Here’s an interesting twist on the trend towards dropping comment threads from websites: keep comments, but charge for them.
Tablet magazine announced in a blog post yesterday that they’ll be taking an unusual step to deal with sometimes unruly commenters: charging readers who want to submit — or even view — comments on their site.
There are more details over on NiemanLab about this particular move. One thing not mentioned there is that we sort of have this already, in that when a newspaper goes behind a paywall then – depending on how it is done – that can make its comment threads only for paying customers.
That is the case here in the UK with The Times, and if that experience if anything to go by, the imposition of a fee (which comes with both a financial cost and also the requirement for the commenter to at some point enter real payment information about themselves, stripping away the sense of ‘no-one knows who I am when I visit this site’) won’t do a huge amount for the quality of the comment threads.
Certainly those on political pieces on The Times are often far less painful to read than those on political stories elsewhere, but they aren’t that much more often enlightening or entertaining. What’s really missing is the sort of editorial selection that use to make letters pages such a central part of newspapers.