Now that reader revenue is a priority for media organizations, online conversation tools have become critical for growing relationships between digital visitors and brands. 

Discussion-based website tools can thoroughly engage readers, building up reader loyalty and amplifying their willingness to pay for a subscription. Yet, the importance of commenting tools goes beyond visitor engagement — they also offer insight into the state of an online community.

“We [as a media industry realized] we needed to understand the niche of our community to serve them in the way they wanted to be served,” states Anita Zielina, the director of strategic initiatives at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. 

And what better way to learn about your community than from your members’ words and interactions? 

To help you make the most of your commenting tools, we’ve broken down different types of information you can unravel from your community’s conversations:

Important Questions That Need to Be Answered

Your comment section is a precious space for community members to socialize with others and discuss your content. As a result, you can expect to find questions that visitors have posted right on your digital properties in hopes of finding an answer from your staff or a fellow community member.

Questions found within comment sections are highly useful and actionable. Not only can they directly inform media companies when content needs to be clarified, but they can also highlight precisely what answers your community members want you to create content around. 

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One publisher, Santa Cruz Local, has even earned support from the public by answering questions its community puts forward about local issues.

Dig deep into your readers’ feedback, comments and interactions to determine what’s on their minds,” reads an article on What’s New In Publishing. “This will help you publish the stories that answer to your audience’s needs.”

By taking a few moments to sift through your community’s comments, you may find that your audience is itching to help you identify gaps in your content coverage.

Topics That Audience Members Are Interested In

Media organizations can also detect what topics visitors are fascinated by through their commenting tools. 

More specifically, the ebb and flow of interest in different topics is often mirrored by the number of recent comments posted. Companies can pay attention to which content pieces have trending conversations centered around them to find the topics that resonate most with their active communities.

In other cases, users will explicitly post about what topics and events they’re curious about. 

Some companies may even wish to use their comment section to ask community members about their interests. 

In fact, an analysis of 20 sustainable news media companies found a significant commonality between the successful organizations. 

James Breiner, an expert on digital journalism and newsroom leadership, explains that “[all 20 of the companies] use two-way communication or interactivity with the public to get story suggestions and news tips, and to do collective investigations.”

Ultimately, each of the sustainable media organizations communicated with their communities to fuel their editorial strategies.

Know Whether or Not Your Trolls Are Under Control

According to a study conducted by the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas, offensive comments, no matter how many civil posts precede them, can distort how a visitor views a news website. 

Commenting tools are essential for media companies to engage and nurture their audiences, though. This means that media companies must turn to an effective comment moderation solution to handle trolls as quickly as possible to keep their social spaces safe. 

Not sure if your moderation system is doing a good enough job of keeping trolling behavior in check? 

If you look at your comments and notice that good comments are being attacked or overwhelmed by negative comments, your community’s health is being threatened by trolls. After all, a single troll can drown out the majority of positive comments on a page. 

Keep your digital properties protected by ensuring that your moderation system is able to understand and block all forms of incivility specific to your community guidelines, region and language. 

Engaging your audience through social tools will help you form a connected, loyal community. However, there are several other advantages that come with hosting comments on your website or app as well. 

Tap into your community’s words and interactions within their comments to determine how you can improve the online experience around your organization.

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