Does cost affect comment quality?

By Deane Barker on April 11, 2008

Can Improve Reader Comments?: The Freakonomics blog tackles a question that we’ve talked about before: does paying for something mean you’ll take better care of it? The discussion here is comments, and the comparison is MetaFilter ($5 to join) or YouTube (nothing to join).

Bertrand’s comparisons leave him wondering what drives the quality of a Web site’s comments: is it the membership fee, the age or demographics of the posters, or the level of comment moderation? (YouTube has virtually none, while MetaFilter has very little.)

Look at this little mashup that compares comments from the two sites, side-by-side. It’s remarkable. The MetaFilter comments are all intelligent, on point, and some of them are even poetic. The YouTube comments are, by-and-large, complete nonsense.

In our post linked above, we point to Josh Clark who discussed this exact point. Regarding public bikes in Paris, Josh says:

“You get what you pay for” has a corollary: “People behave according to how they pay.” By spending a little coin, a psychological shift happens. I become an owner.

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