Read We're closing Crosscut's comment section. Here's why — and what's next by Ana Sofia Knauf, Anne Christnovich, Mohammed Kloub (
With the rise of social platforms and an uptick in threatening comments, the newsroom is taking reader engagement in a different direction.

We analyzed our Disqus data and we found that roughly 17,400 comments were made on our site in 2019, but 45% came from just 13 people. That data tells us that social media, email, phone calls, letters to the editor, our Crosscut events and an occasional visit to the newsroom are far better tools for us to hear about your concerns, story ideas, feedback and support.

The Disqus data statistics here are fascinating. It also roughly means that those 13 people were responsible for 600+ comments on average or roughly 2 a day every day for the year. More likely it was a just a handful responsible for the largest portion and the others tailing off.

Sadly missing are their data about social media, email, phone, and letters to the editor which would tell us more about how balanced their decision was. What were the totals for these and who were they? Were they as lopsided as the Disqus numbers?
Annotated on January 08, 2020 at 04:33PM

In the meantime, stay in touch with Crosscut by:
Liking us on Facebook
Following us on Twitter
Following us on Instagram
Chatting with us on Reddit
Signing up for one (or all) of our newsletters 

It seems like they’ve chose a solution for their community that boils down to pushing the problem(s) off onto large corporations that have shown no serious efforts at moderation either?

Sweeping the problem under the rug doesn’t seem like a good long term answer. Without aggregating their community’s responses, are they really serving their readers? How is the community to know what it looks like? Where is it reflected? How can the paper better help to shape the community without it?

I wonder what a moderated IndieWeb solution for them might look like?
Annotated on January 08, 2020 at 04:42PM

It would be cool if they considered adding syndication links to their original articles so that when they crosspost them to social media, at least their readers could choose to follow those links and comment there in a relatively continuous thread. This would at least help to aggregate the conversation for them and their community while still off-loading the moderation burden from their staff, which surely is part of their calculus. It looks like their site is built on Drupal. I would suspect that–but I’m not sure if–swentel’s IndieWeb Drupal module has syndication links functionality built into it.

Rather than engaging their community, it almost feels to me like they’re giving up and are allowing a tragedy of their commons when there may be some better experimental answers that just aren’t being tried out.

The worst part of this for me though is that they’ve given up on the power of owning and controlling their own platform. In the recent history of journalism, this seems to be the quickest way of becoming irrelevant and dying out.

Published by

Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

6 thoughts on “”

  1. Chris Aldrich says:

    In looking at some of their comments on their Facebook page, it would seem that many are very short and of a non-contributive or productive manner. While there are occasional bits that do contribute to a better community-based conversation, most of the commentary is of a short, shoutbox nature that is just indicative of our baser instincts.

    I’ll write a much longer piece about the subtleties of this trend on the internet with some ideas about how to better structure it, but I think the better solution is for ALL comments to be done on an outlet’s own website with extreme moderation. If people want to shout and rant on their own websites, or individually within social media (without the acceleration of algorithms speeding their fringe views into the mainstream) then let them. Newspapers and journalistic outlets have more responsibility.

    1. Bill Bennett says:

      I’d go one step further. It is worth investing in having enough people to engage with comments on a site, it’s a fine way to build a community. You need to be careful about weeding out spam and trolls, but a strong comments section done well is a huge asset for any publisher.

  2. Chris Aldrich says:

    Reminder: Look back at Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia’s book Annotation to see if they mention any of the toxicity effects of annotation within history. They do have an interesting reframing of Twitter, but I don’t recall if they go further.

  3. Bill Bennett says:

    The mere fact that Crosscut chose Disqus (and then Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit) tells us it is clueless about maintaining a viable community. A lot of people don’t comment on Disqus sites because it is such a barrier. I had a Disqus account and even toyed with the idea of using it on my site only to back off when the needy emails started coming from Disqus. Thank you I have no wish to create another monopolistic, monstrous silo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *