Web doyen claims reader comments ruin magazines

Gawker media founder Nick Denton said that 15 years after everyone thought it would be pretty neat to allow readers to comment on every story, the whole idea has turned out to be a big joke.

Denton, who owns Gawker, Jezebel, Gizmodo, io9 and Lifehacker said that the idea of capturing the intelligence of the readership was a joke.  We guess it is because he does not think his collective readers have any.

Speaking at SXSW, Denton said that the comments on his own sites, which have bought hacks to tears, were so bad that he doesn’t engage.

He told CNN that for every two comments that are interesting, even if they’re critical, there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic. As a site gets more popular, he said, it’s harder to control the comments which inevitably get nastier.

He could not think of any ideas that might save the situation. In fact, he was quicker to shoot down ideas that others are trying than to provide proposals of his own.

Denton said editors and reporters did not have the time to write to readers in the comments. But he also said that you can’t force people to reveal their real names because anonymity is at the heart of the web.

A democratic system where other commenters move to upvote or downvote posts, like on Reddit, does not work in his opinion.

For example. Jezebel would want to see American Apparel Chief Executive Officer Dov Charney come to the site to answer all the allegations of sexual harassment made against him. But if Charney ever showed up he would be voted off because the readers hate him.

Denton is planning to post some stories that allow only a hand-picked, pre-approved group of people to comment on them. But really he wants sources and experts to be able to comment in these discussions.

If he wants informed comment, perhaps he could ask Drashek to help out.