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.

Filed Under: comments, community
Companies: bloomberg

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2015 @ 8:09pm

    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.

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