Friday, January 25, 2008

Traditional Media Ready to Elevate the Conversation Online — with Moderation

From MediaShift - Major media sites have started to get the religion of audience participation, but there’s been one big hitch: How do you harness the audience’s knowledge and participation without the forums devolving into a messy online brawl that requires time-intensive moderation?

Over the years, traditional media sites have tried forums, killed them, and tried them again, this time with more moderation. But still, the unruly aspect of online commentary continues to upset people, as the Hartford Courant’s public editor Karen Hunter recently railed against the “uncivil discourse” on her site’s comments, blaming it on anonymous commenters and calling for a requirement that people use their real names. Then Topix CEO Chris Tolles defended anonymous contributions, comparing unregistered commenters on Topix to those that register and found that while unregistered comments are slightly more likely to violate posting guidelines, three times of all comments came from unregistered commenters.

What has changed in the last year is that major media companies are no longer arguing over whether they should have comments under stories or blogs; instead, the debate is about how they should moderate them and even highlight the best ones in eye-catching editorial spaces. Many sites are embracing the concept of “news as a conversation,” and trying to create active conversations among reporters, editors and readers online. The New York Times released a more robust commenting function recently, where readers can recommend each other’s comments, and there are “Editor’s Selections” for the best comments in a thread. And last weekend started highlighting one commenter per day on its home page, with a photo of the commenter. | Read full article

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