huffpoc1

The Decline of Huffington Post and it’s Commenting Requirement Woes

Huffington Post was once a pet project of commentator Arianna Huffington, a super blog that brought in celebrity commentators and humorists and included links to other people’s news stories. Today it is just another sensationalist news trash site owned by AOL with a table at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. They stormed the castle of major media but ended up just becoming a guard along the watchtower. Personally, I have had enough.

huffpoc1

Sell your phone number? What me? Why never darling!

If you have been to Huffington Post lately and tried to comment, you may have noticed that they are forcing you to display your actual name and tie your account to your Facebook page, which, since they’ve added in a phone verification system, gives the AOL owned Huffington Post access to your phone number and personal information to post. Why? To “turn the page” on all the hateful comments and people who hide behind anonymity to say deplorable things.

The move has riled many users and many are leaving, even deleting their accounts. When they announced the move last summer, many of the top comments were from some of their top commenters, with thousands of fans who announced their departures. A few had even achieved the high label of “pundit” and had been with the site since it’s launch back in 2005!

While the commenting thing isn’t the main reason I am leaving the site, I must admit it does anger me quite a bit the way in which they handled it. I have no problem with Facebook or social media comments. Many smaller sites like mine have social media commenting for convenience. Big sites like Huff Post have management of millions of users. I’ve had my account for quite some time, I believe it was created around 2008. It’s a contract with your user and it creates a commenting culture that people become familiar with. Trying to stop the commenting you have is like shooting yourself in the foot. They already have measures in place to stop comments, in fact they shut down way too many comments.

I know how you feel! So do many, many more judging by how often I see this thread occur.

I know how you feel! So do many, many more judging by how often I see this thread occur.

So many of my comments were stopped simply because I used a word that set off their stupid content filter and sent it to a moderator who apparently didn’t like my comment, which was often a well thought out multiple paragraph response that laid out a clear and concise case. Meanwhile 4 word comments that were deplorable and hateful could skip their moderators by putting stars on the N word or whatever. Those comments were then flagged and gone. It was way over the top, and thoughtful responses should never have been deleted because the writer or moderator did not like the comment. That’s what happened though, and many people like me have wasted far too much time writing comments that were deleted for highly questionable reasons.

Most news sites will allow most anything to be posted and YouTube literally allows Nazi anthems to be uploaded and comments to be down right disturbing. So it seems silly to have such tough security measures in the first place, though it seems even sillier to stop the hundreds of thousands of comments that are helping your sites popularity unless you have a damn good reason to do it. Stopping the hate? I see hateful comments all the time on sites that require your real name. It may stop some of the obvious trolls, or the people that normally get flagged for abuse. Since the move is suspiciously tied to advertising and marketing related reasons that seems to make more sense. Ya know, the ol’ sell your info to 3rd party bit.

Hmmm, pissing off your audience is probably not the greatest strategy in the world.

Hmmm, pissing off your audience is probably not the greatest strategy in the world.

Well that may have backfired. Looking at the comment numbers today, the place is comparably a ghost town. Where once seeing under 100 comments meant the post was less than hour old, today it is the new norm.

Sensation

However, the big reason why I have been teetering on leaving for a long time is  because of the increasingly dishonest eye-grabbing headlines, the emphasis on entertainment stories and the increasingly Animal-Farm like shift from the blog that once took on the establishment to a just another sensationalist “news” schlock-a-thon.

