If you have a blog, you know how exciting it is to receive a comment. It confirms that someone out there is reading what you have to say and they too have a strong opinion on the topic. That’s what blogs are supposed to do—inspire people to share their opinions. But why would a traditional newspaper allow anyone to comment on news stories that appear on their website?
According to Ryan Kim, Chronicle Staff Writer, “The ability to comment on news stories at Web sites for established newspapers, such as The Chronicle, USA Today and the Washington Post, has invited a wave of input from would-be pundits, class clowns, provocateurs and regular Joes.” In his recent article, "Comments on news stories a double edged sword", Kim introduces us to two regulars who comment on SFGate articles about 16 to 28 times per day, on average.
This recent trend is a major commitment for newspapers since comments have to be monitored carefully. The more politically charged the article, the nastier the comments can get. Perhaps that’s why not all newspapers offer it. NYTimes.com, doesn’t typically allow comments on news stories. The Austin American-Statesman has had to shut down the commenting feature several times when comments got too vicious.
Then why do newspapers bother to allow online comments? The answer is simple. Enabling readers to voice their opinion so easily is the best way to energize and engage them and it helps newspapers develop even stronger relationships with their audience. Statistics prove that online comments keep readers on the site longer and boost page views by 5 to 15 percent. The commenting feature builds social communities, makes a website more relevant and current, and can generate more money through advertising.
According to Ryan Kim, “SFGate averages almost 4 million page views a month for comments. Prior to turning on comments for news stories in the summer of 2007, there were only about 30,000 page views a month for comments, mostly on staff blogs.”
Some of DCP’s clients are starting to add the commenting feature to their online magazine websites. Soon we will be able to report the direct benefits of this capability.