Why Gawker’s Commenting System Falls Short
Gawker has unveiled a new system of commenting that gives power to the users, according to the New York Observer. The idea is great, but the result is not.
“Kinja,” the new system, which lets users create their own threads and delete irrelevant or abusive replies, rolled out at all Gawker sites except Lifehacker. Now instead of a long stream of comments, users can choose threads to read. Users can no longer promote comments by giving stars, eliminating what Gawker owner Nick Denton calls a “caste system.” However, they can still leave anonymous comments using “burner accounts.”
Thus staff writers no longer exist to write thoughtful posts, but instead, to spark debate. As Denton says, “As long as readers want to see discussions in which our staff writers participate, we’ll have staff writers.” That’s no surprise; Denton’s new business model replaces banner ads with conversation threads that marketers can use to speak directly to readers. The comments section is the new advertising space, rather than the content. The writers can’t be too pleased.
Kinja also makes commenting harder. Suppose you want to read the comments. Instead of scrolling down, you have to click on each reply in a thread. Reading a new comment requires an extra click. If that’s inconvenient on a computer, imagine browsing from a phone or tablet.
The logic behind Kinja is sound. Even at outlets such as NPR and the Washington Post, the veil of anonymity protecting online readers often inspires toxic remarks. Letting readers delete spam from their own threads while preserving the freedom to create new ones should help. But unless Gawker improves the layout, the new system won’t benefit anyone, except for marketers and Nick Denton.
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