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Friday, February 13, 2015

A failure to grasp price elasticity

To say nothing of the psychopathic nature of trolls. I cannot imagine this policy of charging for comments will work very well.
As a number of news sites eliminate their comments sections altogether, Tablet, a daily online magazine of Jewish news and culture, is introducing a new policy charging its readers to comment on articles.

As of today, a reader visiting the nonprofit site that is otherwise paywall-free will have to pay at least $2 to leave a comment at the foot of any story. The move is not part of a plan to generate any significant revenue, but rather to try and change the tone of its comments section.

Tablet has set up commenting charges of $2 a day, $18 a month and $180 a year, because "the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse)," editor in chief Alana Newhouse wrote in a post published today.
Charging for comments might work at a truly elite site like the New York Times. The level of exposure and the ability to associate one's opinion right underneath a Paul Krugman column would be valuable to certain parties; I would have paid for such a comment-ad back when RGD came out myself.

But even at a site of modest popularity such as this one, the proposal would make no sense except as a roundabout way of banning comments without being seen to do so. This is one of the more prolifically commented sites in the blogosphere, but how many people here would pay $180 per year to comment here? I'd guess around ten or 20 people; Nate might pay that just to eliminate all the commenters from AG.

The problem is that the discourse would then be strictly limited to the same small group of people, it would become an insulated and repetitious conversation with an audience; it would become a form of conspicuous performance art. And does anyone doubt that trolls like Andrew Marston would even hesitate to cough up whatever it cost in order to buy a captive audience for his delusional meanderings?

As is the case with writers who calculate their lost sales by counting pirated copies, Tablet clearly fails to realize that someone who is willing to comment for free is not synonymous with someone who is willing to pay to comment. The latter tend to be a very small subset of the former.

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74 Comments:

Blogger MATT February 13, 2015 8:46 AM  

I WANT ALL GOOD THINGS FOR FREE !

Anonymous Soga February 13, 2015 8:48 AM  

Free speech as in free beer!

Anonymous sth_txs February 13, 2015 8:54 AM  

Ah, the civility argument. Yet none of the leftist scum or conservatard as well care about the destruction wrought by their stupid ideas and voting record and enforcing their point of view with the violence of the state.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus February 13, 2015 9:03 AM  

Jews are vastly wealthier than non-Jews, since Jews compete as a group while fighting fiercely to prevent white non-Jews from doing the same, and since groups easily out-compete individuals.

Therefore, when Jews want to enjoy something, while preventing non-Jews, especially whites, from enjoying the same thing, pricing the non-Jews out of the market is an appealing strategy.

This applies to the possibility to live in a homogeneous environment with one's own kind, which is essential for long term survival. It also applies to the opportunity to speak.

Anonymous Alexander February 13, 2015 9:03 AM  

Really not looking to ignite this particular firestorm for the billionth time, but you really have to appreciate the fact that... it's a Jewish website trying to make a quick buck charging for comments. It's the sort of real life hilarity that if you wrote it in a book you'd be accused of trying too hard.

Anonymous Kaspar, the Sometimes-Friendly Ghost February 13, 2015 9:05 AM  

"because "the Internet... poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse)," editor in chief Alana Newhouse wrote"

In other words, People who disagree with me are simply a horrible motley mob who should be excluded and ignored.

Even if a comment is simply growling invective, isn't it a useful point of information to know that someone with such a view exists? And if a particular topic attracts 5,000 growling spews of invective, isn't it a useful diagnostic tool to know that a LOT of people feel a certain way?

This business of people mocking or condemning anonymity and/or pseudonymity, as being cowardly, as if such tactics didn't have a long, storied, and useful history (who exactly WAS this "Publius" joker who wrote The Federalist? I want to know so I can burn his house down!) is quite disturbing. And it implies a totalitarian mindset. I'm reminded of the Communist police who would go to demonstrations and photograph the demonstrators, so they could be punished later for their views.

If fascist assholes like Newhouse want to ban anonymity, then in return they should agree to be held legally liable for expenses, pain and suffering, and punitive damages, in the event that a commenter suffers adverse consequences like losing his job simply for speaking his mind. Sounds like a fair deal to me.

