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Jul 29, 2008

Why Newspapers Shouldn't Allow Comments

Why Newspapers Shouldn't Allow Comments

Let's begin with some truisms: a newspaper is not a blog—not even its online version. Conversely, a blog is not a newspaper. However, newspapers have been in the toilet lately, partly due to the proliferation of blogs. One easy pseudo-solution some newspapers have settled on is to act more and more like blogs. After all, this 2.0 world is all about "You," the user, which in practice means it's all about a false sense of democracy through publication of comments and user-generated content—just like a common blog. After the jump: why newspapers should stop slumming as blogs and disallow comments.

Comments are thought to be an added value to a newspaper's site—providing another reason to read. You come for the article, and stay for the interesting discussion. The only problem is, there is no interesting discussion. Almost never. Not even from the mythical supersmart New York Times readers.

Let's take some examples from the weekend press.

First, there was New York Times reporter David Carr's book excerpt in the NYT Magazine, a reported memoir of his crack addiction, recklessly bad behavior, and subsequent redemption.

Sample comments, notable only in how uneducated and un-thoughtful they were?

"if he wasn't a reporter for the new york times, would we be reading this?"

"Monetizing your shameful past is disgusting. Haven't you harmed your loved ones enough for one lifetime?"

"Who cares. grow some guts. we all have problems. most of us don't blame drugs or alcohol... you want a medal for doing your job and being a father?"

Opening a deeply personal article up to the peanut gallery does these writers a great disservice—and yes, I include Emily Gould here, whose NYT Mag article was similarly pilloried in the comments section. (Thanks for writing; your check is in the mail, and oh—have fun getting senselessly torn apart in the comments. No, there's nothing we can do about it—it's 2.0!)...

Bloggers: Stop Subsidizing the Entire Internet

Today, Alley Insider reported that some bloggers at AOL havechosen to keep posting for free after cutbacks that would only pay them for five posts per day. The story is still in its rumor stages, but it's thought that at least some people are indeed donating some of their blog posts. And don't even get me started on the Huffington Post, that repository of crackpot rants built by an army of many free-bloggers writing in the name of "exposure." (CEO Betsey Morgan said in a recent interview that paying the HuffPo's bloggers might possibly be part of the picture someday; in the meantime, "It feels very 1993 to say, ‘Hey, it’s all about the check that I get at the end of the month.’") After the jump: Econ 2.0, or why bloggers should stop writing for free.

Bloggers have to stop thinking of themselves as white-collar creatives and more like rank-and-file workers. After all—that's how they're paid!

Some bloggers get paid per-post, like pieceworkers in a 19th-century factory. Some get paid for pageviews, which is even more idiotic from a worker's perspective. It means you're not paid for your labor (except your monthly minimum) but paid instead on a sort of gamble—how well your product will perform when it's thrown into the open marketplace.

(The pros and cons of that system has been thoroughly discussed elsewhere. There are definitely flaws, but hey, at least I'm receiving money for my blogging.)...

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