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Engaging News Project: What Audiences Want from Comments

In a recent survey by the Engaging News Project, over 12,000 commenters from 20 different news sites opened up about their commenting behaviour and preferences. To make the comment section work for you, we’re summarizing their key findings and showing how Viafoura stacks up.

In this report, the Engaging News Project found most commenters who read and weigh-in on news stories online want journalists and “experts” to get involved in the comments. Their preferences were fairly consistent across news sites.

On average, 81% of commenters said they’d want journalists to clarify factual questions.

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In addition, an average of 73% of respondents said they’d want “experts” on topics covered in a news article to respond to comments.

Finally, 58% said they’d want journalists to actively contribute to comment sections and 42% said they’d want journalists to highlight quality comments.

Other noteworthy findings from the Engaging News Project:

  • Although an available option on most news sites, only 62% of commenters think it’s possible to report offensive comments.
  • How often an individual engages in the comments relates to how much civility they perceive in the comment section. In other words, if the comment section is seen to be civil, individuals are more inclined to engage in it.
  • Perceptions of civility in the new comment sections vary per site. Between 14%-78% of respondents per site rate the comments as “very or somewhat civil.”
  • Fewer than half of respondents on any news site feel connected to other commenters (This ranges from 13-42%). The more comments they posted, the more connected they felt.
  • Most commenters across all sites find comment sections easy to navigate. Yet, just under half said that it is easy to sort the comments.

Clearly, there’s a desire from commenters to engage with journalists and “experts” in the comment sections and for news sites to provide a sense of community.

While engaging in the comments can often be a daunting task for journalists and there isn’t always enough time in the day to contribute to the conversation, there are tools and tactics you can leverage to facilitate reader and journalist interactions, create a loyal online community, and encourage visitors to return more frequently and spend more time on your site:

Increase Opportunities for Onsite Interactions

Viafoura provides all the tools and opportunities to create connections throughout the user journey with personalized user profiles, follow features, social sharing, real-time commenting, and notifications feeds.

Build Relationships with Commenters

Our commenting module makes it possible for users to engage in real-time with other users and journalists. Users can also sort comments by editor’s picks, by most recent or most active, or flag a comment with just one click.  And editors and journalists can set flagging thresholds by article and and promote chosen comments at the article level and site-wide with ease. You can also reward your quality contributors with trusted user badges to further incentivize quality comments.

Drive Engagement and Return Visits

Increase the value of on-site engagement with real-time commenting and notifications. With our browser-based push notifications and on-site notification feed readers are notified when they receive a real-time reply in the comment section. And with “Follow” features, users can follow other users and a journalist’s user profile to keep up with their latest articles and on-site activity.

Increase Civility in the Comment Sections

Eliminate harassment, abuse, hate speech, and spam in real-time with algorithms built on natural language processing and machine learning to uphold your community guidelines on-site and on your social channels. Manage multiple news sites with ease and uphold moderation efforts in real-time while maintaining thresholds of civility within each community.

We further support civility with enhanced community and user management features including email verification, display name and avatar moderation, user-to-user muting, and timed user banning, which results in significant increases in participation in the comments section and time-spent on-site.

It’s OK to Disagree

The dislike button provides a way for disagreement without the alert of a flag and significantly reduces actions required from the newsroom when added to the comment module. We’re seeing great results with our customers reporting a 50% reduction in flagging in as little as two weeks since their implementation.

We also empower your community to create a personalized experience with the ability to mute other users, removing the muted user from their online experience site-wide. Nothing lasts forever, so if a user changes their mind they can easily unmute users within their notification tray.

Own and Access your First-Party Data

Can you quantify the impact of engagement on user registration, attention time, and other important KPIs? With access to your first-party data and rich audience insights, you can discover new opportunities to increase audience engagement and drive on-site interactions with your content and brand at the center of it all.

With the people, process, and technology in place, you’re well on your way to building a direct relationship with your audience and growing your on-site community.

Connect with an Audience Development Strategist today to learn why 600+ media brands trust Viafoura as their partner in audience development.

Comments-Webinar

For more on creating a respectful exchange of ideas in the comments, watch our on demand webinar: More Than a Comment: How CBC Drives Real Conversations Below the Fold.