Anonymous NateM February 13, 2015 9:11 AM  

Something Awful went over to that kind of structure can while back. Theirs was more nominal, at 10$ a year, enough that it wouldn't discourage most from commenting, but enough that if a troll like Marston continued to come back with new IDs, they'd have to pay for the privilege of being banned. Sure 10 bux might not mean much to Vox, but eventual trolls would move on rather than shell out, especially if they were instantly recognized with each new ID

Anonymous But but but February 13, 2015 9:13 AM  

This will have a chilling effect on free speech!

This is gross censorship!

/sarc

Blogger Outlaw X February 13, 2015 9:13 AM  

It would create mirror blogs where you can comment for free. For example using fair use one could copy a small part of each Vox post and make a short comment and leave their blogs open for free comments. Once people settle on a mirror blog the comments will stream there and the original author won't have any say or control on the comments aimed at their post linked to the mirror and they will lose traffic.

In other words where there is a demand it will find a supply.

Blogger Vox February 13, 2015 9:15 AM  

It's the sort of real life hilarity that if you wrote it in a book you'd be accused of trying too hard.

That thought struck me as amusing too, but I'm really not interested in yet another round of anti-semites reminding us how awful Jews are in competition with philosemites reminding us of how wonderful Jews are. I'm too busy to deal with policing that today, so don't even start, everyone.

Let's just agree that the punchline is obvious regardless of how one feels.

Blogger Student in Blue February 13, 2015 9:18 AM  

@NateM

The telling thing about SomethingAwful and 10bux is the eventual result of it: Endless circlejerking in a couple of the forums has essentially given rise to SJWs.

Anonymous JC NRA February 13, 2015 9:19 AM  

I've been enjoying this site for over 10 years, but have only felt compelled to comment once (prior to this one). I would gladly send Vox a monetary donation to keep comments free.

I've bought a few books from Castalia, but if a paypal "Give me money because I'm awesome!" scheme is needed ...

Anonymous Alexander February 13, 2015 9:22 AM  

Fair enough.

Yeah, mirror sites seem like an obvious fix that would pop up two seconds after the 'solution' was implemented. But see, then the next stage will just be to fix those pesky fair use laws... maybe go back and reform free speech entirely.

It never, never, never stops.

Blogger Vox February 13, 2015 9:25 AM  

I've bought a few books from Castalia, but if a paypal "Give me money because I'm awesome!" scheme is needed ...

Oh, I'll be hitting all of you up for a lot more than that sort of thing in a few months. We're planning the Kickstarter now. And it is awesome. Game-changingly awesome. And everyone from major publishers to major game companies has said as much.

Blogger Marissa February 13, 2015 9:28 AM  

Oh, I'll be hitting all of you up for a lot more than that sort of thing in a few months. We're planning the Kickstarter now. And it is awesome. Game-changingly awesome. And everyone from major publishers to major game companies has said as much.

:: fat guy from Jurassic Park squeal ::

Anonymous Alexander February 13, 2015 9:32 AM  

Sweet, are we finally getting that secret underwater Antarctic Evil League of Evil HQ? Cause I'd totally pony up the cash for naming rights to the submarine pen.

Blogger Vox February 13, 2015 9:37 AM  

Speaking of the Kickstarter, any new thoughts on stuff people want would be appreciated. Anything from a sculpted miniature of Gladiator Vox to dinner for two with SB and I in Milano or Paris are among the various ideas on the table.

Anonymous szook February 13, 2015 9:48 AM  

Pay to comment....bah!

I could however be induced to increase the frequency of my commenting here for a nominal fee....I mean who doesn't need a little more mad cash.....

Anonymous John Scalzi's Brain February 13, 2015 9:51 AM  

any new thoughts on stuff people want

Spank me and call me trash?

Anonymous Michael Maier February 13, 2015 9:55 AM  

Alexander February 13, 2015 9:03 AM Really not looking to ignite this particular firestorm for the billionth time, but you really have to appreciate the fact that... it's a Jewish website trying to make a quick buck charging for comments. It's the sort of real life hilarity that if you wrote it in a book you'd be accused of trying too hard.



