The top 5 reasons people don’t participate in a news brand’s comments section, and how to change their minds

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Building an active user community goes far beyond adding a comments section to your site. If you want your audience to participate in the conversation, you need a strategy to attract and nurture unregistered users.

Part of that strategy involves enticing users to engage with interactive, personalized content and recommendations, and the other involves lowering the barriers to entry and making your community more accessible to your audience. 

Below we’re going to look at the top 5 reasons people don’t participate in communities around news brands, and what tools you can use to create a civil and thriving community.

1. They don’t want to be the first to comment

If you’re trying to establish a new user community, your comments section won’t have many, if any, commenters. At the same time, your users might be hesitant to be the first to comment on a post. 

You can address this challenge quite easily by encouraging authors to pin comments inviting users to participate in the conversation in the comments section. 

For instance, an author can post the first comment on an article requesting open and honest feedback and pin it to the top. This approach sets the tone and welcomes users to leave their opinions.

2. They’re put off by toxic comments

Toxicity is one of the main reasons why some people don’t take part in online communities. No one enjoys being abused or harassed, and without proactive moderation, even a civil conversation can devolve into chaos. 

The prevalence of online toxicity, particularly on social media, was highlighted just a few months ago when CBC announced that it was closing Facebook comments on news posts due to “an inordinate amount of hate, abuse, misogyny and threats.” 

Using a community engagement tool with AI-driven moderation capabilities is critical for automatically taking down negative comments and creating a safe space for users to post and engage in civil discussions free of harassment and abuse.

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3. Your content isn’t relevant or engaging

In many cases, users don’t interact with content because they find it dull or uninteresting. If your audience doesn’t find an article compelling or relevant to their interests, they’re unlikely to engage with it and comment. 

The only way to address this is to provide more relevant content and personalized recommendations. You can do this by prompting users to subscribe and gathering first-party data to segment your audience into cohorts with similar interests. You can then use this data to recommend content that’s more likely to engage them.

For instance, if a user is interested in cryptocurrency news on Bitcoin and Ethereum, a community engagement platform can understand these interests and notify them whenever a writer releases a new article on a relevant topic or if a commenter they follow comments on the article.

4. They don’t have a reason to comment

Sometimes even if a piece of content is interesting, users won’t participate in the comments section or the community surrounding it because there’s no incentive or reason to leave a comment. 

Using interactive content like live blogs, Q&As, and Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions can help you provide the audience with a reason to comment by granting them an opportunity to engage with gated individuals like journalists, subject matter experts, and other well-known figures to increase not just registrations, but also time-on-page. 

The Independent used live content to great success during the pandemic by doing a live Q&A with a travel expert on the UK’s COVID-related restrictions. Likewise, MPR used a live blog to offer real-time coverage of the Kimberly Potter trial, with a comments section for users.

5. They don’t know you have a user community

Users won’t join a community if they don’t know it exists. While adding a comments section is a crucial step in creating a user community, your audience isn’t going to use it if they don’t know it’s there.

Announcing the launch of your user community on your site with a blog is essential for making your audience aware that they have a chance to communicate with other individuals. 

Many media organizations have used this strategy to kick-start their user community growth. For example, Xtra Magazine announced the launch of the Xtra Community through a blog post, as did, which released an announcement to promote the launch of a new commenting platform.

Make your comments section safe and relevant

To encourage users to participate in your community, the most important thing is to make sure that you’re offering your audience the opportunity to consume and engage with relevant content in a safe environment.

Using a community engagement tool with moderation capabilities gives you the best of both worlds. You can gather first-party data on users’ preferences to inform future content creation, while also using AI moderation to automatically remove abusive comments and create a safe space.

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