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 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.
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?