+1/4

I'm part Jew so I'm too cheap to give you the other 3/4.

Anonymous Michael Maier February 13, 2015 9:57 AM  

Ooops. Sorry, commented before reading Vox' preemptive request.

Anonymous Kyle February 13, 2015 9:57 AM  

A Something Awful-esque model of a one-time small fee to comment really isn't a bad idea since it'd filter out most, if not all, of the trolls. But paying per comment or per month/year is just crazy.

Anonymous bub February 13, 2015 10:03 AM  

From this anti-anti-vaxxer article:

"Scientists, despite their complete consensus on the matter—and it is absolutely complete, without a single dissenting voice that hasn't been utterly discredited—have been unable to stop the spread of the idiocy even though they are able to stop the spread of the disease."

They not only don't want to hear you or your comments, they don't want anyone else to even consider hearing you.

Anonymous jay c February 13, 2015 10:07 AM  

I already don't comment on most news sites because of the massive number of domains that have to be authorized to run Javascript in order to make their comments work. Pay to comment!? Keep dreaming.

Anonymous Michael Maier February 13, 2015 10:09 AM  

Vox February 13, 2015 9:37 AM Speaking of the Kickstarter, any new thoughts on stuff people want would be appreciated. Anything from a sculpted miniature of Gladiator Vox to dinner for two with SB and I in Milano or Paris are among the various ideas on the table.


I would say that you should consider basing all minis on THE DREAD ILK but man would those be ugly...

Blogger Salt February 13, 2015 10:14 AM  

A site that charges to comment (contract) would find a restriction on itself; not being able to delete comments that do not agree, take issue with the OP. Could you see Scalzi charging $2 a day @whatever? He'd have to put his ban hammer away and accept bad-think criticism.

OpenID cailcorishev February 13, 2015 10:14 AM  

The problem is that the discourse would then be strictly limited to the same small group of people, it would become an insulated and repetitious conversation with an audience; it would become a form of conspicuous performance art.

So....sounds like it'll work perfectly then, for the site in question.

Blogger Nate February 13, 2015 10:16 AM  

"As a number of news sites eliminate their comments sections altogether, Tablet, a daily online magazine of Jewish news and culture, is introducing a new policy charging its readers to comment on articles."

Oh... its a jewish news and culture site?

ya don't say?

Anonymous Alexander February 13, 2015 10:25 AM  

What level in the kickstarter gets me a picture hanging out with the tribe on the reservation? Or more importantly, can I get signed certification that I am white man who am friend of the red people?

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus February 13, 2015 10:37 AM  

Alexander: "... maybe go back and reform free speech entirely."

That's on the "to do" list anyway.

It'll get support from conservatives too, if it's promoted as a capitalist thing. Good things shouldn't be free!

Blogger Cecil Henry February 13, 2015 10:41 AM  

These news sites dont understand that most of what they do is biased and propaganda.

So the comment section, where balance is often added back IN, is more than half the value of a lot of sites. So charging for comments, or censoring comments makes the news article and the website suspect at best, not worth visiting at worst.

News sites want to TELL you what to think, that's why they try to control comments. You lost your credibility right there.

Anonymous Donn February 13, 2015 10:44 AM  

If it's some kind of narrative deal perhaps a level that has the donator (or person of their choice) written in as a minor character or extra.

Anonymous Didas Kalos February 13, 2015 10:49 AM  

Ye, we do say. LOL

Anonymous scoobius dubious February 13, 2015 10:52 AM  

Pay to comment? Pfft.

Hell, I think you people should start a fund to pay me to STOP commenting.

Anonymous Alexander February 13, 2015 10:55 AM  

@ Michael Maier,

Does your treachery know no bounds! Not only would you charge me for my first amendment rights, but now you quarter me... in direct violation of the third!

Blogger Chris Scena February 13, 2015 11:18 AM  

Vox, not sure if I am the only (aspiring) writer in here or not, but for the Kickstarter campaign, possible editing or critiquing of a work (or chapter) would be good incentive.

