NPR to end website comments

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Users of NPR’s website will no longer be able to comment on story pages starting next week, the network announced Wednesday.

NPR has allowed comments on its site for eight years, but after “much experimentation and discussion, we’ve concluded that the comment sections on NPR.org stories are not providing a useful experience for the vast majority of our users,” said Scott Montgomery, NPR’s managing editor for digital news, in a post on NPR’s site. (It had drawn over 100 comments as of this afternoon.)

NPR will cut off the comments Tuesday. Numerous sites have already removed comment sections, which can become hotbeds of spam, trolling and abusive language toward authors, especially women and people of color. A Guardian study of its comments found that of the 10 writers most abused by commenters, eight were women and two were black.

NPR said it is making the change partly because only a small number of readers actually comment. The site had 79.8 million users in the last three months, Montgomery pointed out, and only 2,600 left a comment each month.

Last month, the site received 491,000 comments, and all those comments aren’t cheap, according to NPR Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen in a post discussing the change. The commenting system “gets more expensive the more comments that are posted, and in some months has cost NPR twice what was budgeted,” she wrote in the post.

Meanwhile, more than 5 million people engage with NPR on Twitter each month, she added.

“Seeing the current sorry state of NPR.org commenting, I support the move to end comments,” Jensen wrote. “I am also disappointed. The vast majority of NPR-produced shows no longer even run snippets of letters from listeners; this latest move seems like a step backward, as understandable as it is. So I hope NPR will make good on the promises that newer engagement options will be tried out.”

Because NPR uses the third-party platform Disqus for commenting, comments on all articles will be removed when commenting is discontinued, Jensen wrote.

In lieu of comments, Montgomery said, NPR will continue to engage with its audience on social media and through projects like the Tiny Desk Contest. Soon it will also begin using the Hearken platform, which solicits questions from readers for an organization’s reporters to answer. Member stations and other media outlets use Hearken as well, including Current. NPR will use it on its Goats and Soda blog and may expand it further.

Correction: An earlier version of this post inaccurately stated that NPR’s website received 33 million comments in July. There were 491,000. The post was also updated to clarify that 2,600 people left a comment in each of the last three months. 

  • photoglyph

    Well, this is a good idea. Now if our local newspaper could do the same.

  • Learning2Bgrateful

    We started a DISQUS channel for NPR comments here:

    https://disqus.com/home/channel/npr/

  • Morton Clink

    “Now we tell you what to think. No need for the proles to have any way to rebuff of discuss what we say.”

    Seems to be a startling trend coming from the left. If it’s not their brand of speech, it’s not right.

    Yet they have no problem calling traditionalists or conservatives fascists. The irony.

    • Private Porkster

      This comment is a great example of why I support NPR’s decision.

      • Mark Pugnar

        I agree, people who disagree should not be allowed to comment. There ought to be a law.

  • Mark Pugnar

    So why should I visit the NPR site when there will be no entertaining comments from the public? How is this decision supposed to bring value to the public, which public media wants support from?

  • Marty Eble

    As soon as NPR got the comments section closed, it began a purge of its news archives. Good-bye to anything with Second Amendment, NRA, Bloomberg, and so on.

    This tips its hand as to what the discontinuance was about. Its bias was repeatedly getting exposed with facts by commenters.

    Example: it ran a piece on a “grassroots” movement of mothers against guns. In just a couple of hours she was exposed as the president of a PR firm in the employ of a billionaire anti-gun proponent in the comments.

    And it was getting attention on Capitol Hill.

    The rest of their excuses are eye wash.

    • Marty, can you clarify what you mean here? Are you saying that any story that mentions Michael Bloomberg, the Second Amendment or the NRA has been removed from their website?

      • Marty Eble

        Indeed.

        NPR scrubbed the news archives of the material.

        • There still appear to be plenty of articles about Michael Bloomberg on NPR’s site, for example: http://www.npr.org/templates/search/index.php?searchinput=%22michael+bloomberg%22

          So I’m not sure how this squares with what you’re saying.

          • Marty Eble

            I spent a half hour perusing your citation.

            All articles dealing with his role as the major funder of anti-gun groups is gone.

            Yes, the ordinary non-controversial material in the news archives at NPR remain.

            No, the materials that were the source of accusations of a bias and a definable narrative are gone, and not just with Bloomberg.