Granted, this will never happen. We’re still clinging to the idea that comments give people a voice. Plus, the idea of “community” and “engagement” is still too powerful—money depends on traffic, and traffic depends on readers, and a lot of sites confuse “making readers feel involved” with “giving readers and drive-by randos a platform to say basically anything with our tacit approval.”
But failing that, there is a way to save comments and shore up the flagging news industry simultaneously. It is this: Make comments cost money.
Maybe it’s how you view the Internet but… I haven’t noticed a real problem with comments. Nothing different from the old newsgroups which would get flame wars and endless spam. Give people a forum where they can get a lot of attention without showing their face or taking responsibility for what they say… it becomes a free for all.
I think the problem is how comments are moderated. Some people think they have to give everyone a voice and let each person be heard. To delete a comment is awful, denying someone their chance to be heard. But, this is the Internet. Anyone can set up a free site and rant about their issues.
But, setting up a site, maintaining a site and promoting a site is work. It’s so much easier to steal the space someone else has created and worked to build. That way you can pick the best site, or a lot of sites, and drop your comment bombs like a cowbird leaving her eggs in another bird’s nest.
If you run a site, just don’t let the cowbirds comment. Moderation is all about “everything but in moderation”. When you run a site you are not responsible for giving anyone else a voice, or letting them be heard. Choose the comments worth keeping, those which add value to your site and the conversation.
Or, turn off comments and leave people to post comments via social media like Twitter or Facebook, or Tumblr. Somewhere off your site, yet connected.
I think Twitter is the best choice. Not only does it limit the length of comments, making people choose their words, it also lets readers choose who they want to read. You can follow someone who interests you and not follow people who don’t interest you. Readers of your site have the same option. So, in that way Twitter moderates your comments for you, or your readers moderate the comments themselves.
I agree with the post as far as not having to end commenting. I just don’t think asking people to pay for comments is going to work. Comments should not be based on how much money you can spend on them. Those who want to spew and rant will spend money on it. Those who might actually have said something interesting will likely not leave a comment. I wouldn’t. I already don’t like registering for any site in order to leave a comment so I sure won’t be getting out my credit card on top of that.