Mumbrella has made the bold call to turn off comments on its articles, a move that will undoubtedly have a big impact for the publishing site.
Mumbrella head of content Damian Francis made the announcement Friday afternoon, penning an opinion piece which will be the last article on Mumbrella to have comments.
Francis wrote: “From today, Mumbrella will no longer publish reader comments. This policy will be for all of the content we publish, regardless of what it is.
“The ethos behind Mumbrella’s long-held stance on publishing comments has shifted as the brand has developed and today’s announcement is a continuation of that shift.
“Making the decision to scrap comments altogether just eight months on from the new policy may seem more like one giant leap rather than one small step, but I feel it’s an important leap to make for Mumbrella, its staff and the industry. And now is as good a time as ever to do that – when we can make that decision clearly, analytically, and without emotion or pressure.”
It follows Mumbrella‘s decision to change its comment moderation policy in January this year, with the new policy of “only publishing comments that [Mumbrella believed was] worth [its] audience seeing.”
Francis stepped into the head of content role in mid August after Mumbrella announced a restructure of its team, which saw editor Vivienne Kelly depart. It is essentially the role Tim Burrows had filled since founding Mumbrella.
Francis wrote that prior to moving into the role, all he could do was “observe from the sidelines” as the debate around comments ranged on.
He wrote: “In my mind, there are solid arguments for both sides. An open channel of communications for the industry, particularly those without a big voice, versus a poisonous well of uneducated opinion and name calling. That’s an overly basic assessment, of course – the arguments on both sides run substantially deeper than that.
“I found that I didn’t side wholly with one party or the other. And I kept out of the debate. I did not participate in the now infamous meeting of the minds called by WPP AUNZ chairman, John Steedman – which followed his open letter to the industry – or join the round table that we ran at one of our industry retreats in Tasmania, despite the fact I was there. As head of event content, it simply wasn’t my race to run.”
In his new role, however, and with a “lull in commentary around comments” on trade press, Francis said it was an “ideal time to reasses the situation”.
Francis added there are many reasons Mumbrella has chosen to turn off its comments, one being that the publishign site wantes to “foster a community”.
“That means opening the communication channels with as much of the industry as possible. That doesn’t gel so well when the history of the comments has been, at times, vicious, rather than supportive. Nor does it gel when there is such significant debate around the value of comments,” wrote Francis.
It’s a huge move for Mumbrella, as the comments section was arguably one of the most popular aspects of the website. However, it was also a place where plenty of hatred and vitriol was served.
There have been plenty of calls over the years for Mumbrella to better moderate or turn off comments all together, including a callout form industry veteran John Steedman in June last year.
In a statement issued to media last year, Steedman called the increasing problem of divisive and anonymous reader comments “the coward punches of public debate” before adding that he had witnessed a “concerning decline in the quality of online comment in our media industry”.
Steedman added: “People are being attacked for their sexuality or appearance, for their perceived ability or public statements.
“Anonymous comments are a cheap laugh for the people behind these posts, and those who trawl through them, but it often causes real and lasting damage to those on the receiving end.
“People who are going about their daily business, striving to deliver results like the rest of us and share honestly held opinions on important topics of discussion.
“This is another grubby example of the lack of respect in public discourse – a cancerous trend that now pervades politics, business, the media and the workplace,” he said.
B&T has long argued against the practice too.
It will prove an interesting move in terms of advertising revenue for the publisher, with time spent on page and site visits potentially decreasing with no comments to trawl through.
B&T reached out to Mumbrella for further comment.
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