Why Traditional Comment Sections Won't Work in 2018
Media companies and publishers used to revere the comments sections of their articles. From 2013 to 2016, several well-known properties, including NPR and Popular Science, did away with their comments sections. Their reasons for removing them were plentiful and valid. However, smaller publications rely on comments to foster interaction and engagement, and that engagement leads to more readers and more revenue.
If you still value your comment sections but don't have time to wade through all of the negativity and vitriol, discover some solutions to this problem as you continue to mine your resources for extra revenue streams. As the new year of 2018 approaches, this is a great time to give your comments section a thorough cleaning on the road to revitalizing this resource.
The number one reason media companies began removing their comments sections was due to hateful attacks. Above the Law noted that comments on its legal articles started as a very good way to get more information and have relevant discussions. Comments eventually turned ugly when people started calling authors derogatory names and even hurling racial slurs at them. This happened at other media properties as well. Internet trolls became more prevalent and turned the comments section into an abyss of negativity wherein people just slammed the author, slammed each other and nothing good ever came of them. Companies couldn't spend valuable time or resources moderating the comments because that would reduce profits.
Comments, and people who leave comments, are still a valuable resource. The Guardian analyzed 70 million comments made from January 1999 to March 2016. The newspaper found nearly 12,000 users, and a vast majority of the blocked comments came from violations of the publication's standards. Other comments disappeared because they were spam. People were allowed to comment on articles for up to three days after publication before The Guardian shut off the pipeline for comments. Luckily, there are some tools you can tap into that can both preserve your stream of comments while gaining valuable feedback.
Management software comes into play here. You can outsource your comments to a company that specializes in such coding and programming. You can even hire microtask workers to flag comments for violating your terms of service. While this does cost money to outsource your comments section, it's probably less expensive than doing it yourself.
As chat bots and artificial intelligence algorithms become more sophisticated, consider researching relevant technological solutions to add to your your website's arsenal. As more companies saturate the market, prices for these services come down as competition heats up. This method works if you rely on comments to gain more followers and increase your advertising revenue.
Facebook and Twitter are goldmines when it comes to comments sections. Many media properties allow people to leave comments, so long as they log in with their social media accounts. This does several things. First, it gives you access to people's social media accounts for when you want to target them with advertising or posts.
Facebook in particular has a robust analytical suite that lets you mine information from followers. Social media offers a great way to moderate comments because each service has its own set of community standards. Multiple violations would kick users from a social media platform, not just your comments section. There's an extra layer of security found in social networks.
Incentivize your comments section or change things up a bit. This doesn't mean have paid comments, but there are many platforms that offer simple rewards for leaving good comments. People who post can earn emoticons, virtual points or ranks as they continue to post. Have a voting platform, similar to Reddit, that elevates the best comments and suppresses the bad ones. Use a computer program to eliminate the bad comments. Give special rewards, again, perhaps special images and ranks, for people voted to the top. Throw in a question or two among the comments yourself to keep the conversation on track. If the story evolves after you write it, ask your readers a question and have them respond.
The death of the comments section is greatly exaggerated. Rather than kill your comments section, have it evolve. There are plenty of tools that help moderate and civilize your comments. Until you decide on a permanent solution, take some time to analyze your particular situation to come up with a solution. Whether you use software, utilize social media or just change the way you work with comments, a little bit of legwork now can go a long way to help you keep up with trends in commenting going into 2018.
Marketing Director at SquareOffs #OnwardandUpward