Philly Inquirer kills comments

The Philadelphia Inquirer is getting rid of most of its comments. Why?

Commenting on Inquirer.com was long ago hijacked by a small group of trolls who traffic in racism, misogyny, and homophobia. This group comprises a tiny fraction of the Inquirer.com audience. But its impact is disproportionate and enduring.

A few years ago, after a content-management system upgrade, GBH News killed its comment sections. If anyone complained, I’m not aware of it. Every news organization should consider emulating the Inquirer — including The Boston Globe.

7 thoughts on “Philly Inquirer kills comments

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: The ads are pretty much worthless these days. What you’re selling is engagement and a relationship of trust. Comments cut against that. Get rid of them.

      1. Bob Gardner

        “GBH News killed its comment sections. If anyone complained, I’m not aware of it. ”
        Well, I tried to complain about Emily Rooney’s commentary last week (about the release of the person convicted of killing Daniel Pearl.). She said that the fact that the killer was released showed the difference between Pakistan and the USA.
        Really? It is just a few weeks since the pardon of the perpetrators of the Blackwater massacre, which was just the latest in a long string of pardons, mistrials, and not guilty verdicts based on technicalities.
        The man who shot a Reuters reported in Baghdad has, to the best of my knowledge, never even been identified, let alone been held accountable. Meanwhile, the people who made the evidence of that killing public have suffered years of imprisonment.
        Maybe things are not so bad as this in Pakistan. But I don’t think that is what Rooney means.
        I don’t miss the comments sections very much, but there has to be some more direct way of engaging with GBH news commentators than what I am doing now, which is pretty awkward, don’t you agree?
        Bob Gardner, Randolph, MA.

    2. Steve Ross

      Dan, it is hard to measure ad revenue these days… it was over $600 per paid print subscriber per year in 2006, fell to $250 for several calendar quarters in 2007-2008 and rose since then right up to covid, but the metrics changed… and of course total ad revenue fell as circulation fell.

      The newspapers we tried to convince on micropayments sometimes said they needed the subscribers to keep ad revenue up, but micropayments from distant readers would not really help their major ad revenue source, local ads.

      If local advertising is high enough in volume to care about, page views driven by comments is, I suspect, more than trivial.

      BUT if they use Disqus, the fee is substantial. And it costs a little out-of-pocket to do what the Globe did — build a comment system itself. That little bit up front is a killer. Why fire two reporters and then spend the savings on software? If the owners grab the savings, they can buy a bigger car or a third Rolex.

  1. Deborah Nam-Krane

    Agreed. As soon as someone says “I’m reading the comments on [insert any news site],” I start muttering “no, no, no, no.” WSJ is particularly awful — almost as triggering as the opinion column.

  2. nahantjim

    I am a daily commenter in the Globe. As my mother might have said, it keep’s me off the streets. My goal is to react as best I can to what is written in the Globe–he subject matter, the ideas–and to do so in a literate way, very often providing links to show where I got the factual information in my comment or to expand understanding of the matter at hand. Yes, there is a sea of trolls out there but also a substantial number of folks who, like me, take public conversation seriously.

    In 2016 there was a conference at the MIT Media lab to which I, as an active Globe commenter, was invited by the Globe to attend and, by the organizers, to sit on a panel. The most memorable thing that happened to me that day was when, upon arrival, I got my coffee and was chatting with other participants at my table who included, as it turned out, another commenter. I told him my “nahantjim” moniker and his eyes widened. He then told me his…“vinyid.” I burst out laughing. We contended daily online—he was an unfailing defender of whatever the Likud policy might be at the moment while I was often critical. Here’s the important thing…when we parted that day we actually EXCHANGED HUGS!

    Having watched you for years on Beat the Press I also greeted you that day, Dan, hoping for a bit of conversation that apparently wasn’t your dance card.

    Some mornings the comment section feels like a Venetian masked ball but there are ways to improve that situation, to encourage good conversation and the exchange of ideas, to move it more toward the Founders’ notion of free speech and away from Steve Bannon’s.

    I am actually preparing an email to Jason Tuohey at the Globe on this topic, urging certain changes, and I will cc you on it.

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