Why just today they put a story at the top about how “Girl on Girl Action is on the Rise”. Uhm, you mean women admitting to a single lesbian encounter? Oh, well that’s not that exciting as the porn reference. Pretty hard-hitting journalism there that deserves to be AT THE TOP.  Of course, it was at the top of the page in the famed, right column, which is filled with stories about Miley Cyrus, stories about wardobe malfunctions and stories about porn. It’s where you will find the headline “It’s Over” above a celebrity couple I’m supposed to know by their looks. All over though, are headlines that promises one thing and then turn out to be nothing what they promised. Another pet peeve that I see many others share with me is the daily segment from last night’s Daily Show or Colbert (sometimes both). It’s a headline that tries to make an out of context line that Jon Stewart said seem profound. The one up as Half the time it’s misleading, ‘What the F*ck is Wrong with Us’. Oh that’s not sensational (oh and don’t try to do the f*ck in your comments btw, that is unacceptable, Huffington Post is a family institution), it’s also misleading, since Stewart was actually slamming the media and the insecure American culture for trying to drum up controversy. The irony was lost on them, though I guess you’re still more likely to click the headline that leads to a 2 paragraph paraphrase of the Daily Show segment than if the more honestly titled, “What Jon Stewart Said Last Night”.

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Sadly, this is real!

Even the serious articles have all the sensation of a York Peppermint Patty. A fight between politicians in the Georgian Parliament turns into “WATCH: Georgian Parliament Erupts in Brawl”. YEAHHHH! Georgia be brawlin’ yo! I guess that’s more exciting than discussing how Vladimir Putin’s Russia is exerting its will over former Soviet states, leaning on them to join an economic treaty to rival the European Union. That’s not exciting at all! When we lower the bar to reach people who probably wonder what a little brawl in Atlanta has to do with the Ukraine, you’re not doing anyone any favors. You’re just trivializing a pretty serious topic that is going by mostly unnoticed by the major press.

Oh and then there is my personal favorite, the “All We Want For Christmas Is A Twinkie Machine” (yes that is real), style headline. Who is “We”? Am I included in that or are you speaking for the entire Huffington Post organization. Does respectable journalist Howard Fineman want a Twinkie Machine too?

Just to totally drive this into the ground, here are the top 20 from a list of top 50 worst Huffington Post headlines from earlier this year:

1.  Khloe Kardashian: My Vagina Smells Like Roses
2.  PHOTOS: When a Good Dress goes VERY Sexy
3.  What Women Should Never Say to Guys During Super Bowl
4.  This Supermodel STILL Looks Amazing
5.  NSFW: Former Beauty Queen Flashes Her Headlights
6.  Wardrobe Malfunctions
7.  More Wardrobe Malfunctions
8.  Miley’s Midriff
9.   Rachel’s Tiny Shorts
10.  Juliane’s Risky Dress
11.  Jessica’s Skin Tight Dress
12.  J-Law Goes Low Cut
13.  Keira Talks Knickers
14.  Denise’s Skinny Pics
15.  PHOTOS: Mischa Barton Leaves Her Bra At Home
16.  Miley Shows Too Much Skin
17.  Miranda’s Lingerie Photoshoot
18.  Kerry Without Make-up
19.  Stars Who Showed Too Much
20.  Jennifer’s Jumpsuit

Freelance isnt free

Freelance isnt free

I could go on and on but you get the point. Or should I say, WE get the point.

It’s sad because I remember when HuffPost was just politics. I don’t mind a little celebrity news or comedy or LGBT whatever, it should just be held to standards. It should be told from a specific point of view, the way magazines try to be. Not a mish-mash of celebrity wardrobe malfunctions, iPhone tech gossip, links to articles from Cracked.com and what porn stars look like without makeup next to serious news about the Newtown Tragedy, a call to action from Robert Reich to be more engaged in the process and the multitude of very important news stories that are being drowned out by all that crap listed above. Democracy depends on a well informed citizenry. The job of informing them is the so-called, 4th Estate, the media.

Standards are collapsing in the Internet Age. Arianna, once spoke so highly of her organization as she lambasted the major media. She once wanted people to fight to make the system more fair. Today she is the CEO of a company that sold for over $300 million who was sued over labor disputes with her writers (who work for “the experience” meaning peanuts) and won, screwing them over. I hear the lady who argued once about the decline of the major media and how they are the gate-keepers of important stories. Today, I wish I could ask her, have you even looked at your site lately? My guess is NO.

