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Paid archive: how SA will kill the vitality of comments and community. FIX

kennethfine 1 year ago in Website • updated by SA Admin Amitai Richman 3 months ago 67

After thinking on this a few days, I've concluded SA is making a massive mistake with its paid article archive. Please backtrack before you totally wreck what's good about SA. A few issues:


  1. The best feature of SA is ongoing reader comments on its articles, as company news changes  and a thesis is proven or disproven. You're basically killing the vitality of that. Once people get out of the habit of making informed comment on articles they can read and continue to read, they will not go back.  
  2. Seventy five dollars a month is too much. Thirty dollars a month is too much. I say that as someone who subscribes to three SA Marketplace services, and I've paid as much as $300 a month for single SA Marketplace services in the past. I might pay a token $10 or $20 a year for archive access, because without a vital comment stream.... 
  3. ... the SA archive really isn't that valuable at all. It's mostly old news and old speculation that goes on to be proven or disproven in time. The truly astute or comprehensive article is quite rare, probably less than 1% of articles would be publishable in traditional sources. I certainly wouldn't rely on the SA archive to reliably give me a "deep dive into less-followed companies" or other marketingspeak. That's frankly wishful. 
  4. What was previously good about SA was that almost ANYONE could write and publish quickly. Previously you had choruses of voices weighing in on a stock, some professional, some amateur, some astute, some not-so-astute: many points of view. Readers could read everyone's take and reach their own conclusions. Now there is no ability to compare and no competing voices  from the archive.
  5. As a marketplace subscriber to three services, I am frankly ticked off that you would abruptly lock me out of the archive, as well as hiding the articles I've taken the time to comment thoughtfully about. I've supported SA for a long time, and your thanks to me for this support is to ambush me with a change that breaks SA's entire model. 
  6. As a consumer I do not like it when companies break trust with their longtime customers. Not long ago Evernote pulled a similar stunt: massively jacking up subscription prices and breaking the longstanding paradigm of "Your data on your devices."  I had used Evernote for seven years and was a subscriber and fan. In one afternoon I pulled all of my data out of Evernote and put it into Microsoft OneNote; I haven't been back since. Users lost often don't come back once they lose patience. Your format and your platform is replicable. 
  7. In addition to reversing this ill-conceived policy, SA leadership should consider meeting to craft a small-scale "SA Commmunity Bill of Rights" to help guide future policy, and give angry and future members of the community of what you generally will and will not do. The businessfolk in you probably bristle at the idea of handing any sense of control to the rabble -- after all, this is your property to monetize -- but "community" cuts two ways. If you want it, you can't just dictate to it, you have to appreciate it and grow it. Places like Facebook have little sayings and mini lists of users rights: one of Facebook's taglines is: "it's free and it always will be". If you're going to ask people to make a commitment of time to your community, you need to give a better sense of what they're buying into. 
  8. Finally, if an issue driving this change is mobile ad revenue, or ad revenue generally, it may be partly because your mobile application(s) need a lot of help. They do only a subset of what the website can do, including frankly basic things like offering an integrated SA Marketplace chat. One user in one of our groups reports there is a separate "SA Chat" app, but he also reports that it was eating 10 gigabytes of cache data. Android users can enable "Desktop Mode" to get some functionality of the SA website back on their phones, but I have not found a way to persist this setting as I navigate between pages and articles: I'm continually led back to the lame mobile app. Many kids these days just don't use desktop or notebook computers that much, and an online property that doesn't do mobile is disadvantaged. 
+21

Kenneth, this is an exceptionally lucid post. Agree 100%. I wonder if SA management really understands that this change puts the entire platform at risk.


"Your format and your platform is replicable"

+10

It's funny and ironic that a website that frequently discusses the importance of a) a business' moat and b) upfront and honest disclosures has suddenly forgotten the importance of both

+16

Thanks Marc. Hopefully SA does the right thing and reconsiders this. The first effect of this change will be a massive drop in the number of quality comments on SA, followed by a gradual loss of interest and engagement by the user community. Once upon a time, The Motley Fool at fool.com had a really vital discussion community: that's mostly gone.  I don't want to see that process repeated here.   


There is nothing extraordinary about SA's web application platform in terms of its technology. A small team or consultancy at Microsoft could replicate all of SA technologywise and improve on it in a week or less. The chat rooms, the access-controlled posts and areas, the WYSIWIG online editing, the tracking, the metrics, the paywalls, the portfolios, the search (such as it is), the user identity system that tracks and persists occasional anonymous users into permanently-tracked accounts, the association of arbitrary data with anonymous and registered user accounts,  the flexible relational data store,  the transactional replication of cloud-based database entries and files to a locally-controlled server and database server, the 24/7 massively redundant hosting in the cloud.  One week.  


The really interesting thing SA has going for itself isn't technology, it's a community of engaged writers, readers, commenters. Build community please. 

I was thinking the same thing....creating a site like this is not rocket science. Someone will create another community and bring in those that have left this one.  Its all about the community, not the articles.  If you lose 90% of the community, then you have lost everything, and your competitors will pick up the slack.

