Why My Site Killed the Comments Section

Actual comments on an article I wrote. In 12 days, they will be purged forever from the internet. (Source: http://investorplace.com/2014/05/aapl-stock-apple-ipad-sales)

As of January 25, 2017, readers will no longer have the ability to comment on articles published to the website I run, InvestorPlace.com.

We are a midsized financial publisher, with over 40 articles published each weekday and serving 1.7 million unique visitors. It was a hard decision, since focused verticals like ours are very dependent on the community they serve — in our case, individual investors who play the stock market.

But ultimately, it was the right choice for us. Here are five big reasons why — and, since the internet is nothing if not a bully pulpit, my selfish and personal views on the subject.

Social Media Has Replaced Message Boards: Instead of having many conversations on many article pages, most people prefer to have conversations on a central platform. It’s easier for the user, and a better way to connect related conversations.

Commenting Platforms Are Clunky: Without getting too technical, commenting tools can make it more difficult for our pages to load in your web browser window. Particularly in a mobile age, streamlining the reading experience is a priority for us .

Abuse and Spam Hinder the Conversation: Like all sites, we have our hands full moderating posts for profanity and random links to websites pitching get-rich-quick schemes. We want to hear from interested or confused readers, but most commenters don’t fit that description.

Few People Comment, and Fewer Each Day: Back in 2013, we typically had about 1.1 million visitors on our site each month and recorded over 1,100 “legitimate” comments per month. At the end of 2016, we were up to 1.7 million unique visitors but saw 700 comments or less — with most articles having zero engagement at all. Of those comments, they came from a small group of recurring participants on a small group of topics.

We’re Following the Trend: From Recode to Popular Science to NPR to Reuters, many publishers are doing away with comments for some of the above reasons and plenty others.

That’s the short, official answer, anyway. The more personal answer involves the image above, which I assure you is not fabricated, and my personal views of the cesspool that internet comments have become on my own bylines.

On Comments and Counterparties

I am a big believer in feedback and true customer service, and personally respond to many emails each month. I am also a newspaper veteran who believes strongly in the value of free speech. But many folks who reach out to us have no interest in a true exchange of ideas.

They simply prepare a monologue. To them, internet comments are performance art.

That’s a shame, and it’s further proof that empathy is in short supply these days. But it’s also particularly dangerous for investors. As the old saying goes, “If you look around the poker table and can’t find the sucker, it’s you.” Hearing the other side of the trade with an open mind can help a good trader avoid a costly mistake.

In fact, one of the things I love most about markets is that they require a counterparty to trade; without a seller making the opposite move of a buyer, neither can act. There’s a certain poetry in that.

Of course, investors making real bets in the stock market are putting real money on the line. And your portfolio balance will show clearly whether your opinions are right or wrong. In contrast, anonymous commenters have nothing to lose and face no consequences for their abuse or misinformation.

That is not a true marketplace of ideas, it’s a circus. And while those of us at InvestorPlace are committed to helping our millions of readers take control of their financial future, we are not interested in letting a few clowns take control of the site simply to feed their own egos.

I promise you we will do our level best to help you investigate all sides of the markets. As one clear example, we’re focusing more on “pros & cons” articles that make both the bear and bull case for a stock in the same place.

But I also promise you that we don’t need to suffer the comments section to do that. Nor do you.

Not on our site or anywhere else.

If you want to contact us going forward, please drop us a line on Facebook, on Twitter @InvestorPlace or to send us an e-mail at editor@investorplace.com.

About the author: Jeff Reeves is a financial commentator and analyst with almost two decades of newsroom and markets experience. He has been lead writer and editor for InvestorPlace.com since the beginning of 2010, and his work has also appeared in numerous other financial outlets including The Wall Street Journal network, CNBC, TheStreet.com, Fox Business Channel and USA Today.