  • likeIsaid

    This article is absolutely spot on. Given the dearth of sites covering the exodus of longstanding members of the HP commenting community I’m surprised that nobody else has written anything here already.

    The observation that many of the sensational headlines are not justified by the story that follows them is accurate in my experience.

    Ironically HP is currently highlighting a story about how Twitter has had to climb down on a change of policy following a user backlash. HP would do well to follow suit. On the internet, very popular sites can find themselves deserted in the blink of an eye, and those who are running this one should not kid themselves that it will not happen to them too.

    • Richard M

      Too late. They are like Apollo 13. They have passed the point of no return. Now all they can do is keep on in the direction they’re going, and hope for a miracle.

      Well, not exactly like Apollo 13. Most people were hoping the astronauts would get their miracle. Huff, on the other hand, is now about as popular as toenail fungus.

  • Trilby16

    Perfect. You hit the nail on its bleached-blond head.

    • takawalk

      Agreed.

  • Robin S Summertown

    Finally, all of it in one place.

  • dvncmdy

    Beautiful! I love it!

  • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

    Well done.

  • geesepeace

    I naively went to HP a couple of years ago when our local papers went to paid content and commenting (which I have since found I can get around with a bit of persistence) and at that time I thought HP was a legit news site. It wasn’t long before I started wondering what was going on there; I was not impressed with their writing…….then I saw the phrase ‘news aggregate’ and that began to explain a lot. I actually deleted my HP account a number of times and kept going back, until December 10th. I won’t be back after this. I was on FB and was outraged that HP not only wanted my information, they wanted all my friends information…access to my friends list and access to my newsfeed. Then I knew they were just filthy money grubbing data mining snoops. My friends did not sign up for HP.

    Since leaving HP I have clearly seen how they played their regular users, trying to drum up dissent and clicks with sensational headlines, ridiculous blogs like ‘what happened when I had sex 365 days a year’, and on and on. HP is simply a very deceitful manipulative rag I have lost all respect for. They deserve to go down in flames.

  • Gin1234

    Did I write this article? It sounds exactly like my experience there.

  • rg9rts

    How about some numbers I love to wallow in those things

  • Leslie (eserafina42)

    Amen and hallelujah! My feelings exactly, especially about the celebrity gossip and dishonest headlines.

    I had been on the site since 2006 and made over 10,000 comments, and I DO have a Facebook account, but I am NOT going to link the two, nor am I going to give FB or anyone else my cell phone #, which is just for emergencies. (Something like two people in the world have it.)

    Surprisingly, I don’t miss it in the least, except for one of the guys who blogged about books. I hope he’ll find a new home where I’ll feel welcome visiting him AND will be able to comment.

    • takawalk

      This one article is a good reason to book mark this site and return

  • Jasmine starlight

    That KarDISHian vagina story, jumping the shark again.
    To add insult to injury, then the dreaded carousels were added, so you couldn’t really discuss how her vagina smells like roses. ( I know no one was anyway) Who’s running that Place over there, they sound so desperate for money. I can’t wait to read the headlines they shot themselves in the foot, HP loses 95% of their followers–advertisers drop them :)

    • takawalk

      All the ex huff folks at Epoch Times should come read this.

      • Jasmine starlight

        The best story to date IMHO.
        She really encapsulated HP and their sneaky ways.
        Hey I didn’t realize how many rooms there around here, the music chat room- a lively room and other stuff…I’ll have to investigate more someday.
        Have a lovely night Talkaway :)♥♥♫ ★•

        • takawalk

          You too Jas.

      • Jasmine starlight

        Hiya Tak….I loved it, I applaud her :)

      • Robin Cohen

        Excellent article. Thanks for the heads up. Have a great weekend!

  • Classical_Gas

    Excellent article, SoapBlox! AOL and Arianna have “Bained” the HuffyPoo, and I don’t see them crawling back out of this hole they’ve dug.

    I created my account there in Jan. 2010 – late by your standards – and have watched as it sank into tabloid H3ll. The demand to register through Farcebook, and provide them a mobile number, was the last straw. The outrageous moderation and horrid “carousel” format had me on the edge, as it was.