+8

Keeneth:  It would indeed be a tragedy if small investors lost yet another forum to openly debate specific stocks.  Charging $75/month will destroy this community.  Thank you for your well reasoned and rationale comment.  Frankly, SA should hire you as a consultant!

+6

I agree that this feels like a major ambush against long time faithful SA users.  I certainly will never pay $75 or even $30/month to gain access to old articles.  If the cost were $10 or $20/year, I might consider it.  This will lead to multiple "following" or "tracking" comments posted so that users can retain access to the comment thread of articles they might have an interest in.  The overall quality of comments is going to drop.

+2

SA's silence to all this feedback is very telling

-4

It's not. We're reading and considering all the feedback, and also looking carefully at the data -- the number of sign ups for PRO and any changes to usage on the site.

+2

In addition to "the data," "the number of sign ups", and other metrics that speak to the health of the numbers side of the business, you might want to solicit some outside perspectives on "good business," what's perceived as corporate "integrity," effective and ineffective ways to build online community,  and what behaviors seem consistent and inconsistent with quality corporate governance. (Admittedly, I am making the assumption that you continue to have some interest in the money-making potential of a community of writers and readers).   A disinterested consultant might be a very useful expenditure at this point. The way you guys and gals rolled this one out is really quite surprising.

+2

David, the most important data will not be received in the time you are expecting it. You will think the drop in traffic, comments, new reads, will be initially offset by the revenue generated but the hard hit will come later as your base will slowly leave as the site deteriorates. Quality comments will be lost from your base, the ones that have built your site, do not be foolish thinking this site cannot be replicated technologically very easily. Authors will leave as their audience dwindles. All the points as to why this will not work are listed above, I just think this is the way it will play out and I hope you revert back to old articles being free.


As the name suggests I am not a professional investor and cannot afford $900 a year to research my small portfolio. You will lose me as the site deteriorates unless you keep this amazing site the way it was. We were all very happy about this site and praised it endlessly for its unique community. For the site to be operational you may have to generate some more earnings, we realize how business works, but to pay $900 a year to read old articles is ridiculous.


Lastly I'll compare you to my largest holding (which I read articles on here about), QCOM  (SA). QCOM is in a battle with its largest customer Apple (readers on your site).  As a result qcom's share price has been depressed and hostile AVGO (the new SA) is now trying to takeover a weakened qcom.  I'm not a fortune teller and cannot tell you if picking a fight with your largest customer is a good idea or not, only time will tell.

+6

If you guys have decided to change your focus to Professionals, Investment companies etc. away from the individual investor - you should make a declaration to that effect.  Do you realize that a full on subscription (many pay less as they have discounts galore) to the Wall Street Journal is $28.99 a month???

and SA is $75 a month?  Really????

+2

This policy is going to kill SeekingAlpha in Google results. Why click on any SeekingAlpha link if you're likely to hit the paywall?


Of course, that might not be a problem if enough $900/year subscriptions are sold. SeekingAlpha has gone behind a paywall, farewell and good luck.

+6

Great note.  I am seeking alternatives to seeking Alpha.  i think this is not a good move to look out articles after a few days.  
i was looking to subscribe to another service on seeking Alpha but have to now have to reconsider.  


Hey seeking Alpha, how about a compromise.  if you subscribe to a paid service on seeking alpha then you have access to public articles and comments.  

totally agree. $75/month sounds greedy to say the least, going from free just a short while ago. Wasn't the whole point of this website that it's for main street and not wall street? Time to look for an alternative if this is the way it's going to be

+3

I just want to thank everyone for your feedback. Eli and I decided to listen instead of responding immediately. Some clear messages have come through. I hope to update you soon with the next steps we're planning to take.

+3

Since someone in SA appears to actually be listening to this feedback, here's a couple of other points that I posted yesterday to the chat room in Richard Lejeune's "Panick High Yield Report." The item about pump-and-dump defense is particularly important.


  • The SA archive served as a defense against stock promoters and pump-and-dump-ists: a reader could compare how a new article's contentions squared with older articles. Astute readers could also note the pattern of an author who wrote repeatedly and with excessive praise about a particular company. That ability to compare is gone now, and newer investors will be more easily fleeced.

  •  The value of the SA archive isn't so much as a means of doing "deep dives on underfollowed companies" so much as an essential bullshit check on a platform that basically allows anyone to write about anything.



I believe it's exactly that value for research that SA wants to monetize. Ingenious, given that much of the SA archive is mulch.

Since there are overlapping forum areas on this topic, I wanted to share an answer to a question I received in another thread:


The question, from trude017mil was: "David, I'd be curious to know if you have gotten any takers and if new paying member numbers have been above, below or about what you expected? But more important than that, I hope you guys seriously consider the many points presented here, the likely death of comments, SEO impact from reduced comments & tons of content that will no longer be indexed, likely loss of users due to pissed off member base, PPC impact from all of the above... Like I said initially, I love SA and truly do wish you well and continued success!"


My reply:


trude017mil, thank you for your question, and particularly for the kindness and civility with which it was expressed. 


