Citing an ineffective experience that was not particularly well-used, NPR on Wednesday announced that it's getting rid of website comments in favor of other means of communication with listeners, including social media.
Scott Montgomery, the managing editor for digital news at NPR, explained the decision in a blog post on NPR.com (that drew no shortage of comments):
NPR introduced public comments to its website eight years ago, when many of today's most popular venues for digital interaction didn't yet exist or were in their infancy. Since then, we've explored and developed many options for strengthening those connections.
Some of these methods have proven invaluable. Others less so. 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. In order to prioritize and strengthen other ways of building community and engagement with our audience, we will discontinue story-page comments on NPR.org on August 23.
The alternative? Montgomery notes that NPR's official social media accounts, and those of its journalists, have become the primary channel of communication between the radio network and its listeners:
Social media is now one of our most powerful sources for audience interaction. Our desks and programs run more than 30 Facebook pages and more than 50 Twitter accounts. We maintain vibrant presences on Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr. Our main Facebook page reaches more than 5 million people and recently has been the springboard for hundreds of hours of live video interaction and audience-first projects such as our 18,000-member "Your Money and Your Life" group.
NPR's ombudsman, Elizabeth Jensen, supported the decision but said that she is "also disappointed" in a blog post.
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.