The future of TPG on-site comments

Jul 28, 2020

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The internet is a daunting place in 2020.

Peer-to-peer communication can be one of the most incredible resources found across the World Wide Web. Over the years I have learned a tremendous amount online from other points-and-miles enthusiasts. Most recently, I’ve used Facebook Groups and private messages to take my knowledge of travel trailers and towing from zero to 60 (pun intended) in just a month.

The speed at which we can learn and share online is astounding, and often enlightening. But there’s another side. The downside of forums and, in our case, on-site commenting, is the likelihood that a few bad apples can spoil the entire experience.

TPG now has an audience size that regardless of what we write, there will be those that take exception with something in almost every single article. While we have many readers that will take the time to send us well-thought-out rebuttals or well-conceived scoldings for something we miss (and we thank you for that), a growing number head to the comments section of an article to insult, wish ill upon, politicize, argue or spread false information. This is done not just with the topics being discussed in the article, but also directly against staffers, contributors and other readers.

The value of online community in 2020

We value our community.

Leadership values it to the point that I was brought onboard full time last year as the loyalty and engagement editor. My job is to create ways to interact with our readers and create editorial content that is going to keep you coming back. Because of COVID-19, my job has become increasingly important and equally as challenging. We started the year planning the next generation of in-person events, only to see everything we were working toward change overnight in March. Simply stated, our focus has shifted.

Now five months into the new world, it’s clear to us we need to build the next generation of online community and the ability to allow readers to create user-generated content. Our ideas for the future community centre not around a message board or forum, but in hyper-specific feedback and tips on editorial content, such as an interactive map of Disney World resorts where you see TPG reader tips and tricks or a review of a specific seat on a specific type of aircraft your favourite airline flies.

There will be vetting of a profile before being allowed to comment and peer reviews of your comments will either give them more or less visibility. Our ideas right now are endless and are designed to foster peer-to-peer sharing without the drama a message board or simple on-site comments section gives.

On-site commenting in its current form doesn’t foster our goals for what we want the next generation of the TPG community to be. Like many other large media sites, we’ve reached the point this year where our on-site commenting platform is no longer a productive part of TPG. This is a good problem in one aspect as our audience continues to grow, but unfortunate in another if it feels like a loss to our readers.

The solution

I can tell you there have been many heated debates among the TPG staff about what strategy to take with our comments section. After a few of these debates and then a virtual beer or two to heal the divide, we’ve decided to remove on-site comments. As we redesign our site, we will work on new ways to engage the TPG community.

There’s good news if you want to interact with us and engage in a healthy dialogue. We still have plenty of ways to foster connections. Here are the ways you can engage with us online 24/7/365:

Bottom line

It’s a bittersweet day as the entertainment (and enlightenment) a comments section can provide will not be available on your next TPG read.

The good news is that the removal of on-site comment moderation frees up our team to focus on what the future of community at TPG can become, and begin to build that out now. And overall, you still have a multitude of ways to interact with us online anytime you like, and for that, we are always grateful. COVID-19 continues to challenge us in ways never foreseen, but likewise, the solutions we’re working on would not have ever been plausible had it not been for the challenges of 2020.

Featured image courtesy of Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

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