My goal is to listen carefully to the feedback here and elsewhere with an open mind. So please forgive me if I don't express any opinions about the issues raised here and in other threads, and limit myself to giving you the data you requested:


1. Signups for PRO have far exceeded our expectations, and there is no sign yet that the sign up rate is slowing. At the current sign up rate, we will be able to pay our contributors more, and increasingly reward them for value rather than pageviews. Paying our contributors more should enable us to increase the quality and quantity of articles for both paying subscribers and non-subscribers who read articles in the first 10 days after publication.


2. We're not seeing a concerning reduction in the number of comments. This is because the vast majority of comments are written within the first 10 days of an article's life. Of the relatively small percentage of comments left after 10 days, many of them are written by people who already commented in the first 10 days. Our analysis of the readership and comment data was the basis for fixing the paywall at 10 days, and ensuring that people who have already commented on an article are able to view the comments and add further comments even after the article is behind the paywall. While it's obviously not optimal to comment on an article when you can no longer see it, a significant percentage of new comments on older articles discuss the stock more than the article itself. We did a gradual rollout of the paywall to check that these comment patterns didn't change due to the paywall, and so far we're seeing no change at full rollout.


3. We took a number of steps to mitigate any impact to SEO, and so far we're not seeing any signs of damage to search traffic. Our search traffic just hit an all time high, and our contributors are reaching a larger readership than ever before and will receive larger payments.


4. We haven't seen a meaningful decline in article reads, nor a spike in account cancellations. That's probably due to the fact that the paywall only impacts "primary ticker articles" after 10 days, leaving the vast majority of Seeking Alpha usage intact. Canceling an account would mean that a user would lose real time news coverage, transcripts, analysis and email alerts on their stocks, when none of those have been affected by the paywall.

This doesn't necessarily mean we've got the product and pricing right. I'd like to continue to listen to your and others' feedback with an open mind, so at this stage I'll avoid drawing conclusions from this data. But I'd welcome your and others' reactions to it. 

+1

I'll re post in the hope you'll respond to it.  It seems that your response above does indeed say the new revenue is offsetting the decline in readers.


David, the most important data will not be received in the time you are
expecting it. You will think the drop in traffic, comments, new reads,
will be initially offset by the revenue generated but the hard hit will
come later as your base will slowly leave as the site deteriorates.
Quality comments will be lost from your base, the ones that have built
your site, do not be foolish thinking this site cannot be replicated
technologically very easily. Authors will leave as their audience
dwindles. All the points as to why this will not work are listed above, I
just think this is the way it will play out and I hope you revert back
to old articles being free.


It seems you've decided to keep the model the way it is, changing the pricing as needed, and unfortunately I think the platform you initially set out to create has turned into something completely different. Stock holders (readers in this case) do not like to see a business fundamentally change the way it operates, they like consistency with as little uncertainty as possible.

Guy at Work, thank you for your reply. I've read your original post. As I said in my post above, "My goal is to listen carefully to the feedback here and elsewhere with an open mind. So please forgive me if I don't express any opinions about the issues raised here and in other threads" at this point.

Thanks for the reply, I hope for the best for this site as it has helped me endlessly!

+2

David, I believe that Eli stated that Seeking Alpha was founded to democratise equity research. Now you are making users pay to access an archive of crowd sourced equity research, as well as past earnings call transcripts. This seems to go against what I thought was the philosophy of this website. Thank you for pointing out to us that SA has not suffered as a result of this - in time I am fairly certain that this will kill SA off, however the point is that by making this move you have destroyed most of what this website stood for. 

It looks like the intention is to turn SeekingAlpha into a entirely different product, one that is for a more elite audience that is probably smaller but more profitable in membership fees. They will cull out the less-popular columnists and pay the rest more.


The customer base is the more dedicated investment DIY-ers, finance hobbyists, and maybe investment advisers not above cribbing from others' research. There will be fewer clueless commenters. A smaller contributor and reader base may also mean reduction in staffing and expense.


$900/year gets you the ability to research among the archives and the curated columnists. If you only use SA occasionally, say every quarter when you rebalance, I presume you can pay $75 for only a month's access.


Running ahead of subscriptions sales projections does not mean great numbers of sign-ups, it means SA is hitting its projected revenue target for this business plan.


It's a business, not a community.


So long, and thanks for all the CEFs.

Crabpaws, thank you for your response. Happy to clarify the issues you raised:


1. We're not looking to change Seeking Alpha into "a more elite audience that is probably smaller but more profitable in membership fees." On the contrary, growing our subscription revenue will allow us to publish more and better articles for all our users. We want a larger audience, not a "smaller reader base".


2. Seeking Alpha is not looking to "reduce staffing or expenses", and isn't in any sort of financial crisis. We probably contributed to that misperception by the wording "Please support Seeking Alpha", and our recent communication with contributors in which we said we wanted better control of our payments for articles, instead of having our content expenses determined by unpredictable traffic flows to the website. The issue is strategic: we don't want to be reliant on advertising alone, because it doesn't provide sufficient financial visibility and strength for us to keep improving our product and raising our payments to contributors, and it faces headwinds from ad blockers and Google and Facebook's dominance.


