25 January 2017

The importance of the comment section.

Why taking away the voice of the public, has the potential to be severely damaging to any publication.

As part of their 2020 report, the New York Times has stated that an expansion of their comment section is a major objective. As the section's popularity increases, so does its importance across many publications. The public want to hear stories from regular, relatable people, not just updates on faraway governments passing legislations or just about the lives of the Hollywood elite.

Around 6,000 people responded to the New York Times about their piece on a woman's experiences in Saudi Arabia. This kind of conversation is driving and will continue to drive publications to expand these areas that get the reader's voices heard. The comment section for any publication is fundamental to creating conversation from one article.

While the New York Times in their own words has “developed one of the most civil and successful comment sections in the news business.” Other publications have chosen to remove the comment section completely. In 2013 Popular Science removed their comments in an attempt to prevent the reader from changing their opinions based on the comments. Similarly, in 2014 Reuters removed the comments from most of its pieces, excluding the opinion pieces. It would seem many publications would rather the readers' views and the articles were separated, with readers' comments saved for social media.

Yet, this separation de-values the readers opinions. This is what the public want to hear. We aren't talking about hate messages or sarcastic responses. But real interesting debate that generates conversation from Australia to Ireland. If this is removed, if people's voices are hushed from engaging in a topic, there's a chance their interest in a topic quieten down too.

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