Blogger CarpeOro February 13, 2015 11:22 AM  

"dinner for two with SB and I in Milano or Paris are among the various ideas on the table"

So... pay to watch you two eat?

Blogger CarpeOro February 13, 2015 11:23 AM  

"poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective"

So... they are worried about Jews commenting there?

Anonymous Daniel February 13, 2015 11:26 AM  

A thing I want - likely not relevant to the kickstarter: a fully working 8x11 printable .pdf solitaire arena game. Throwing it in, just in case.

Sculpted miniature of gladiator McRapey, desperately trying to hang on to the ears of a saddled pink jackrabbit would provide some amusement...with an eye-rolling gladiator Lodi Vox following behind with an axe in an attempt to rescue McRapey from himself would provide even a little more.

Blogger Jack Hanson February 13, 2015 11:32 AM  

Yeah, but now SA is run by deadbeats, trannies, SJWs, and had a convicted child molester as admin for a while (Aatrek).

Compare the circlejerking good think over there with the free to register with the kind of discussion that goes in over at Something Sensitive.

Anonymous Dan in Tx (yes I'm trolling) February 13, 2015 11:40 AM  

"Speaking of the Kickstarter, any new thoughts on stuff people want would be appreciated..."

Nate having to share a bottle of while label Jim Beam with me and shoot guns? Preferably in 9mm?

Anonymous Jack Amok February 13, 2015 11:41 AM  

Pay to comment? Pfft.

Hell, I think you people should start a fund to pay me to STOP commenting.


In a way or course, that's what they think they're doing. But like Salt pointed out, that might backfire on them. Oh, who am I kidding, they'd swing the banhammer anyway, it's what they do.

But hey, if liberals want "Safe Spaces" they should at least pony up their own cash for them instead of using tax dollars to enforce it.





Anonymous Jack Amok February 13, 2015 11:43 AM  

Speaking of the Kickstarter, any new thoughts on stuff people want...

10 hours of individual ASL coaching.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 13, 2015 11:45 AM  

Actually, scrap the coaching. Considering how hard it can be to find an opponent, make playing the game a kickstarter promo.

Oh, an old General style replay. Maybe Kratman can provide the commentary.

Blogger Markku February 13, 2015 11:50 AM  

Here's an idea: Pay to have Ender kick your ass in ASL.

Blogger IM2L844 February 13, 2015 11:51 AM  

A selective comment ransom system might work for those very clever and witty trolls who don't know they're trolls and think it is imperative that everyone see how very clever and witty they are...because towering intellect.

Blogger Markku February 13, 2015 11:52 AM  

For extra charge, you can have Vox give you verbal abuse for having lost to a little kid.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet February 13, 2015 11:58 AM  

Well there's an idea I never thought of. It strikes me as stupid, but interesting at least. I'd probably pay $10 or $20 a year to comment here, but only because I enjoy the discourse so much... which would probably be eliminated if it were pay.

Blogger Vox February 13, 2015 12:16 PM  

A thing I want - likely not relevant to the kickstarter: a fully working 8x11 printable .pdf solitaire arena game. Throwing it in, just in case.

It's relevant. It will be a stretch goal. Imagine Gladiator crossed with Hannibal. I took the combat system I created for Dojo, then modified it to fit the five areas of Gladiator. So, it's a card-combat system that is much more tactical than Gladiator's gruesome five-DR system, and considerably faster to play besides.

Then imagine you are not limited to physical space.

Blogger pyrrhus February 13, 2015 12:34 PM  

This is hysterical--$2? I don't think they would get many takers at 5 cents....

Anonymous Daniel February 13, 2015 12:40 PM  

What the hell are you working on? A wish machine?

Blogger ScuzzaMan February 13, 2015 12:53 PM  

In my experience there are very few comments forums where the banning of all comment is not at least an obvious desire on the part of the hosts.

Various compromise positions, like the Grauniad's orwellian "Community Standards", are merely waystations on that road ...

When you perform a particular action, knowing exactly what the results are going to be, by dint of both theory and experience, then you cannot sensibly claim those results as unexpected or unwanted.