3. We don't plan to "cull out the less-popular columnists and pay the rest more." Paying for popularity is one of the consequences of an advertising-only business model. It's why other finance websites cover popular large caps, but are thin or have nothing on less popular stocks. Value in finance (the ability to beat the market) is often inversely correlated with popularity. That's why subscriptions are so important to us: when investors pay for value not populism, we can turn round and pass that value on to our contributors.


4. We care a lot about our community, not only about our business. That's why we designed a paywall to impact the minority of pageviews, because the vast majority of article reads and comments occur within 10 days of publication. I understand, though, how the $75/month price point would lead you to the opposite conclusion. At this point I won't say more about that.

I somehow missed the memo about the use changes at SA. Was there an email? I think SA better needs to spell out how and why this happened, both for marketing and PR common-sense. (I'm a journalist and do marketing as well). The link should be front and center on the site and every link. This is basic marketing and user friendliness.


  I am an avid user and apparently (I only scanned the posts above) you are now charging to see older posts? I discovered this when I went back to check comments on  some threads I wrote on and discovered the article was now blocked. I clicked on the "Pro" option to see what was involved and the price was $30 a month. There is no clear explanation what this Pro option allows one to do nor explanation about how the previous system worked and why the change is needed. This is a failure of communication that hurts SA.


IMO, putting older archives behind a pay wall makes it worthless to leave comments when you don't remember what the article said going back and can't look at it again - which is what I was trying to do. I knew I had read the article and was surprised I could not read it now. Unanswered is the question: Can I read it for a certain number of days or not at all? It is not clear. Again, SA is not doing a good job of explaining this. 


My own feeling is $30 a month is way too much and you're going to kill traffic. That is $360 a year, a lot of money for some of us.I would suggest a more forward-looking  "membership model" where EVERYONE subscribes to

use the site at a much lower cost. Much more user-friendly, and accommodative to a larger group and a system that fosters buy-in.


I might pay $5 a month to be a member to sustain the website site, and my feeling is you'll get more people to sign up and more users and the same revenue if you shoot for numbers instead of a higher price based per month.


Thanks for listening.

+2

David: the paywall will affect the community and the conversation in some ways that will not be easily measured.   


One effect will be to sharply limit or eliminate the possibility of contributions of comments by what I will call "serendipitously appearing experts". An example of this was software engineering superstar John Carmack of iD software fame (_Wolfenstein 3d_, _Doom_, _Quake_) famously dropping  by and posting highly technical discussions to Slashdot's article comments in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Carmack wasn't a usual Slashdot participant, but he did contribute meaningfully to a few conversations about programming, game development, and 3D rendering. More recently, Quora has become a Thing as very famous people drop by to directly answer questions people ask about them. The analogy on SA would be if a company executive, company scientist, investor relations person, or other industry expert happened on a conversation attached to an SA  article, and decided they might contribute usefully to it. Chances are that someone in a position of influence will probably not even see a pertinent article in the 10 day window, seeing as they have many other things competing for their attention. Chances are a company executive or leading scientist is not going to subscribe to SA at any price point: they have other more remunirative stuff to do. The only chance you have to capture their input for the good of the community is by capturing their attention and minimizing the friction required for them to post. By paywalling your content, you basically become invisible to these potential contributors.  


Another effect of paywall will be to limit discussion to what's in the present. A common thing in comments was to refer to someone else's articles or thesis elsewhere on SA. People aren't going to do that if they know that most readers won't be able to follow the link. The community will have much less of a common memory and a common vocabulary in SA. 

 

Another effect of paywall is that you are locking in a particular mode of use for both articles and the comments feature, and discarding the possibility of innovation, growth, or unexpectedly awesome new uses of these features. You state that the vast majority of article reads and comments occur within 10 days of publication ... therefore, the 10 day paywall ... therefore the vast majority of article reads and comments *will* occur within 10 days of publication. It's a self-fulfilling and self-limiting prophecy, enforced by the paywall. The behavior is locked. The problem with locking behavior in this way is that time and time again, online user communities have used intended feature sets in totally unexpected ways, and some of these ways prove to be altogether more interesting and valuable than the original design intent. Read about YouTube's early days for an excellent example of users ultimately doing more interesting things with the tool than what was intended or designed for. It is difficult to presuppose and pre-imagine all of the editorial forms that might be created in the future, and how comments and user contributions might play into those forms and formats. 


SA's taking more of a "walled garden" approach, and that is your right: it's your property. But the uncertainties about how open and available SA will be in the future will have a chilling effect on the community. I know that I'm already finding myself a lot less inclined to expend time and energy on comments that will quickly lose attachment to any useful context. Seeking Alpha sort of seems all over the map regarding what form it will take in the future, how much of that will be visible to me, and how much I'll have to pay to play. I prefer my relationships to have some consistency. 

+1

Kennethfine - I have already seen the walls in action.  I have read two articles today that referenced other articles from the recent past where they are presenting a counter point of view. Unfortunately, in both  instances,  the articles referenced happened more than 10 days in the past and would now constitute a "Deep Dive" by the new standards.  It is not difficult to see that it might take more than 10 days to gather and write a coherent counterpoint to a point of view.  I expect this will vastly limit growth of users, because even if you manage to draw in a fresh user, the user will not be able to read the original article anyway, will get frustrated, and will just move on to a more user friendly environment that is sure to pop up. 


