September 24, 2013 Last Updated 2:07 pm

Bonnier’s Popular Science decides to shut off comments, calls them ‘bad for science’

For many media consultants, especially of the digital first variety, the decision by some publishers to end anonymous commenting has been met with derision. But these publishers are reacting to a growing problem: commenters that are more often simply trolling for attention.

popsci-cover-smThis morning Suzanne LaBarre, the online content director at Bonnier’s Popular Science informed readers that the magazine would be shutting off its comments.

“Starting today, will no longer accept comments on new articles. Here’s why,” the post starts off.

“Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at, we’re shutting them off.”

What readers think of the decision we won’t easy find out – there are no comments allowed on the story. But I know a lot of media observers will be thinking it is a bad idea.

I don’t. The growing problem with comments is something that many media properties has to deal with. Some newspapers, like the Washington Post have simply let the craziness happen knowing that the more page views the better. Others, like the NYT, have invested in moderators. But when a story has appeared for a short while and the moderator wants to move on comments are halted. It is hard to have an intelligent conversation online when the last allowed comment is some crazy thing. But that are the rules at the NYT.

So I applaud the move, assuming it was well thought out, and it appears to be:

“A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics,” writes LaBarre. “Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”

PopSci is taking back its online property. Whether it is the right choice or not, it is their right to control the conversation, isn’t it?

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