How Tribune Papers Plan to Profit Off Reader Comments

New software charges users for prominent comment placement

News organizations, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, could start charging readers who wish to leave comments on articles and columns.

San Diego entrepreneur Michael Robertson, who once founded MP3.com, is turning his attention to SolidOpinion.com, according to Bloomberg. Robertson reportedly feels that the hope of a new revenue stream will persuade a struggling industry to examine the value of comments made by readers.

“If we can turn this into a revenue producer, then all of a sudden publishers will want it; they can invest time in it; and we can improve comments,” Robertson told Bloomberg.

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s website is already trying out the software that could eventually lead to similar experiments at other Tribune-owned papers, such as the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

Readers earn points, which can be used for prominent comment placement. Frequently visiting a site, frequent commenting and spending actual money are ways to “earn” points. The newspaper sells 800 points for $10 and charges at least 15 points for a promoted comment.

The Union-Tribune told Bloomberg its primary interest in the service is to “stamp out troll-ism.”