The Idea Of Sponsored Comments Disqusts Me

Disqus announced it is testing out a new advertising technique in the form of sponsored comments. According to the post, the experiment has been going on for at least a month and based on the results, is expanding it across the service. The sponsored comments are clearly marked as such and can contain any type of media to get the point across. Here is what the comments look like minimized and expanded.

Disqus Sponsored Comments
Disqus Sponsored Comments

Disqus says the sponsored comments are based on a feature launched earlier this year called Featured Comments which gives publishers a chance to highlight the best comments within a conversation. This is a great feature for publishers as long as the featured content is not an ad. Sponsored ads are not set in stone and the service is still working on the overall experience concentrating on the quality, positioning, and feedback of the ads. Disqus says sites that have ads disabled will not see the sponsored comments.

Using A Third-Party Service Takes You Out Of The Drivers Seat

Back in March, we discussed what the future looks like for comments within WordPress. More and more sites are opting to use a third-party service to power their comments instead of using the native solution built into WordPress. It’s easy to see why when you consider the large amount of plugins it would take to duplicate the functionality third-party services offer such as featured comments and comment voting. But the downside to using a third-party as a publisher is that you’re attached to their leash.

Third Party Leash
photo credit: Suki♥!cc

In 2012, Disqus turned on a new feature called Discovery. Many viewed the feature as a form of advertising but the point is that it was enabled automatically for each site it rolled out on. By using a service to power your comments, you could wake up one day to see an entirely new commenting form or a host of new features that ruin the experience on your site.

I Declare Comments An Ad-Free Zone!

The reaction to the new feature within the comments of the announcement is lukewarm at best with more questions than answers. I commend Disqus for at least being upfront with their users and explaining that it’s an experiment. By communicating the experiment upfront, it should prevent a flurry of angry users demanding to know why advertising is showing up on their site without their explicit approval.

The comment section of a website is where the magic of community happens. It’s where the reader gets a chance to voice their thoughts and opinions and interact with the author. In the case of WPTavern, it’s been a rewarding experience over the years with a lot of interaction in the comments.

There are many areas on a site to place advertising and the comments shouldn’t be one those. Unless they are brought up by a commenter within the conversation, advertising cheapens the interactive experience. They also make the site look amateurish just like most other forms of advertising do.


I don’t care how relevant the ad is, I wouldn’t want any part of it showing up in the discussion. If not executed correctly, one sponsored comment gives the appearance that a spam comment got through the filter. Comments are an important part of the experience on many WordPress sites and they’re generally filled with more information about the topic being discussed. I doubt a sponsored comment would be able to add anything meaningful to a conversation.

Do you use Disqus? If so, what do you think about this new feature? Is it something you support or will you have no part of it on your site?


34 responses to “The Idea Of Sponsored Comments Disqusts Me”

  1. Interesting post. I was having huge SPAM issues from my vanilla commenting system, and thought of switching to Disqus. But when I installed the plugin, there was some issue uploading comments and was told I would need to do it manually. Well, not going to happen.

    So I went back to the vanilla, using akismet and adding “cookies for comments” which was recommended. So far, so good. Will be sticking to this for the time being.

    I was looking for more SPAM filtering, and not so much all the bells and whistles of a third-party commenting system. It just seems as if comments are dwindling no matter what… and not thinking any special plugin will solve that. Just my .02

    • I was one of the folks who recommended the cookies for comments plugin. It works like a dream doesn’t it? Especially when you have it set to just discard spam comments before they ever reach Akismet.

      The reason for uploading comments was probably due to the synchronization that has to occur when you first turn on Disqus.

      Glad to hear you’re sticking with the native solution and the plugin is working for you. As for comments dwindling, no plugin or service is going to magically make comments appear.

  2. I use Disqus..I don’t have advertising on the site, I don’t allow readers to advertise products as a part of commenting- that is spam. I don’t need a spammer as a comment service. Disqus offers a lot of features… but not enough to justify that..

    • If you don’t mind me asking, is the site your protecting with Akismet for $50 a month making at least that amount per month in revenue? Is it a large trafficked site? You’re one of the few I’m spoken to that has paid for Akismet.

      • Well we pay 50 because we have it network activated not so much to do with traffic, that being said, i have other clients paying 5 and i think even one or two that qualify for free akismet.

  3. I dumped Disqus late summer of last year and haven’t looked back. Why? Long before this was even hinted, I was having doubts about how a service like that could continue to stay free, but what finally tripped the trigger was after writing a detailed response to a poster on my blog and hitting the “Post” button, I received a message that they were updating the API. Fifteen minutes of work (like I said, it was a *detailed* response) gone into bit hell. Akismet, CommentLuv and GASP keep me spam-free, the comment system runs smoothly and the only time the API changes is when Automattic changes things up.

  4. I say this is normal. They have to make money too so there no other option for them. They have to make ad network and similar ads. I dont see nay other pro option for revenue.

    For now I dont see any problem. Sponsored ads is optional.

    So lets dont get mad about it.

  5. I love Disqus! I think it’s the best commenting platform by far. Ads have always been optional. If you just want to use their service for comments, they let you do that…for free! If publishers want to use Disqus to make a little extra money, they can enable ads.

    Whether or not free Disqus accounts will always have the ability to disable ads remains to be seen, but right now they aren’t forcing ads on anyone.

    • I mentioned as such in the article, that the ads can be disabled. They’re not being forced on users with no recourse. Mainly this post is just me sharing my feelings on advertising within comments in general that are not part of the discussion by human beings. I think comments should be ad-free.

