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New York Times Cuts Reader Chat: ‘5,000 Characters Isn’t a Comment, That’s an Article’

Now you can only use 2,000 characters max, not 5,000

You can still comment on New York Times articles — just be more succinct about it.

With only a cryptic explanation, the paper announced Monday on its homepage that it would be cutting the character limit on its comments by 60 percent, from 5,000 to 2,000:

A Note to Readers
Starting today, the character limit on comments will be reduced from 5,000 to 2,000 characters. The shorter length will allow for an improved experience for commenters and readers alike. As always, we encourage you to share your opinions and reactions.

What gives?

To find out the basis behind the decision, TheWrap got in touch with Aron Pilhofer, New York Times' editor of interactive news. He explained, "We've had one of the highest character limits known to humanity for a long time. We've gotten feedback from readers and frequent commenters, as well as internally, that our character limit is too high, that maybe we should force people to be a little more succinct.

"5,000 [characters] is a lot," he added. "That's not a comment, that's an article."

Pilhofer, whose department is tasked primarily with comment moderation, admitted that longer comments create a workload issue. "5,000-character comments is a big piece of work for our moderation desk, which has to read each one of them carefully," he said. "It takes a long time to do."

The "improved experience" the Times promises will apply to anyone who has read a long comment on the site and said, "Give it a rest, Hemingway." But it remains to be seen whether the relatively small percentage of prosaic commenters will find their experience improved by the new limitation.

Then again, we did find one lengthy comment posted Monday that ran over the allotted 2,000 characters, even though Pilhofer said the limit should be rigid.

"You may have just found a bug," he said.