    The most laughable part of this is that they want to expand into countries where FB is banned.

    Adios, HuffyPoo – rearrange those deck chairs, make sure to highlight the smut. It’s been real, but it hasn’t been fun for a long time.

  • Richard M

    I never was bothered by the fluff stories. Like any news aggregator they had separate sections and I mostly visited sections with “Real” news. True, the headlines were often misleading click-bait, but that’s hardly exclusive to Huff.

    Having well reasoned , researched, multi-paragraph posts tossed in the rubbish bin by “mods” who were little more than mouth breathing cretins was certainly irritating.But even that was something I learned to live with.

    Instead, it was the blatant, money grubbing theft and sale of our personal data which was the deal breaker.

  • Unlisted2u

    I think +1 sums this up purt well..
    Oops, sorry — meant to add bazillion following the 1.. ;o)

  • abxnomore

    Thank you for writing such an excellent article. You really summed up all of the major points relating to Huff Post. The day they closed me out with their new Facebook policy I canceled my account and I knew they had done me a big favor. I had be wasting my time on a tabloid rag site, only because of habit not because intellectually I was still getting anything out of participating on that site. I wonder how long it will take writers such as Fineman and Reich to bail. How could they continue to be associated with such a rag any longer, particularly one that gave it’s members the royal shaft.

  • Canukistani

    Thank you for this clear and very accurate picture of what happened. I was online on the 10th and had just read the “Turning the Page” article that announced the policy change. I wanted to comment but was abruptly informed that I had to comply with their policy in order to protest their policy. Not likely. I headed for the door and I have no plans to return even if they decide they’ve made a mistake and offer an apology of any sort. The callous way they treated the long-time members who built that community ensures that.

    The floundering around they’ve done when asked to provide any sort of reasonable explanation makes it clear that this was done with no consideration for their members at all. I can’t imagine who would trust anything they say at this point.

    They may succeed in building something from the mess they’ve made, but it’s pretty clear that it won’t attract the dedicated and insightful membership that they’ve thrown away so casually any time soon. And that’s exactly as it should be.

    • http://soapblox.com/ SoapBloxDotCom

      Amen!

  • geezer 56

    Great article! You managed to cover several of my pet peeves about HP very adroitly. I would only add that HP’s new policy has stifled the voices of many thoughtful, articulate commenters who have good reasons to remain anonymous and have legitimate concerns about having their real name forever linked to every comment they’ve ever made.

  • malta123

    What a great article, is there an equivalent for the Congressional Medal Of Honor in journalism?

  • fumes

    nailed it! arianna who? what a sellout.

  • Shawn Abele

    Excellent article. Excellent. I quit the Huffington Post a month ago and I don’t miss it at all. When is it *not* a bad move for a company to turn on its customers?

  • AugustineThomas

    GOOD RIDDANCE HUFFPO! SEE YOU IN HELL!

  • John Carlson

    I left HP about a year ago. Not so much about Content but the way they implemented there new comment format and the moderators prejudicial and aggressive censorship as mentioned above. And now you have to link to your Facebook account? I don’t have and probably never will have a Facebook account. But recently I have noticed the switch to gossip /Tabloid news. Ariana I have ZERO respect for you, you’re just another hypocrite who became famous had an offer and sold not just her soul but all the fans and followers Huff had earned reporting real news. I look at the # of comments on a news article now and its a joke compared to a few years ago. They just want sterile good little mindless robots to comment now. And selling to AOL? I would guess that was their goal from the start. They’re a despicable company and a lot of HP readers were appalled to learn that was who Ariana sold to.

  • abxnomore

    The site is a tabloid piece of garbage. They cooked their own goose and destroyed a savvy and vibrant community when they stated their dictatorial practices and then demanded that everyone join Facebook. The site is practically dead now and the only ones who post appear to be almost brain dead. Sorry to say but you got what you deserved Arianna–too greedy weren’t you?