Paying the price for popularity and success?

Jonathon Green on the Drum: No talking back: the value (and cost) of commenting (aka Bolt paying the price for popularity and success, or how the cost of effective comments moderation led a mainstream publisher to hamstring one of their most effective click-generators).

Melbourne’s Herald Sun is host to Bolt’s blog; it’s the biggest selling newspaper in the country, and the first of the local News Limited tabloid-based websites to deploy a paywall. This month the decision was taken to cut Bolt off at the knees: to slash his comment moderation.

Without the usual hundreds of comments piling up at a rate of knots, how many people will keep on clicking through repeatedly to the posts? Fascinating analysis.

Categories: media

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5 replies

  1. I find it interesting in that its a pretty clear indication that even huge number of page views won’t result in enough revenue to justify funding a moderator part time. Do sites like The Punch or Mammamia even come close to turning a profit?
    I also wonder how long it will be before people start setting up forum sites hosted overseas (in countries where they can be relatively anonymous to protect them from potential criminal/civil lawsuits) whose sole purpose is to provide a place for people to comment on news stories on Australian sites?

  2. It makes me wonder why the papers don’t set up puppets themselves. Some small island that houses the head office of two thousand companies, fifteen hundred “international” newspapers that report an specific countries, and seven hundred actual people.

    • YetAnotherMatt, “the papers” wouldn’t gain any benefit from such sites unless the sites had their masthead name on them. Since newspaper corporations generally want to have their head honchos lionised and exerting influence as a result of their readership, I doubt that having untraceable platforms would actually help them in achieving that goal.

  3. That’s only if the paper was the company owning the site, if the island site “owned” the paper, there may be plausible deniability for the publishing arm saying that the website is none of their business, as what the parent company does is beyond them. This depends on the Australian ownership requirement of newspapers though, so I’m thinking onto my keyboard.

  4. YetAnotherMatt – I could see a company doing that sort of restructuring for tax purposes, but not just to be able to host websites. And I suspect they’d lack sufficient plausible deniability.
    I do think its an issue for online news sites into the future though. Without the ability for users to comment/discuss it really loses its value (there’s lots of news sites around), but the risk/cost of providing such a facility is pretty high and I find most news sites pretty frustrating because of the moderation lag and the very small window of time to comment.
    Small blogs survive on volunteer moderation and that they’re a small target (no real assets to sue anyway). But they’re scattered all over the place.

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