Your "Wall" analogy is a good one.  They may try and wall in quite a few of the current users, but in doing so they will wall out all new users.  Unfortunately for Seeking Alpha, numbers will look good in the short term, but they will not know that they have bled to death until it is to late fix the problem. 

+2

kennethfine posts are dead on. Agree 100%. 


I pay $25 per month to M* for much deeper and cleaner analysis but did like the alternative format and user comments SA provided.  


However if the walled off past articles for a fee is not reversed, I will probably just subscribe to the outside services a few of the authors/analysts I most like provide such as Brad Thomas Forbes RE and stop using SA entirely.


$75 per month is not a good value.  $10/mo maybe


Way to SUCK SA!



HumbleAllocator,


I'm curious because I'm searching for new communities, what is M*?

+3

KennethFine, an excellent point I had not thought of about the wonderful serendipity of experts dropping by to make insightful comments. I often see those and highly value when a telecom engineer, say, drops in on VZ or AT&T articles, or a doctor adds his 2 cents to a discussion on medical office buildings, for example. Losing this is very counter-productive. The 10-days limit is subtle ways blows everything up.


Coming from the journalism sector, the issue of "paywalls" is fraught. With a wall you can vanish entirely from Google News and drop off the Web, as it were. Here it will weaken research and browsing the site. Again, I think a far wiser approach is a membership model, sort of like a co-op, where you join to support the community at a modest monthly fee that restores the old system; if you want more, then you go Pro.


Obviously, I don't know SA $$ numbers or member ##s and how it all sugars off but I urge SA to run those numbers and see how it works out as a membership. Let's not ruin what is a highly successful, innovative crowd-sourced investment site. And put the numbers out there for us to see. Or even offer some choices for the readership, as many organizations do when changing a "dues" or funding structure. ,

+1

I am new to this community but even to a beginners like me it doesn't take much to recognize the value of SA is ALL about the community, the comments and the discourse it generates. 


How this paywall makes any sense with SA culture?


Moreover you are locking up comments people made FOR FREE which usually are more valuable then the article itself? With which right you are doing that?


Moreover the pro monthly rate it does not make any sense to access an archive.


Really disappointed by such a change.

+2

I currently subscribe to a Marketplace service that costs $1,000 per year and provides quantitative analysis on virtually every stock worldwide. It is a great tool to find stocks that meet their criteria using a wide range of formulas, calculations, etc. However, it doesn't provide a deep dive on what each of the companies does, and realistically, how could they provide that on every stock. So it is up to me to do that after narrowing down the field.


I had been using this tool to find companies, many obscure and not widely known or covered, then reading about previous analysis done on them on SA. Since many of these are not widely covered, I will never find the article within the first 10 days. Now I no longer have access to these old articles. While the old articles may have provided outdated financial analysis, they often explained what the company did better than what you can gather from the companies own websites, who the competitors are, general information about the industry they are in, etc.


I can't justify paying another $900 per year for access to these old articles on top of what I'm already paying for the Marketplace service. I can say with certainty that at this point I will not be renewing my service next year unless something changes with the pricing structure. 


Why not have a much reduced price for those that subscribe to a Marketplace service (maybe $10/month)? This gives a benefit to those that have supported the authors previously and now and would probably incentivize some to sign up for a Marketplace service to get the reduced rate.


I regret even signing up for the service at this point. I wouldn't have done so had I known that a valuable tool that I saw as a necessary complimentary piece would be hidden behind a paywall just a couple months later. I feel duped and am upset at the utter lack of communication surrounding this whole thing.

This was my point.  I was literally about to subscribe to a different marketplace service as I ended the previous one in January.  To me,if you subscribe to a marketplace service then you should get access to the articles for longer.  Holding off on signing up.  

+2

The paywall and 10-day limit on articles very much reduce the value of SeekingAlpha to the occasional researcher who is not a subscriber, thus constricting the universe of those who might become regular readers or subscribers.


As I said elsewhere, if I'm Googling something and frequently run into a paywall at a site, such as Barron's, I just don't bother to click on it. (A Barron's subscription is less than $250/yr, they run frequent specials for a lot less, and the columnists are, arguably, more reliable.)

+1

I feel a little odd commenting here when marketing plans have already defined target segments, made projections, and analyzed competition.


The bottom line is: How does Seeking Alpha differentiate from its competition, what is the value-add that justifies a subscription that's so much more expensive? Devotion of the community will only go so far, as probably the majority cannot afford $900/year.

+6

Wow, this article sums up exactly what I was thinking.  The comments area is the most valuable commodity of Seeking Alpha. Only the free model will keep this flow of information intact.  I think Seeking Alpha has a huge Unintentional Consequence here.  Here they have people giving them free content on their site (via comments), and now want to charge them.  I love the comments, they shoot holes in the articles, and sometimes people give you better stock picks.  Really valuable.  I would not subscribe now for that reason, not just the money, but the depleted and ruined comments areas will make Seeking Alpha less valuable to me.


