No Comment? The Advantages and Disadvantages of Allowing Comments

While the Huffington Post may not be everyone’s idea of Pulitzer award-winning journalism, the news site has made huge advancements in the world of journalism and taken steps to disrupt our expectations of news sources. After the announcement yesterday, Forbes was quick off the mark to start discussing the secret to their success; their conclusion? Comments.

Forbes cites the Huffington Post’s ‘mullet’ strategy as the source of their quick rise to Internet popularity; business in the front and a party in the back. In other words, they provide the business end of journalism in the front office, but bubbling behind the scenes is an engaging user experience in which readers are able to comment freely on the reporting. One front page news story “Conservatives Side With Obama on Health Care” has already received over 12,000 comments, 1,800 Facebook shares, and nearly 200 tweets.

So how can you utilise comments and shares for your own website, blog or social networks?

  • When establishing a blog, website or social account, you’ll have to decide several factors. To avoid any confusion or misunderstandings, it helps to clearly state your expectations of user usage in a ‘terms of use’ guide. Be very clear about what is and what isn’t acceptable.
  • Decide if you want comments from your users, if your content doesn’t really call for comments you may save yourself a lot of time in moderating if you disable the comments function.
  • If you welcome comments, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to moderate before or after they’re posted, if at all. Not moderating your comments can open you up to spam which can make your website look neglected. Also, any offensive comments may reflect badly on your site, even when you’re not the one doing the posting.
  • Forbes suggests that one method for instilling responsibility in your active users is to make the first person to comment responsible for the whole discussion. This will stop your first comment being ‘first comment, yeah!’, it instills a certain level of trust, and involves your users in the interaction process.
  • There are plug ins available which will allow users to post comments under their Facebook user name. Not only does this encourage social media integration, but it also prevents people from hiding behind anonymous user names.