Bloomberg Latest To Kill Comments Because Really, Who Gives A Damn About Localized User Communities?

from the I-can't-hear-you dept

We’ve been noting how the trend du jour among news outlets has been to not only kill off your community comments section, but to proudly proclaim you’re doing so because you really value conversation. It’s of course understandable that many writers and editors don’t feel motivated to wade into the often heated comment section to interact with their audience. It’s also understandable if a company doesn’t want to spend the money to pay someone to moderate comments. But if you do decide to reduce your community’s ability to engage, do us all a favor and don’t pretend it’s because you really adore talking to your audience.

The latest war on comments comes courtesy of the folks over at Bloomberg. You may have noticed that the Bloomberg media empire recently went through a bit of a consolidation and redesign under the leadership of former Verge editor-in-chief Josh Topolsky. Buried among the vertigo-inducing fonts and amusing new 404 warning, is, you’ll note, a very obvious lack of user comments. This is, to hear Topolsky tell it, because comments don’t actually reflect your community:

“I’ve looked at the analytics on the commenting community versus overall audience. You?re really talking about less than one percent of the overall audience that?s engaged in commenting, even if it looks like a very active community,? he says. ?In the grand scheme of the audience, it doesn’t represent the readership.”

In other words, because most users can’t be bothered to comment, we’re going to eliminate a major artery for input for those users who do choose to closely participate with the authors and website. No worry, says Topolsky — just because Bloomberg no longer gives a damn what you say to its authors regarding individual pieces, that doesn’t mean the website isn’t listening to its userbase when it comes to quirky color and font schemes:

“Nothing about the new Bloomberg is set in stone; Topolsky says the entire process is iterative, and that includes the comments. The digital team will be monitoring reader behavior across desktop and mobile to see how they?re reacting to and interacting with the new site. For example, on launch day, they experimented with header height so see what readers like better. On mobile, where they?re working to ?find the right balance between design and imagery and text,? Topolsky plans to experiment with different formats ? more text versus more color versus a grid ? to figure out what draws readers in.”

While at least Topolsky seems open to the idea of comments returning, he still misses the point: watching analytics to judge responses to design changes isn’t the same as actually allowing a conversation with your audience. If you actually do value your readership, you wouldn’t be outsourcing their conversations to the feral and intellectually-stunted Facebook mind pool. As some Techdirt regulars have noticed, local comments encourage local community, and despite all the hand-wringing about trolls out of control, studies have recently shown it only takes treating commenters like real people (and a little moderating) to dramatically raise the discourse bar. This is your audience and your community, not a raging cacophony of encroaching cybernetic hyenas in need of a good napalming.

I still think the lowly comment section is getting a bad rap during this latest site redesign phase (led by folks like ReCode and Vox), and it’s leading to a continued droll homogenization of not only website design, but of participatory news conversation itself.

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Comments on “Bloomberg Latest To Kill Comments Because Really, Who Gives A Damn About Localized User Communities?”

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44 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

I think that eliminating the comment section is a far better choice than the policy that most sites seem to operate under — to delete critical comments, uncomfortable facts, and anything else they’d rather not see. Having one-sided censorship is worse than a complete comment ban, yet many sites prefer to maintain the farce that their comments are open to everyone (provided, of course, they don’t abuse the system).

Anonymous Coward says:

I keep running into sites that don’t have comment sections or have them thoroughly hidden behind a single poorly-placed icon in a cluttered menu of social app icons and after five seconds of searching, I leave the site and find another site that has an article addressing the same topic. The lack of a comment section turns a website into a one-way communication tool akin to radio, television, and the websites of nefarious organizations such as the MPAA and RIAA who fear giving people a voice.

WDS (profile) says:

Comments have value to both the site and it's readers

On sites with an active community, often the contents interest me as much as the original article. On this site while there are the regular trolls, there are also well thought out additions to most articles, and the weekly “Insightful/Funny” post is one I look forward to.

There are other sites like the “Shark Tank” blog on “ComputerWorld” where I might still go there if they didn’t have comments, but I certainly wouldn’t be as regular, and I never comment on that site, but love the input of the regulars, much of it totally off topic.