Its not about how much.  Any subscription model will ruin the comments area on Seeking Alpha.

+4

I have sent a request to SA subscriptions to cancel two out of the three Marketplace subscriptions that I'm currently signed up for, and have requested a pro-rated refund of my unused subscription time per the terms that were in force when I signed up for them. Being a classy and professional organization, I have no doubt that SA will issue my refund expeditiously. This cancellation is a direct response to the new paywall. As I explained in my cancellation note:  


"The two marketplace subscriptions I wish to cancel both cover smaller issues. I liked that I could try to research those stocks at the time of my signup, and the SA ecosystem supported that. It doesn’t now, and it isn’t clear what form or price point SA will take next week, next month, next year. I’ll put this money to better use with other investment services."   

+1

update: seekingalpha to its credit did cancel my subscriptions without argument and said it would issue a prorated refund to my credit card for the unused subscription time. I retain one marketplace subscription that is less dependent on the article archive. Hopefully in the future SA leadership will think carefully about how the marketplace subscriptions can be bundled somehow to the archive of articles.

+1

Same here. I requested a prorated refund of my annual subscription after just 2 months of using it. The utility of the service I subscribed to was greatly reduced after they hid old articles behind a paywall. To SA's credit, they gave me the refund without any hassle. I guess that means they aren't going to give in on this new pricing structure.

+1

This new plan will hurt people that were already subscribers, as the comments on the articles will all dry up.  Would not be surprised to see a new website created to take advantage of all the seeking alpha refugees.    I will repeat, its not just about the Paywall, but the effect it will have on the content on the site.  Less comments = less content.  They may start to lose previous subscribers like you because this, because the drying up of comments will affect them too!  Paywalls also block search engines = less traffic. 

I guess that I have been visiting SA for about 5 years and suspect that I am typical of many visitors to this site.  I have the following comments which are not fully on point.  First, there is nothing that I have ever read on these pages that I would ever pay for.  A lot of it is worthless, a lot of it is erroneous, some of it is amusing and a very small amount of it is worthwhile. most of which is contained in the commentary section.  The new "10 day rule" is annoying but would rarely affect me and I could live with it.  So I am not as upset as the above posters.   On the other hand, if SA is going to evolve into a "pay" model then I will be saying good by.

Secondly, I am surprised that no one is complaining about the web site itself.  I have been having a lot of trouble with how the SA web site shows itself on my computer.  This started about 3 months ago and has been getting progressively worse and worse.  It has gotten to the point where I have been looking for alternatives to obtain basic financial information because there are so many problems that the site is almost impossible for me to view.  My laptop is less than a year old and I use it exclusively for regular and business news; so I seriously doubt that this is a problem with my equipment.

whoever came up with this idea should be fired

The solution is simple: articles -> paywall, comments -> no paywall. This shouldn't be rocket-science.

Under review

This is indeed how it works for users who have commented. As an aside, we have not seen any significant change in our comment community statistics since we introduced this change. 

My comment from the recent FCEL article comes to mind, in which we were having a meta-discussion about SA's latest paywall policy:  


There have been some unconsciously defensive posts from some of SA leadership exploring this question of comments and comment policy. One line of argument is that they have observed that the vast majority of comments occur shortly after an article has been posted, and quickly tail off. Therefore, the thinking goes, the 10-day comment paywall policy is correct and won't overly affect the quality or quantity of user comment contributions.


The huge flaw in this line of thinking is that it presupposes the format, presentation, and patterns of use that SA comments take right now is the format, presentation, and pattern of use that SA comments will take for all time. If you think for sixty seconds about the growth and development of user communities, user interfaces, and user contributions during the last ten years, you'll probably recognize the folly of trying to predict or dictate how user-contributed content will evolve. The formats and modes of use of Facebook, for instance, are wildly different in 2018 than they were in 2008. Users will surprise you. With its paywall policy on comments, SA has locked in the pattern of use that it believes it is "correct", and it has basically halted the organic growth and evolution of this most valuable form of content on SA. I could imagine, for instance, that SA might grow in a way that the best articles' comment streams would track the success or failure of an article's thesis, becoming a semipermanent kind of "wiki" for a thesis or subject area. We were seeing some of that user behavior before the paywall hammer came down; changes to SA's presentation and UI could have facilitated that kind of growth. It won't now. SA leadership's assertions about user behavior and patterns of user commenting become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, as it enacts policies like the comment paywall that ensure that user behavior is set into a boring sort of concrete.


I'm saying this with great love for SA: these recent policies display of lack of vision and may betray a lack of experience. Riffing off of an earlier discussion elsewhere, users who express their opinions more forcefully and much more critically than SA leadership might prefer may be doing the community and the business of SA a service. Pay attention to the rocks and the tomatoes, too.


Hi,


Not only do the vast majority of comments take place in the first 10 days, but prior to this change, the vast majority of the comments which take place after 10 days were by users who already commented on the article. Those users still have full access to the comment section even after 10 days in the new paradigm as well. 


We've also observed over the years, that after 10 days most of the comments relate to the stock in general and are not specifically about the article in question.

