NPR, other news orgs tighten comment moderation to improve conversation

NPR.org | MinnPost | Charleston Gazette | Vancouver Sun | MarketWatch
NPR switched its user commenting to the Disqus platform this week, and is increasing its moderation efforts in response to user demand.

It took the unusual step of sending readers an email survey in advance, asking for ideas and feedback about how to improve the commenting system. More than 6,000 responded. The big surprise, social media product manager Kate Myers writes, is that readers called for more comment moderation.

We asked this question in our recent NPR audience survey:

How quickly should we handle moderation when comments are made on an NPR site?

  • 37.5% of respondents selected: Comments should appear instantly. Only problem comments should be moderated.
  • 50.8% of respondents selected: Comments should be moderated before they appear, even if this causes a short delay.
  • 11.7% of respondents selected: Comments on news stories should be moderated more heavily than other kinds of comments.

As a result, NPR staff will now pre-screen all comments on news stories and several blogs, Myers says, hopefully within 15 minutes of each submission. But comments on less newsy content like arts and life, books and music will post immediately and only be moderated if flagged by other readers.

“Stay tuned for future innovation,” Myers wrote in another post. “We see a growing interest in comment quality, including a request for comments curated by NPR, and an interest in stories that incorporate user comments.”

Other news organizations also have been changing their comment systems in recent weeks:

  • The Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald and other Postmedia-owned websites converted to Facebook Comments “in a bid to foster a robust, relevant and respectful debate on the issues of the day.”
  • The Gazette and Daily Mail newspapers in West Virginia also switched to Facebook Comments, citing the belief that its automatic vulgarity filtering and real-name policy will ease the newsroom’s moderation burden.
  • MarketWatch converted to a LiveFyre commenting system with features similar to Disqus — users can subscribe to comment threads, see related tweets and Facebook posts and share their own comments to social media.
  • MinnPost has added a new commenting rule to get more aggressive about controlling the trolls: “We will reject inflammatory and highly provocative comments that seem likely to hijack the comment thread — by making the discussion more about the commenter’s inflammatory view than about the story. We also will reject comments that are clearly off-topic.”

Related: Panel of online community managers shares tips for comments, community engagement (Disqus) | Experimental Facebook feature lets page administrators give commenters private feedback (AllFacebook)

Earlier: News sites using Facebook Comments see higher quality discussion (Poynter) | How Philly.com handled comments on Conlin sex abuse stories (Poynter) | Much more coverage of user commenting

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  • http://sleepyblogger.com/ Robyn Tippins

    Difficult to scale, but I do hope that works. News sites have a particularly difficult time with comments because the topics being discussed are of so much more import to the commenter than we see elsewhere.

    Sure, Android and iOS fans can get heated, but debate abortion, homosexuality or religion and you’ve touched on deep beliefs and ideals that can create an angry mob, and rightly so. Of course, there’s a great deal of opportunity there too. Touch people that deeply and stir up some real passion (and potentially learn from each other in the process).