Encouraging readers to post online comments allows news media to connect with audiences, but the comments are too often uncivil, hateful, obscene or downright insulting. Moderating online conversations is an enormous task for news media. A new guide can help.
“Online comment moderation: emerging best practices” – researched and produced by the World Editors Forum with support from the Open Society Foundations – is a guide to promoting robust and civil online conversation.
The report, released on Wednesday during the World Publishing Expo in Berlin, Germany, is based on a survey of 104 news organisations from 63 countries, plus a selection of experts from corporate and academic worlds. It examines key trends, opportunities and best practices.
“The news organisations we spoke to could be broadly divided into two camps: those who embrace comments from users, and those who essentially see them as a necessary evil,” said Cherilyn Ireton, Executive Director of the World Editors Forum, the global organisation for chief editors and other senior newsroom personnel within the World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).
“Very few organisations – only seven in our sample – didn’t allow comments at all, but nearly all had resource issues,” she said. “Online comment moderation is a costly and time-consuming task. Yet many organisations see the practice as an essential element in fostering a real community around their publication. Comments can increase reader engagement, both in terms of time spent on site, and in terms of loyalty.”
The report, available free of charge, can be downloaded from the WAN-IFRA website at http://wan-ifra.org/online_commenting_report.