An honest conversation about whether you've seen any significant change in community comment statistics will include a discussion of what's being measured. Is there any test of length or quality? I have noticed a lot more one-line, throwaway comments since the new paywall came down, and indeed I commented on my own tendency toward offering shorter, crappier comments since SA settled on its 10-day comment policy in the recent FCEL article 


(https://seekingalpha.com/article/4157498-fuel-cell-energy-worth-wait?v=1521837575&comments=show) : 


Getting meta here, I find myself posting more comments like the preceding one under SA's new paywall regime, in which you lose access even to the article comment stream if you don't comment within ten days. I try to provide at least a nugget of useful information in my posts, and this at least benefits investors new to an issue. More commonly I'm seeing people post things to the effect of "good article" or "I bought some hope it goes up LOL" or assorted non-sequiturs. SA leadership reports that the number of comments hasn't gone down post-paywall, but I wonder if anyone has tracked the quality of what's being posted as comments now.

A more interesting and imaginative and possibly remunerative tack would have been for Seeking Alpha to figure out a system that would reward highest-value posts and posters, either with free access or some manner of visibility and prestige. There is a universe of experts hanging out in the comments sections that aren't paywalled off yet. Under the present system they are as incentivized to post "nice article, opened a starter position" as they are to offer detailed, thoughtful analysis and insight from their domains of expertise

Daniel, 


You don't owe us any response. That said, if you were responding to my earlier message, you didn't respond to the core criticism in it, which is that your years of observation concerning patterns of use (past tense) and your highly restrictive new policy might be flawed in how it shuts down the natural evolution of growth of user communities. You've presupposed how comments will be used in the future, based on your careful and expert analysis of what's happened in the past, and you've built a paywall policy around those presuppositions. As I said earlier, "SA leadership's assertions about user behavior and patterns of user commenting become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy" as policies are built that enforce that behavior.  


A useful thought experiment is to consider how USENET communities and behaviors grew and changed from 1986-2005, or Facebook user behavior and conventions changed from 2007-2018. Interface is responsible for some part of that, but I would argue that what accounts for the biggest changes is what is generally called "culture" or "cultural evolution." 


Users will surprise you. With its paywall policy on comments, SA has locked in the pattern of use that it believes it is "correct", and it has basically halted the organic growth and evolution of this most valuable form of content on SA.

@daniel

Solution: Post useless comments within 10 days, to avoid the paywall in the comment section. This can't be your intention and your standard.


Maybe there's a difference in the statistics between a stock/theme, which is covered daily and once a year.

That's a good idea. Wish I knew I could do that. I think I'll do that from now on if they don't get rid of this pay wall. Thanks. "Just commenting so I can read the comments in the future"

The useless comment being a placeholder so you can continue to comment and read the post?  That behavior does make sense, another unintended consequence of the current policy.  My issue is the reduction in comments.  Many of the stocks that I had followed had comments weeks or months later.  I cannot currently pay for a service that would degrade these comments long term.  Cutting off the public ruins the site IMO.  The lifeblood of any bulletin board.   I would like to see Seeking Alpha set up permanent bulletin boards for each stock symbol, that is independent of the articles, and that the public can participate in without a paywall.  Another suggestion is to have an advanced search that is not keyed by only symbol or stock name.  I have tried to search terms like "contrarian", and it does not get me any results.  A general bulletin board could help here too.

stockman99, Thanks for your feedback.  I wanted to share with you that this morning we rolled out a major improvement to the StockTalk feature on symbol pages which will allow the conversation around a company or fund to continue outside of the comment stream of paywalled articles.   We plan to roll out other features such as hash tagging and user tagging which will make the "All StockTalk" page more useful.   If anyone has any feedback on features that you want to see in StockTalk, I would love to hear about it, please PM me or write a StockTalk here :-)  https://seekingalpha.com/stocktalk/all

Thanks for making the effort to ameliorate the complaints in this and related threads. Have you ever seen the discussions attached to stocks etc. on Yahoo Finance? Worthless.


Offering a platform for general comment only replicates other areas of pointless blather on the Internet. But I guess it's a stab at maintaining "community" here.

+1

Thanks, its something that probably has been needed.  Years ago when Yahoo and Silicon Investor were better, we had fantastic boards and interactions.  Hopefully you can figure out how to implement this to prevent the bad things that happen on forums.


Will you have keyword search for articles, instead of just company name or symbol?


In regards to article comments, I don't think you are going to see people invest as much time in there knowing they only have 10 days.  And if they miss the article, then they can never comment, even if they have knowledge to offer, if they are not behind the paywall.  I find the comments much more useful than the content of the articles many times.  In fact I have gotten ideas for new stocks from these comments.  There is always unintended consequences of actions, which I am sure is being noticed.


Are you not losing a lot of SEO for your articles being behind a paywall?  The link juice that comes from people linking to your articles (which cannot happen with a paywall) is a loss to your overall site.

+1

All I see is an interface with short blurbs, very similar to Twitter, and a few replies on those blurbs. Is the the major new feature you're talking about? It doesn't seem to have much at all to do with articles and article comments. Though this presentation has its strengths, I can't imagine an ongoing durable conversation centered around this sort of design. Am I looking at the wrong thing?   


