Comment Friendly Vs. Unfriendly On-line Journals

Not all subscribers of on-line journals want to read only what the journalists write. They are smart enough to discern that even the better researched and written stuff served up is larded with personal opinion and propaganda. What draws knowledgeable, engaged readers to on-line journals and their side blogs is the comment section. Such readers not only want to weigh-in on the subject at hand, but also read and reply to the comments of others like them. The animated comments and debates triggered by the original article are usually the most interesting and informative part the journal. And, for that reason, that journals that welcome comments and make it easy for commenters to weigh-in are, business-wise, the most successful--like, for example, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Economist.

Subscribe to any of these journals and note how simple it is for members to comment and how much space they are allowed to make their point. No one, of course, expects the editorial staff to read, much less, reply to the scores, sometimes hundreds, of comments made, but the give-and-take, and the scrolling back and forth can engage commenters and their readers for a half hour or more, all the while exposing them to ads on the right margin of the screen. The longer they stay on the page, the more ads, the same and different ones, they see—a most effective yet unobtrusive way to advertise.

Other on-line journals, the upstart Politico and The Huffing Post, for example, are not so commentator friendly, and, thus, not as widely read and as financially successful. Just registering, logging-on and posting a comment to these journals is an ordeal, and commentators given to intelligent discourse are cut off by a surly “too-many-characters” message. Some journals don’t even have a comment section, or, if they have one, the comment button is miniscule and hidden somewhere in a secondary link. The editors of such journals unwisely, not to say stupidly, must think that their writers’ mediocre, often trite emissions alone are sufficient to satisfy the discerning reader. Then there are those fuzzy, unreadable, maddening, off-putting, overkill “captchas.”

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