The people in question have revealed their desire.

Anonymous Anubis February 13, 2015 1:10 PM  

Maybe its a plan to bleed money from Soros' internet troll army.

"This is hysterical--$2? I don't think they would get many takers at 5 cents...."
Maybe a certain stereotype of busybody feminists would be willing to pay so they don't get excluded, "their voices silenced".

Blogger CarpeOro February 13, 2015 1:22 PM  

"For extra charge, you can have Vox give you verbal abuse for having lost to a little kid."
Only if they mention that you have no chile. That would make it worthwhile.

Blogger CarpeOro February 13, 2015 1:24 PM  

Or chili.

Blogger Vox February 13, 2015 1:35 PM  

What the hell are you working on? A wish machine?

A holistic transplatform game concept. And it works. I've been a gamer for a long, long time, and I understand that MOST gaming is solo. This design reflects that.

Blogger Vox February 13, 2015 1:40 PM  

In my experience there are very few comments forums where the banning of all comment is not at least an obvious desire on the part of the hosts.

What's tough for most sites is that they like the idea of comments and discourse better than the reality. They have this fantasy of people either praising them for their thoughtful brilliance or engaging in intellectual debates over which they can preside and bask in the reflected glory.

The fact is that most people are not intelligent, most intelligent people have nothing intelligent to say, and those who have something to say are highly inclined to be pedantic nitpickers. Unless, like me, you don't actually give a damn what anyone is babbling about in the comments and you're content to let people do whatever the hell it is they want to do as long as they don't actually defecate on the carpets or set fire to the curtains, you're bound to be disappointed.

I was never interested in comments, but my early readers were, so I just turned them on and let them go. Seems to work well enough, everyone gets their chance to speak their mind, such as it is, so why not?

Blogger Cederq February 13, 2015 1:43 PM  

I would pay just to read the comments....

Anonymous Alexander February 13, 2015 1:50 PM  

I think it's great that the media is trying to return to the model of the print newspaper and just have the technical medium be the only differing factor. That seems like a guaranteed winning strategy.

Blogger ScuzzaMan February 13, 2015 1:53 PM  

What's tough for most sites is that they like the idea of comments and discourse better than the reality.

Is that like the SJW's who like their idea of how people 'should' be, better than they like actual people?

OpenID thetroll February 13, 2015 2:53 PM  

> I cannot imagine this policy of charging for comments will work very well.

People pay lots of money, where by "lots" I mean "completely @(#$&!&!! insane", for online social experiences from text MUDs waaaaaay back in the day to the various Pavlovian clickbait schemes masquerading as games on phones today. Wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that commenting privileges are monetizable.

The real trick is to establish a monetizable status hierarchy. Something along the lines of a global reputation rank like Slashdot commenters have, and you're allowed to buy premium placement for your posts which will foreseeably result in more upvotes, or you're allowed to buy 'Trusted Poster' status so you can post directly without waiting for a review queue, things like that to make it just a little less than undeniable that you're trading money for social rank. Because people will spend ALL THE MONEYS in return for a self-perceived boost in social rank. *Particularly* the kind of people willing to waste their time on something as unproductive as Internet commenting. (He says in blissfully complete lack of self-awareness, yes.)

Anonymous Daniel February 13, 2015 2:58 PM  

A holistic transplatform game concept.

Aha. So...a wish machine. No biggie.

I remember my first forays into muds and I thought, "Oh this is nice, some clever ideas...a bit rudimentary for a text adventure, but man, how do you turn off these useless npcs?" Then I realized they were people playing the game...just like me.

Blogger Vox February 13, 2015 3:42 PM  

Then I realized they were people playing the game...just like me.

The low level of the average HPC has been one of the great disappointments of my life. I came up with a way to fix it, and Big Chilly commented, "congratulations, you just designed the first zero-player MMO."

OpenID cailcorishev February 13, 2015 4:32 PM  

Wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that commenting privileges are monetizable.

