Disqus Criticized Over Comment Ads Rollout

The website comment platform Disqus is being criticized over its rollout of comment ads and the options it’s planning to give website owners.

If there is one thing I have learned over 13 years of blogging, it’s that bloggers have extremely strong feelings about ads on their sites.

I do have an ad in the sidebar, but that’s it. Some sites refuse to allow any advertising. Others are loaded with multiple as positions all over the page. Your preference depends on what you think you can make and how much you feel the need to at least attempt to recoup some of the expenses of a self-hosted blog.

Disqus, pronounced “discuss,” a comment platform used on many blogs and professional websites, is planning to roll out a new tiered service in March, according to an announcement on the site’s blog.

Disqus offers two services: Engage, which is the comment platform itself; and Reveal, which is an ad-based service that places what appears to be related links adjacent to the comment plugin. Disqus says its Reveal program helps digital publishers make money. Anyone can sign up for Engage, but Reveal is a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” option in which Disqus invites users who meet their “eligibility requirements.” When I went to Disqus’s site to see what the eligibility requirements for “Reveal” were, I found this:

When evaluating publishers for the Reveal program we consider several factors, including content, region, and traffic. now reports a new problem: “users are reporting that the advertising has already been forced into their comments without warning.”

It’s almost the end of February, and Disqus said on January 4th that this was coming. If the ads appeared on March 1, maybe a lot of the controversy would have been prevented.

But it also appears that some of the users who’ve been surprised by the ads claim there’s no way to pay, yet, to remove them, which means Disqus may have started rolling out the new version before it was fully cooked and ready to begin taking subscriptions. That would be unfortunate.

As I said, blog owners are funny about advertising: those who dislike it tend to hate any version of it, and they particularly hate it when they aren’t the ones controlling it.

This blog began on America Online’s Journals service, which suffered several bumps on the road toward the end, the most dramatic of which was the addition of banner ads at the top of everyone’s blogs for which the blogger received no payment and no control. That was enough to push many of us who were almost fed up right out the door for good.

One commenter at WPTavern made the obvious point:

It isn’t financially viable for any business to keep offering certain services for free forever.

Certainly true.

And Disqus says that 95% of its users should have the option to turn off the ads without having to subscribe to a paid version to ditch them. But what happens when Disqus decides that 5% isn’t enough?

Not everyone can afford a fee for everything. Everyone, it seems, wants at least $10 per month for their various services. That’s not a lot of money on the face of it: but when you’re hit with service after service with its hand out, those $10 bills do add up.

If your comment system suddenly added advertising to your comment stream and you had the option to just accept them, pay $10 per month to remove them or ditch that comment system, what would you do?


  1. It’s an interesting issue of ownership and control. When you use a free service, you often give up ownership and control, which in many ways can mean you are giving up control of the user experience. Working for a web hosting company, I can always see the allure of services like or Medium, but feel that ultimately that lack of ownership and control always makes the nominal cost seem more than worth it. The irony here being that it seems you can’t even pay for that control yet 🙂

    1. True…I suspect there’d be a lot less anger in the mix if Disqus had rolled out the pay-to-ditch-ads option WITH the ads themselves.

  2. I don’t have ads on my blog because I don’t want people to think that I have any financial incentives with my posts… political yes,,but I’m not making money off of my posts.
    Also have you seen CAPTCHA are now showing short video ads with a phrase at the end that you have to enter.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.