Is the New York Times about to hide user comments by default?

A glimpse of a new design from the New York Times hints at a subtle but significant shift in focus.

Something immediately struck me about the prototype of the new New York Times “article experience” that has been announced today — the positioning of comments.

The promo page promises “Quick access to comments and sharing. Comments are next to the article so you can read them in context.” At first glance it might look like user comments may have escaped the ghetto of “below the line”, to be displayed in parallel with the article they are discussing.

Comments in the new NYT design

This view implies comments have been elevated in status.

But look again, and it appears that the New York Times may be about to hide user comments from view by default, a definite shift from existing article behaviour.

Hidden view of comments on the NYT

This view, however, implies that the user has to act to reveal the comments.

It will be very interesting to observe if that is the case — and the impact it may have on participation rates. Seeing comments they agree or disagree with may prompt other users to comment. If no comments are displayed by default, will users be as eager to engage?

Existing NYT comments design

The existing article design exposes a couple of user comments.

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