I could see it working as a "booster," the way many social media games do it. Allow one free comment per hour or something like that, up to a max of 5 at any time, but then allow them to buy 10 "gold" for $5, each "gold" being worth 5 extra comments or something. So the regular commenter uses up his 5, sees that he's not going to earn another for nearly an hour, and thinks, "Oh, what the heck, it's only $5, and they'll last for months." A week later he's burned through them already, and, "Oh, it's only another $5." Make it cheap enough to seem incidental, and easy to purchase through mobile stuff. Could work pretty well, as long as your audience overlaps quite a bit with Facebook's.

OpenID cailcorishev February 13, 2015 4:40 PM  

Then I realized they were people playing the game...just like me.

Heh. Back in the old days, when my computer wasn't attached to anything except the power outlet, I used to imagine how awesome it would be if you could play games like Elite, MULE, and Ultima IV with other people, without needing to have them right there in the room. A whole world full of people, exploring and interacting!

Years later, I found out: it mostly sucks.

Blogger Quadko February 13, 2015 6:19 PM  

I'd also take it a different way - if I've paid my two bucks to comment, there must be a contractual obligation in there to display, maintain, and so forth - even if they have lawyerly weasel words to the contrary, there is an implied deeper social relationship after the exchange of money. Pay $2 for them to host and display an obnoxious comment, then beat them up for any failures on their part. Extract far more than $2 value for each such comment... hehe.

OTOH, I had the only computer on my doom room floor (imagine that now!) and always had a crowd of 'sharers'. I put up a quarter an hour sheet, kept the people who stuck around as friends, and didn't charge anyone anything. Someone else got the second computer for Christmas, and the crowd moved to him; after a while he felt the same pains. :P So it's a very college level solution to the problem.

Blogger GK Chesterton February 13, 2015 7:34 PM  

I can see paying a yearly fee for comments but $2 per for adding to the conversation? That's just insane. And while I consider myself a philo-semite as Vox puts it and don't want to start a debate doing this on Jewish site was just flat out _dumb_. I'm commenting on the thing not on the ancillary debate.

Anonymous NateM February 13, 2015 8:59 PM  

@NateM

The telling thing about SomethingAwful and 10bux is the eventual result of it: Endless circlejerking in a couple of the forums has essentially given rise to SJWs.

True Student. Thought that was more a factor of SAs thought policing mods than anything. The pay structure just helped it along

Blogger James Dixon February 13, 2015 9:38 PM  

> The problem is that the discourse would then be strictly limited to the same small group of people, it would become an insulated and repetitious conversation with an audience;

You'd become what people already accuse you of being. :)

> ...most intelligent people have nothing intelligent to say, and those who have something to say are highly inclined to be pedantic nitpickers.

Hey, I resemble those remarks.

Well, at least on my bad days. I like to think that at least on occasion I add something to the conversation. Others are free to disagree, of course.

> Hell, I think you people should start a fund to pay me to STOP commenting.

You overrate your curmudgeonliness, Scoobius. Besides, your comments are not infrequently entertaining.

Anonymous Contaminated NEET February 13, 2015 11:16 PM  

I came up with a way to fix it, and Big Chilly commented, "congratulations, you just designed the first zero-player MMO."

That sounds interesting; let's hear it, VD! What is this idea to fix MMOs?

Blogger dvdivx February 14, 2015 4:49 AM  

Pay to comment = no money
Pay to delete someone else's comment = money
they just did it wrong

Blogger automatthew February 14, 2015 6:09 PM  

"Pay to delete someone else's comment = money"

Saving the internet with hate.

Anonymous beerme February 14, 2015 9:22 PM  

Speaking of the Kickstarter, any new thoughts on stuff people want would be appreciated.

A video of Nate open carrying a pink Glock, chambered in 9mm.

Blogger David-2 February 22, 2015 1:57 PM  

One week after this fee was imposed:

Table has an interested feature on its homepage: Every article link & blurb also has the number of comments. All - all! - of the current articles have 0 (zero) comments! If you scroll way down the page you start seeing articles that have comments - those are monthly columns that were written before the fee.

BTW, I see they call their charge a "nominal" fee. The discounted rate for the entire year is $180. I'm not sure I agree with their definition of "nominal".

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