    • That’s a good question. I don’t know if Disqus has a revenue sharing program. There’s no need for a pro version just yet since they still allow free users to disable advertising. Would be interesting to see what features besides no ads they would offer in a pro version.

  6. I think it’s funny that Disqus thinks that an advertisement has more value than an actual comment. I would argue that a well thought out and genuine comment would have more value and spark far more conversations than another thing for users to ignore.

  7. I really can’t fault Disqus for trying to make money; especially since they appear to be doing the right thing and letting their community know in advance of changes like this.

    What I’d like to see them do is offer some sort of paid, completely ad-free platform for two to five bucks a month for folks who’d like to support the platform.

    • Maybe one day we’ll see a poll on the Disqus blog that asks users if they think what Disqus currently offers is worth paying for. Just to get a gauge on what all of the free users think. I wonder what the response would be. It would have to be cheap. As you say, 2-5 dollars per month.

  8. This goes to the very heart of the age-old issue about digital share-cropping. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and somehow, it all has to be paid for. Having taken beaucoup bucks from investors, my guess is you can expect to see more of this kind of thing from Automattic in the future. My own view is that I would not ever to use a service that I had to pay-for, by letting someone else decide what to show or what not to show on any page of my websites. I’ll continue to search for EXACTLY the right plugins ~ premium or otherwise ~ increase my server memory and CPUs, and do what I want to do, without anyone else deciding what’s best for me. Thank you.

    • This has very little to do with Automattic and it’s totally incompatible with what they would do.

      But I do agree that outsourcing functionality to a 3rd party comes with disadvantages and I prefer to do things the self-hosted way for that reason as well.

    • You got it! There’s no such thing as free. Someone’s always paying for it. Automattic wasn’t mentioned in this article. They don’t own or operate Disqus. You may have them confused with IntenseDebate which is a commenting service owned and operated by Automattic.

      Definitely stay away from third-party anything if that’s how you feel but I see where you’re coming from.

  9. Can’t any worse than the discovery part. As long as it stays optional then I’ll stick with Disqus. I still might try out some of the other methods

  10. It would be great if the native comments system could be updated to include at least some of these “extra” features. It’s 2014–people are used to being able to “like”, “+1” or otherwise upvote/downvote comments. Sure, it has a tendency to turn threads into popularity contests and flames comment wars like nobody’s business but welcome to the Internet. That’s just how the average Internet user’s mind works now, and the native WordPress comments system is falling behind. I doubt many people would want to bloat their site with extra plugins otherwise.

    • That’s a good point. My first instinct is to say it is plugin territory but maybe that is outdated…What do people expect from commenting functionality nowadays? If plussing/liking comments is considered a basic feature, then maybe it is time WordPress bakes it into core.

    • At this stage, I wouldn’t mind seeing those features added into the native comment system. However, I think it’s really important for the blog owner or post author to moderate the conversation. Not censor, but moderate. Without moderation, comment sections on websites are just wastelands.

  11. It sounds like Disqus ads are opt-in for publishers, who get a cut of the action, not just forcing ads for everyone. This sounds like a win-win-lose situation. Win for Disqus. Win for publishers. Lose for users who are sick of being bombarded with ads all the time.

    I’m sure other big “comments” players are watching closely: Google+, Facebook, and Livefyre. I’m honestly surprised none of them have already rolled out something similar.

    Maybe even Automattic will start pushing IntenseDebate again when they realize the revenue potential, which has taken a backseat ever since Jetpack. They’ve already dabbled with their own advertising platform with

    If the above don’t catch up and start offering their own revenue sharing model, we’ll probably start seeing a mass adoption of Disqus on sites (that don’t use it already, it’s pretty popular as it is) that are already looking to maximize revenue in every way possible.

    • I’d like to know what it would take to get the IntenseDebate gears turning again? Do you think it’s just tied to revenue or is it because they don’t know what to do with the service? Maybe they don’t have the employees interested enough to kick the site into high gear?

      The service is still ticking but for how long?

      • I think it’s news like this is what will get gears turning again on IntenseDebate. I’d love to see what Automattic can do with it.

        I’m sure revenue (or lack thereof) is an issue but it probably mostly has to do with Matt just liking Jetpack Comments better. This comment (near the bottom) illustrates better.

        I get it too. I’m personally not a fan of the clunky comment systems like Disqus with upvoting, downvoting, top comments, and the like. I appreciate a nice, clean chronological, threaded list of comments that doesn’t freeze up my phone because of all the ajax-y stuff going on.

        However, if I was a big publisher that got hundreds/thousands of comments on each post, I would change my tune, as there is value in highlighting the best ones from the rest of the junk that tends to pollute large discussions.

  12. “The Idea Of Sponsored Comments Disqusts Me”
    And me Jeff but everyone is looking to monetise whatever they’ve spent time and effort developing.

    I don’t use Disqus and I don’t have any spam problems with comments. I use a firewall plugin with a GASP type button and a timed delay system to stop comments from the bots – works just fine.

  13. So what is the best self-hosted privacy-protecting (Gravatar-free), spamming-blocking WP comment set up to put on my sie?

  14. I dislike Disqus in general – I refuse to allow 3rd party cookies so I simply don’t comment on any blog that uses it. I certainly would never allow a service like that to advertise on one of my blogs. It was obvious that they would try something like this at some point otherwise why continue building it. cf GMail and Google+

  15. I m not gonna use Disqus anytime soon for the reasons you outlined, but I must say that the “graphic” and the other features look nice. i wonder NO ONE has coded a “clone / alternative” which could run as plugin on WP

    ps sorry for late commenting but i arrived here while searching “why install dissqs ?”


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