Anonymous Coward says:

(I’m only commenting because this site seems to want comments from its readers).
For a news site there really doesn’t need to be comments from readers if the article is a news article. But I think a news organization should have a separate, unmoderated forum where people can comment on news articles the news site publishes. (Similar to newsgroups of the usenet). And of course, just like newspapers, there can be letters to the editor where the editors pick which ones to publish. A website is not obligated to publish content other than what they themselves have produced. There is no ‘right’ to comment or any 1st amendment issue in not having comments. There really are other avenues available to comment on what a particular website says.

Archillies says:

Re: Re:

I do not think that it is the right to comment that is being addressed in this article, I agree that comments are not a right though. I rarely comment on news myself but I do a lot of lurking and find that I often get a deeper understanding of the subject from comments section.

Places like Bloomberg and The Virge would never notice my interests or me on their sites. I must note that I generally despise the “colorful” layouts of The Virge so by extension Bloomberg as a waste of my time and bandwidth. Way too much eye-ball garbage to wade though to find interesting material.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I agree with you. A lot of web sites have been severely degraded in the last few years by designers who apparently think that making an artistic “statement” is preferable to communication. The sites I go far are very heavy on text, very light on graphics. Those which are bloated with space-wasting blocky overbearing graphics seem to be to be geared toward the less-than-fully-literate segment of the population and I generally find that the content reflects that.

“Should we add another graphic ele…” is a sentence that begs to be interrupted with a right cross to the jaw.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I blame UX designers. It seems that pretty much the entire field is intended to make the “user experience” as awful as possible.

This is a bit of an unfair shot — a properly done “user experience” is one where you don’t notice the experience at all, so the badly done ones stick out like a sore thumb and appear to represent the entire field (witness Metro on the desktop). However, I do think there is more than a grain of truth in the assertion that the UX folks are not a force for good.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

For a news site there really doesn’t need to be comments from readers if the article is a news article.

I’d argue the exact opposite actually, news articles in particular should have a comments section, as it allows people to discuss what’s being reported on, and note any incorrect claims being made, or simple but significant mistakes.

If they want to be like the ‘news’ agencies on tv, where they ‘report’, and the viewers listen, and that’s the end of it, well, there’s already more than enough of that, and it’s old. With the tools available today, there’s really no reason that the discussion can’t be two-ways, with one side saying something, the other responding, and so on.

Anonymous Coward says:

I enjoy sites with comments more. I’m always curious what other people think about posted news articles and topics. I don’t understand how I’m supposed to log onto Facebook and find people who are talking about a particular news story from a particular website. Is there a Facebook search function for news story comments? Does news websites post a randomly generated unique hashtag on Twitter for each of the stories they run?

It seems so much easier to simply comment on the same page as the news story. Instead of spending time doing searches for comments scattered across the internet.

I’m going to have to call BS on the use of using social media to comment on news stories. It seems like a inefficient waste of time compared to simply commenting on the same webpage as the news story itself. I think using social media to justify removing website comments is a disingenuous evasion being used in order to give a non-answer, answer, to the readers.

More than likely the real answer has to do with right to be forgotten takedowns, advice from lawyers, cost savings, government pressure, or simply thin skinned people who make the mistake of reading internet comments.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is no ‘right’ to comment or any 1st amendment issue in not having comments.

There is a right to comment; what you may have meant was that there’s no right to comment directly on that website. I agree that there’s no First Amendment issue with not having comments on the website. But nobody said there was. The issue is not a First Amendment one. It’s one about whether that’s a smart business decision and whether it’s good for public discussion of important topics.

Parker Mason (profile) says:

Analytics and Comments

Interesting that he says only about 1% of all people comment.
First of all, I think it is incredibly high. I bet there are a lot of sites that would love to get that kind of engagement.

Secondly, how much did he look into the analytics of how many people read the comments? I don’t often comment on sites, but I almost always read the comments, especially on my favourite sites. That’s added value for me.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Of all the websites I go to, the ones I keep returning to are the ones that have comments, simply because it makes the content more engaging. It’s why I spend more time on Techdirt instead of the EFF. Imparting information is one thing, but discussing the news is far more interesting.

Of course, most news sites aren’t designed to encourage commenting. Since Techdirt is basically an opinion blog based on other people’s reportings, it lends itself to discussion a lot more than others.

And despite the trolls, it’s pretty civil (and spam free) so thank you!

Anonymous Coward says:

In the chasing of profits and limiting liability from commenting, these sites have lost the vision that caused commenting to be there in the first place. It’s called relevance and connecting to your membership. Now they see it as at best a money drain to maintain the section and at worst a legal liability.

