Friday, August 12, 2011

More signs new policy dramatically cuts comments

[Des Moines now gets few -- even on "most commented"]

This week, two Gannett newspapers started requiring readers to use Facebook accounts to post online comments. The switch is meant to blunt the coarse language that too often comes when readers don't use their real names.

How's it going? The 10 stories now drawing the most comments at the papers are hardly getting comments at all -- even though the stories are about such hot-button subjects as Christian voters, global warming, and labor unions.
Now, consider two other papers with comparable readership: The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where the top 10 have drawn a combined 882 comments. And Florida's Pensacola News Journal: 684.

Earlier: first signs of policy impact at the Register.


  1. This is a good trend, even if it means lost. "clicks."

    The garbage racist and Neanderthal comments that flood newspaper websites are a disgrace, represent a small boneheaded collective of bad brains and make for a bad environment for thinking people and advertisers.

    Making Gannett a trustworthy and yes, family-friendly environment is a good thing, even if it costs us a few yahoos (in its former meaning).

    Comments now are a disgrace to the profession. Freedom of speech includes freedom to edit your own website. Gannett should make this a company wide approach.

  2. Couldnt agree more, 8:27.
    I don't know if that's the companies motivation or if its to cover their own behind for libelous/malicious comments on sites, but either way its a blessing.

  3. I doubt that, 10:30 p.m. Plenty of other sites, including non-newspaper sites, are still letting it rip. They can be sued, too. I suspect that GCI is simply experimenting with what is doable and what is not doable in the new online ecosystem, as are others. Paywalls are another example of this experimentation.

    That said, to me, the fascinating -- and scary -- thing about the vile-online-comments phenomenon is this: An intelligent observer knows that the Web did not create this. The Web merely revealed it. It was always there. What was it that The Shadow used to says about the evil that lurks at the hearts of men? But who knew it was so very many men?

    I am a different person than I was more than 10 years ago, when I became a reporter. Ten-plus years of newspaper reporting disabused me of any romantic notions about the human race and the supposed rarity of sociopathy. The part of my transformation that reporting did not accomplish the Web did.

  4. 10:30 and 8:30. Following is a post I wrote on June 20; note the italicized portion, which is relevant to your discussion:

    Real estate agency owner Christakis Shiamili sued the operators of a blog purporting to expose “the under-belly" of New York City's real estate market, after anonymous readers posted comments accusing him of anti-Semitism, domestic violence and mistreating his employees.

    But Shiamili lost that case in a close decision handed down last week from New York State's highest court. The State Court of Appeals held that the blog's operators are protected under the Communications Decency Act, which shields such operators from liability when they publish and edit material, rather than author it.

  5. Yes, I understand the irony of me posting this anonymously, but I work at a Gannett newspaper and can't afford to be fired any earlier than necessary. I think it is great Des Moines and Ft. Myers have taken this step. Unsigned comments on articles are increasingly vicious and are encouraged by newspapers trying to get the web site hit count up. This is a very good move. I hope corporate allows other Gannett papers to follow Des Moines and Ft. Myers.

  6. The WSJ figured this out well enough years ago, yet Gannett struggled with it only to resort to using Facebook. Gannett’s scale to its peers should have made it a leader in this space years ago. Instead, it demonstrates once again that it continues to lead from behind, well behind.

    If using competitors is the type of transformational moves Gannett has in mind, then perhaps $2.00 a share wasn’t too far off the mark.

  7. Despite the public explanation, this move's primary benefit to the company is not increased civility of comments on the sites. The benefit of having people use Facebook logins is in the increased ability to target advertising. Hooking the site into the Facebook ecosystem is an easy way to turn generic eyeballs into eyeballs with some (minimum) identification attached.

    Of course, management doesn't want to say that, for fear of spooking readers. So, they rely on the "civility" argument, even if that is a secondary benefit.

  8. Dear Gannetteers,

    We couldn’t be more thrilled by this news as this allows us to expand our user’s experience in ways that are clearly unimaginable, especially to your leaders.

    Best of all, it’s free!

    To immediately recognize this wonderful gift we’ve introduced a new menu item at the Googleplex, The Craiger in honor of your CEO; a mile-high sandwich consisting of healthy doses of turkey, bologna and a smattering of free-range chicken…who wouldn’t want their teeth full of that deal.

    Cheers to your continued transformation.

    Your Friends at Facebook

  9. Facebook is pure evil.

  10. The comparison is made to G papers that allow the garbage comments about individuals whose only sin was to be naive enough to allow a reporter to quote them on the record. It's easy to drive web "hit" numbers up: Post pictures of good-looking naked women, change them every couple of hours to keep people coming back to the site and you'll reach any goal you set. We've already decided what we are. We might as well be all in.

  11. Wow. I guess this means the whole world is watching GCI's annual performance. So does that mean we will continue to see revenues plunge each year while execs get multi-million dollar salary increases. Surely, something has to give. My best is Arial dumps GCI as soon as it realizes how much bad publicity Gannett is going to generate over this move.
    And, hey Jim, where's the "Like" button on your original Gannettblog I'm typing on. I really, honestly, truly and for-truly Like this idea you had of putting the blog on Facebook.

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  16. Could have posted this under other items, but goes here, too:

  17. And where do I now go to get my privacy back?


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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