The strength of a written article is that it can articulate a thesis about an company or group of companies, and a strength of comments attached to that article is that the discussion is generally guided and informed by the content of that article. I don't see any such unifying structure here. 


Is there any assurance or promise that the StockTalk discussion won't be paywalled sooner or later? Based on precedent, if it becomes useful or popular, SA may decide to monetize it by paywalling it. If you intend for it to remain free forever, SA's leadership should probably articulate that really, really clearly: many people aren't going to waste their time creating content that vanishes with the whims of policy. 

Thanks for your feedback.  Even though StockTalks has been around for a while, we have not improved the feature for quite a while, so it is still early days in terms of content and community.

Our plan is to add features to StockTalk and see how it develops and how people use it, given that it is a more open platform with no limitations on size of posts, but is controlled by our moderation team.  


While it is impossible for management to give "assurances" or "promises" around features like this,   I can tell you that we have no plans to put StockTalk behind the paywall and we would like to make it useful for our community.   We envision that it may be used to continue the discussion and share information on a stock even if there is no recent article on it.   We will also add hashtagging to allow for community driven discussion on topics of interest to you.    We have now updated the StockTalks UI on Quote, Portfolio and Author /User profile pages, as well as the "All StockTalk" page, and we are actively working on further improvements.

Just as a single data point, not conclusive of anything, in the FCEL article I linked above, about 1/3rd of comments attached to the article were two sentences or less.  (https://seekingalpha.com/article/4157498-fuel-cell-energy-worth-wait?v=1521837575&comments=show)  A number of the longer comments were junky and could/should arguably be deleted. About 1/6th of the comments in the FCEL article were discussion of SA's adventures in paywalling and comment policy. 


Numbers and metrics can often be used by the confident and/or insecure to prove whatever desired point they want to make. More interesting would be to do a carefully objective analysis of comment content: get a disinterested collection of experts to grade comment coherence, insight, and quality among a random selection of articles pre-paywall and post-paywall.  I don't pretend to know what the outcome of this study might be, but it would be interesting to read through the results whatever they are. 


+1

Sadly, I fear many of the commenters here are resisting the reality -- and SA staff is enabling their delusion.


The public beach where we all used to gather has become private. If you don't pay the membership fee, you cannot use the beach.


"Community" will continue without you, with maybe a smaller number but higher-income beachgoers enjoying the campfires.


If you want to hang around the gates, there are forums for you there at the Internet rabble level.

That sums up SeekingAlpha's commitment to community.

+1

I see that they've taken my suggestion and implemented something to force people to turn off their pop-up blockers in order to read articles, which I am completely fine with. Hopefully with the extra ad revenue they're able to revert back to letting small timers like myself read older articles to get background information on companies we could potentially want to invest in.


P.S. I read one of the non-paywalled articles a couple of weeks ago about a stock that I've been following closely, and the author didn't even present the factual information correct. You expect people to pay for opinion articles where the authors barely take the time to research a stock before giving their opinion?

This very expensive paywall has already changed my behavior Seeking Alpha ... I look at SA far less than before.


As AZNNP77 has stated, why would I pay for articles that have factually incorrect information.


Good luck with this model.

I do not know what happened to SA, but the format has changed.  Specifically, when reading an article I have to click from page to page (what happened to the one page articles), and there is no longer a comments section.  I do not like the new format at all, and wonder why the change from the way it was done for years.  This may be the wrong place to comment, but I did not know where else to go.  Sometimes the "old ways" are best.

Not sure if this is the right place to discuss this but given the price model I would love to have an intelligent rating system of your contributors.  I won't name anyone here but it's frustrating to read a barrage of comments on say a biotech stock by someone with 18 followers, two articles and no biotech experience (they're insurance salesmen essentially for a local mutual fund).  It doesn't help me as an amateur investor to have to filter through their useless noise to get intelligent information.  Then the articles and subsequent discussions become glorified Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Completed

Hi - you can track Contributor's performance by clicking on an article and checking on the top right of the screen what the author's sentiment was on the stock at the time of publication and what the stock has done since then. 

You can also click on a Contributor, then click Coverage - and you will see a list of stocks/charts the author has written about and what the stock has done since that rating/article. 

For example look at this article: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4252445-3-reasons-lyft-good-investment and see that LYFT dropped 13% since his bearish article 10 days ago. Then look at the author's coverage and see how he has been mostly correct with his articles/ratings: https://seekingalpha.com/author/niki-schranz#regular_articles

+1

As long as the creds are available, we can make our minds up on the basis of what's written and the background

of the writer.  I have no problem with that.  Investigate, then invest, right?

SA Admin Richman: This is a great asset (contributor's performance) if it exists, but I looked at the top right of the screen and there is nothing there on your example link for LYFT. Can you be a little clearer on how this works? Is this only for subscribers perhaps? I also do not see any analysis on your link that cites a review of contributors' performances.. 

Sorry I thought you were an Essential subscriber (confused with someone else on this thread). Perhaps consider a free trial (easily canceled before charged within 14 days) to see what I mean?