PR guru Ronn Torossian weighs The Move

PopSciLogo PopSci Takes a Calculated RiskFans of science and emerging technology have been getting their news from Popular Science magazine for over a century. The conversations and debates sparked by this publication’s content have likely motivated countless people to pursue careers in science and technology.

But now, to a great extent, those debates have been silenced. Popular Science recently announced that it will no longer allow comments on its online articles. No comments on one of the premier science publications on the planet??? Yep.

Why We’re Shutting Off Our Comments

The publication announced this move – and offered its rationale – in a short and decisive article that said, in effect, the trolls have won.

PopSci said there are countless good, curious, and informed readers of its publication and many others with similar content (Wired, for example). However, because the Internet is also a breeding ground for far too many willingly ignorant, foolish, and scientifically inept rage monsters, science itself is taking a beating. That, according to PopSci, they can no longer be part of.

Hey, it’s understandable. We all hate the trolls. They hijack comment threads and drive almost any conversation straight into the proverbial ditch. But, will that understood reality save PopSci from a torrent of angry blowback from those who WANT informed scientific discussion online?

Or will those people simply look elsewhere for their engaged interaction with fellow thinkers, seekers, and students?

Ronn Torossian
, CEO of 5W Public Relations, said there may be plenty of the former, but he expects more of the latter.

“Look, at first you can expect a lot of bluster and anger. People hate it when privileges are denied. Particularly privileges that were once expected. We don’t like changing our routines,” Torossian said.

Torossian cites the common practice of people reading an article on a web link and then going back to social media to discuss it. “Sure, there may be a comment thread on that page, but people like starting discussion with their friends. Where are their friends? They know they’re on Facebook. The same could be said for folks who used to comment regularly at PopSci.”

This disconnect from what was a treasured (and expected) routine and the understood revulsion people feel when a troll hijacks a thread may be what, eventually, causes PopSci to reconsider this decision.

“I believe they will once again want to drive commenters to their content, so this change will be brief. However, if they can successfully keep their readership but drive their comment forums to social media, they may actually start a trend,” Torossian said.

The trend Torossian references is a fledgling idea amongst those with more divisive content. To keep from having to heavily moderate their forum, they push comments onto social media. That way Facebook is responsible for culling the trolls and the content provider can go about the work of producing more content.

“If that happens, we will have truly come full circle,” Torossian said. “Remember when people would read the paper and then discuss it at work? Same concept.”

For more on how to handle your nonprofit PR online and elsewhere, contact Ronn Torossian and 5WPR here.

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