Maybe I’m the oddball here. I refuse to join sites like Discus to comment. I have no intention to allow myself to be folded and mutilated for the benefit of datamining, just for the privilege of commenting. So if your idea is to pass it off to some 3ᴿᴰ party to control the flow of commenting, I’m not going to show up. Because readers comment, they become connected to your site. Take that away, there is less reason to show up as opposed to another site that carries the same info but does allow comments. Eventually the readership no longer cares about your site. Then when they don’t put eyeballs on the page there goes the advertising dollar and suddenly the big bad internet has become fickle and to blame.

Anonymous Coward says:

If I’m interested in a story, and I do a search I’ll almost always go to sites that have comments enabled; commentators often add relevant and important information; especially in geographically local stories, call out bad or biased reporting, add interesting details & interpertations, and have interesting conversations– very often the comments are more interesting than the origional story, which itself might be an undigested rehash of a story that is all over the net.

commentator deralaand suggests an offsite commenting solution; news forums like reddit, Freerepublic, Fark do that but they don’t provide an opportunity to comment at the original article; perhaps if a major browser enabled a version of the old Third Voice it would provide readers a more organic way to interact with stories and each other than news forums like reddit, and provide a little stick to incentive media to allow commenting on their own site so as to not lose total control of it.

Violynne (profile) says:

There’s a problem with the article:

[quote]On mobile, where they’re working to “find the right balance between design and imagery and text,”[/quote]

I think he meant to say “find the right balance between paid advertising and less content, forcing readers to scroll more than they should have to. Hot damn, do I love controlled apps giving users no ability to customize.”

As for the article, I’ve noticed the trend all over the place. To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m torn.

Because the bottom line is, I absolutely love the idea of comments disallowing “The author is a liberal. Why else would he write this crap!” bullshit plaguing the internet.

On the other hand, well, it shuts everyone up.

Could be worse. They could have enacted a system that allows readers to hide comments they don’t like.
*snickers*

Sorry. Had to say it. >:P

I can count on one hand the number of sites I post comments to.

I feel commenting on most sites is pointless, lost in a shuffle of opinions that aren’t worth reading.

Hey, speaking of comments not worth reading, what in the hell happened with out_of_the_blue? Did he get banned? Heh.

AntiLieGuy (user link) says:

Comments reveal their lies!

They dont allow comments because most everything your government tells you is a lie. One big example is that the chemtrails are hiding Planet X. I am the single reason the media whore alex jones installed a comment section. Another lie is vaccines are good for you when the evil government is spreading their designer diseases in vaccines. Another major censored topic is that America is going to be annihilated in October by Russia, China and the whole SCO and its all been planned for centuries by the ones who made us to be gold digging slaves (aka the gods).

Will killyou says:

Sure!

No comments and I don’t visit the site. Comments are often the only interesting and lucid aspect of any article. The commenters (some of them) are often far more informed then the author and of course have differing opinions. The reason for removing comments is to squash dissenting opinion! The “media” today is a far cry from the way it started and was envisioned by teh framers of our first amendment. Todays media is politically aligned and agenda ridden so comments are really not welcome unless they support the opinion and bias of the authors and publishers.

blahblah says:

comments on online news outlets

With Bloomberg I used to comment to the journalists to give them information they could use or an angle they hadn’t thought of and used to have good response from them. I can’t imagine that journalists are happy to have a source like this turned off, even though I’m sure most of their user commenting was not helpful to them.

Richard Stanley says:

bloomberg were comment nazi’s. they removed a comment i made criticizing an article about trump and andrew jackson. it was full of errors and unverified information and when i pointed it out, without being profane or insulting they decided to remove it along with the many other critical comments. when i commented again to ask why they removed it too. bloomberg while accusing other of being fake news are close to joining the club themselves. i refuse to give them any traffic.

Frank Palladino says:

What cowards

I can’t believe that comments have been disabled on many of the major news outlets. I think it is because they can’t articulate a good response to what they are seeing in some of the comments sections and it is making them look foolish. Honestly we are living in a strange time where objectivity has left the major mainstream outlets. Basic facts and observations totally defeat their main points rendering them impotent. It is a mystery why we even bother to read what they put out when only 50% can stand up to even mild critiques and criticisms.

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