By Nicole Levy 1:20 p.m. | Feb. 9, 2015
As a number of news sites eliminate their comments sections altogether, Tablet, a daily online magazine of Jewish news and culture, is introducing a new policy charging its readers to comment on articles.
As of today, a reader visiting the nonprofit site that is otherwise paywall-free will have to pay at least $2 to leave a comment at the foot of any story. The move is not part of a plan to generate any significant revenue, but rather to try and change the tone of its comments section.
Tablet has set up commenting charges of $2 a day, $18 a month and $180 a year, because “the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse),” editor in chief Alana Newhouse wrote in a post published today. Posts that have attracted vituperative commentary include “How My Father’s Problems with Black Mirrors the Left’s Problem with Jews” [by Todd Gitlin] and “The Challenge of Planning an Interfaith Wedding.”
Newhouse’s husband David Samuels wrote one of the best articles on Obama and Rev. Wright in 2008.
“We are asking people who’d like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation,” added Newhouse.”The donation rates are small because we are not looking to make money, but instead to try to create a standard of engagement likely to turn off many, if not most, of the worst offenders.” Proceeds will go toward funding Tablet’s journalism, which is otherwise supported by the nonprofit e-book publisher Nextbook Inc., she said.
The value of comments sections has been a hot topic over the past few months, with news outlets like The Chicago Sun-Times, Popular Science, Reuters, Re/code, Mic, The Week and Bloomberg switching off readers’ comments. Moderating such forums is expensive for companies with limited resources, and a lot of reader conversations have moved to social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Comments sections can also, notoriously, devolve into exchanges of personal attacks and squabbles about subjects only tangential related to the posts they sit beneath.
Let’s see, I’ve approved about 495 comments in the last 24 hours, so at $2 a pop that would be, like, a lot.
I just wanted to mention that.