 🙂

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I doubt Mike personally reads the each spammy comment. More likely, he uses a wordpress plugin called Akismet which runs about $50 a month.

We used Akismet in the past, but we stopped using it maybe two years ago when it slowed down processing of the site. We use our own filter tool.

But the PR of saying 10k comments a day are sorted through is priceless.

The system we uses filters comments into multiple buckets based on what triggered the filter. Based on that there are certain actions (not going to reveal what) that are *without a doubt spam*. Those are not reviewed, and those represent probably 95 to 99% of the spam on a given day. So, no, a human does not review all 10k spam posts.

So, a human generally has to review maybe 500 posts per day (usually less), and that can be done pretty quickly, honestly, since the obvious spam ones can be spotted quickly.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Hmmm…my comments rarely get a green light, some are posted after a few hours and some never come to light, those that mean I’m a spammer?

If the comment is on topic, it is posted. And, no, it does not mean you are a spammer. It either means that you have done things that look like a spammer or that you are using an IP address regularly used by spammers. If you use a proxy service, that could be the issue. If this is a problem for you, don’t use a proxy service. Otherwise you have to wait for comments to be approved. That is the tradeoff.

The funny part is that most of my posts that get caught on the filter have no links in it.

Not all spam is link based.

John Doe says:

I wouldn't pay

There are places where I comment under my real name (John Doe) and there are places where I comment under a fake name. Many times I comment under a fake name because the internet, like the elephant, never forgets. Who knows, one day I may run for office and someone will google me and find some comment I made on a religious, political or other hot button topic and sink my campaign. I don’t want to even think about “the photos”. 😉

redwall_hp (profile) says:

Is it a one-time fee or per comment? It sucks if it’s the latter, but there are other forums that have went for the one-time fee thing. If you want to post on the IMDB forums you have to verify your account either by making a small credit card transaction or by linking it to an Amazon account with at least one purchase. I think they also let you verify by SMS now, which is less of a deterrent for bozos.

Chad says:

What a cop out. Putting them back with a fee they might as well have left them disabled. This is done so that the comments are still technically disabled (nobody would want to pay for that), while giving them the appearance of being enabled so that people stop complaining.

Enable your comments, remove the fee, and hire some 15 year old summer student to watch them for spam.

ted hidell says:

Newpapers don't get it

The more comments the more readers. If they do start charge will get less viewers and less comments. They also need to stop making apinions and report news as is with out yellow journalism. Would get more reader than you could shake a paper at. The reason most papers are losing is they feel they have to find the nex watergate etc. Reporter aren’t reporting they are commenting on the news this is not real journalism. There are a lot of yellow out there the one who will win it the newpaper that just reports. I hope if they stay the way they are (NewPaper)they do loss. The winner will be the true journalist.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Hah

You routinely refuse to run my comments that say pro-copyright things. How are you any different?

Hmm. First of all, this is not true. We’ve never not allowed a comment that disagrees with us. We have blocked out spam and totally off-topic comments. But even if the spam filter catches a comment that totally disagrees with our position, we let it through. That should be obvious from all of the comments that disagree with us on this site.

Second, even if that were true (again, it’s not), it would be quite different. Moderating comments is totally different from charging people to comment.

AW says:

Re: Hah

Dude,
You realize how many pro-copyright people we have comment? There’s the AntiMike and Darryl right off the top of my head. They are kind of like the part of the family we love but completely disagree with. As a community you’re always invited to the table for the dicussion, yes we may get rowdy sometimes, but I don’t think anyone has EVER been intentionally blocked because they disagree.

Eugene (profile) says:

From the Sun’s site: “The credit card will be charged a one-time fee of 99 cents to activate the account.”

Cheaper than Something Awful’s forum. And honestly, I think SA had the right idea. It works. It would be nearly impossible to maintain a community that vast and that hyperactive for so long unless there was some kind of standard of quality. And what better standard than having members literally put their money where their mouth is?

Of course, the catch is that you need to be on the same philosophical page as your members, and you need to be able to communicate your intentions in a way that they’ll accept this hoop in the interests of quality management. Will that happen here? I don’t know. It’s an easy thing to screw up.

Saragon says:

Worth a shot

While I don’t really think it’s going to be successful, I’m actually a little bit encouraged to see that a newspaper tried to monetize their website in a different way. Everyone can pass all those stories around without paywalls getting in the way, but for “premium” benefits you have to pay. In theory it’s very close to a lot of the ideas TechDirt’s batted around before.

I’m not sure it’s workable — I just don’t know if the demand for commenting on ever-changing news articles can be monetized — but it’s a lot better than other plans.

average_joe says:

Re: Worth a shot

“While I don’t really think it’s going to be successful, I’m actually a little bit encouraged to see that a newspaper tried to monetize their website in a different way. Everyone can pass all those stories around without paywalls getting in the way, but for “premium” benefits you have to pay. In theory it’s very close to a lot of the ideas TechDirt’s batted around before. I’m not sure it’s workable — I just don’t know if the demand for commenting on ever-changing news articles can be monetized — but it’s a lot better than other plans.”

I just tried to help Mike monetize this site by signing up for a membership, but the t-shirts in my size were all sold out.

Can’t us XXL’s get some love too?

Josh says:

My letter to the publisher

I sent the following to the publisher of the Sun Chronicle.

J

——————

All,

I’m writing in response to changes to your online commenting policy, which I became aware of via http://techdirt.com/articles/20100705/15004510071.shtml.

While they are your publications to do with as you wish, I cannot help but strongly disagree with your actions. I appreciate the difficulties preventing a few bad apples from ruining things for others, these measures seem like overkill.

My objections are two-fold: requiring payment and real names. While $0.99 may seem trivial (“it’s an iTunes track!”), there’s a longstanding argument that there are two prices on the Internet: free and expensive (http://redeye.firstround.com/2007/03/the_first_penny.html). Even if the fee was only $0.01 and connected to some magic 1-click eCommerce solution, there’s a mental cost associated with the transaction that will turn some potentially high quality commenters away. This isn’t idle speculation – as those of us who spend our time trying to build communities will tell you, we often fight to lower barriers of entry (e.g., “Do we absolutely need to know the visitor’s age/gender/location to do this function? No? Then don’t ask it”).

Likewise, enforced usage of real names carries with it a severe mental cost. While fees can be amortized to near nothing, reputation is forever. I’m unsure if I’d want my idle commentary forever linked to me by anyone who can search the web.

The core of this issue, and the reason why I wrote, is community and the evolving role that the fourth estate can play in it. Fundamental to that is the idea that while your corporation may own the stories and the publishing platform, no one entity can own the conversation surrounding them. At best, you can hope to cultivate a place where reasoned debates and insights take place. At worst, you can smother it by trying to control it.

Regardless, best of luck with this latest change – I’ll be watching to see how it plays out.

Sincerely,
Josh

guitar lessons (user link) says:

NO Way Jöse!

I cannot believe that those FAT CATS at the big press are now wanting to get me to pay my hard earned money to tell them how much they aren’t so good. I have to admit that as someone who learned a lot online, music espcially that this isn’t right. Education should be free. I learned guitar music theory online and I didn’t pay a dime!

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