NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen checks in to see how NPR’s decision last year to disable story commenting has been going. The answer is pretty well, actually.
In the year that has passed, Jensen reports, year-over-year growth has been, well, growing. “The number of users for the May-to-July period grew 18 percent in 2017 compared with the year-earlier period, according to Google Analytics numbers [Interim managing editor for digital news Sara Kehaulani] Goo provided. (Year-over-year monthly growth has been as high as 37 percent.),” writes Jensen.
Facebook comments are also up year over year, reaching a high of 700,000 in January. You know what happened in January. And that’s where a caveat comes in. “Goo said it’s not possible to say whether that is because more commenters have moved over there as a result of the decision to remove comments from NPR.org, or because of the current news environment,” writes Jensen.
NPR has also used the space where commenting used to go to great effect, albeit for non-comment pursuits. It’s now usually reserved for podcast and newsletter signups, resulting, per Goo, in a gain of 500,000 new newsletter subs and 100,000 new podcast subs.