Go to any mainstream news or entertainment website and you will notice that the comments section has either been removed outright, or it’s a wasteland. I first noticed this with the DigitalSpy redesign in early 2015 or even late 2014 – the comment section was removed and now all commenting was on the social media platform plugins. People said they hated it, then they got used to it.
NPR, a platform known for its robust community of thoughtful commenters, recently announced that they’re doing away with their comments section to make way for social media interactions via Facebook and Twitter. Along with many other internet sites the in-built comments section is leaving us in favour of the increasingly recognised social media comments plugin, or is simply showing the feeds of comments coming from the article’s social media post.
NPR‘s reasoning for this move is along the same lines as most other mainstream sites who’ve already gone down this road. Their in-article engagement only shows a small fraction of how many people read their content – in short it is easier to comment with an already logged-in social media than it is with a dedicated login required for each website. Plus it is well know that all comments from Facebook and Twitter are well thought out and are based on the commenter reading the article (not just a title)…
It’s about popularity and attaining the holy grail of going ‘viral’ as more and more ‘news sites’ compete with each other to get their 2 cents out to the masses, or to be the first to break a story. Because more commenters = more readers = more times adverts are seen on the site = more money earned from advertisers. Advertising has held up the world of news and media for decades and whilst the formats may have changed, the same basic fact remains and fundamentally we accept that that’s OK.
The more social interaction occurs, the higher the algorithms place you on search results; it feels dirty because really it’s modern news prostitution. The difference is now it’s not just the creators of the media that are selling themselves, we the readers are doing it too without a second thought as we jab at our little touchscreen devices, tagging people to read an article, commenting on the poor nature of the facts, spewing garbage and self gratifying opinions that you expect others to read and adore and then getting understandably irate when someone dares to think differently from you.
But why not give the people what they want? It’s good business sense, right? I mean most people read their media linked from a social site on a mobile device on which they are already logged in across multiple apps. Where is the harm?
You shouldn’t reward people for choosing not to read an article before throwing out their opinion on it, just so they can give their two cents on a headline that’s either taken out of context or is simple click bait. It’s a trend that is becoming more and more common, even in the once well-respected national institution’s online publications.
Not everyone wants to create a Facebook or Twitter account, because Facebook and Twitter comments are a proven cesspool of negativity, bickering, and intentional ignorance. Not everyone wants to have their name, picture, work history, and friends list displayed to thousands of strangers on a daily basis (me included). You may not want to have your whole Facebook or Twitter collective see your opinions on an article, but there is still a part of you that might want to read something online and even offer comment without the rest of the world knowing that it’s you.
Urgh. Rant over.