Comments on news articles are dead, paving the way for conversations

By Mehrad Karamlou


Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Comments have a bad reputation for a good reason.

There’s nothing worse than having a publisher’s content trashed in its own commenting section. In fact, the Trustworthy Accountability Group surveyed 1,017 people and found 80% of people would disengage with a company when its content is shown in a toxic environment. Due to the rise of toxicity and misinformation on social media, commenting platforms often take on a negative connotation.

Moderated strategically, comments can lead to meaningful conversation.
Moderated strategically, comments can lead to meaningful conversation.

Although many publishers protect themselves from toxic comments by avoiding commenting plugins altogether, there is another way — a better way — forward.

For just a moment, imagine a world where comments pose absolutely no risk to the quality of your content or reputation. Instead, comments would be the critical link between growing your readership and your revenue. Would you be shocked if we told you this is already achievable?

Sure, unmoderated or slow-to-post comments can be destructive. But if you take them out of your business model completely, you limit the opportunities for users to engage with your content. As a result, you miss out on valuable engagement, which has proven to boost subscriptions.

Data cultivated from our customers show 72% of subscribers actually do read the comment sections and spend an average of 15% of their time on site in the comments.

While some may argue comments are too expensive to manage, the reality is they’ve just been reborn into much more powerful, revenue-generating tools we call “conversations.”

Moderated, real-time conversations over comments

“For the last 20 years, comments have been broken,” says Dan Seaman, Viafoura’s product director. “But technological changes have enabled us to fix the fundamental problems with comments, allowing them to become real conversations that build vibrant and loyal communities.”

Comments run the risk of driving users away due to spam, misinformation, and harassment. Without moderation, there’s nothing stopping these toxic types of user interactions from trampling all over your content. Publishers, therefore, have been forced to purchase additional moderation services or tools, which often slows down the commenting flow.

Conversations, on the other hand, convert visitors into loyal followers. Unlike comments, conversations happen in real time within a completely protected environment. They also offer interactive features, including instant replies and notifications. That way users can participate in safe and engaging discussions around your content over and over again.

Nurture a safe community

If you saw a person trashing a piece of content in the comments below, would you want to respond or engage with the page any further? Or would you feel compelled to go elsewhere?

In the past, we’ve observed an environment with moderated conversations can earn up to 62% more likes per user on content pages than in an unmoderated environment.

Alan Miller, an editor from The Columbus Dispatch, explains why the media organisation is now turning to moderated conversations on its platform: “We want to encourage thoughtful discussion and create an environment where people feel safe to make comments without fear of being attacked.”

Ultimately, one of the key ingredients that will greatly improve your users’ interactions with one another is moderated conversation. As you engage more users on your platform, that need for moderation will also intensify.

It’s important to note that investing in manual moderation resources can become expensive as you build your community up. This is why it’s worth exploring algorithmic intelligent moderation solutions to encourage civil conversations at a fraction of the cost.

Improve engagement with conversations

Valuable engagement goes well beyond that “subscribe” pop-up on your homepage. The more opportunities you give visitors to interact with your content on your domains, the more loyal your community will be to your company.

A thorough study conducted by Deloitte concluded readers want engaging experiences and are more likely to convert if you are willing and able to offer those experiences to them.

One of the best ways to create quality engagement is by hosting conversations. After all, conversations offer up meaningful experiences and relationships to your users. These experiences and relationships built around your content is what users will want to return to your platforms for.

Fun fact: Hosting conversations on your platform can improve your user retention rate as well.

Maximise subscriptions

Before visitors will be willing to subscribe to your content, they need to be convinced your content is worth the cost as well as the effort of filling in their information. You first need to engage them, study their behaviour, and then send them a targeted paywall message once they have shown enough interest in your platform.

Real-time conversation tools — backed by effective moderation — will help you engage your users and build a valuable community that is willing to buy into your company.

About Mehrad Karamlou

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