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    Reader Comments: Send Me Your Success Stories

    by Steven Clift
    October 31, 2007

    I am working up a post on reader comments to news stories on media sites, comments on media-hosted blogs, or media hosted online forums.

    At the recent Online News Association conference there was definitely a sense of turmoil surrounding reader comments online. I’d hate to see interactivity switched off due to the lack of “here is how we make it work” knowledge sharing. Those in local media are in particular asked to send in some success stories.

    Please comment here or privately to me – clift@publicus.net – about your success stories. Add links to examples when possible.

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    Some questions to ponder:

    1. How are your online reader comments helping your media organization meet your mission?

    2. Share a story about how a particular comment or set of online comments influenced follow-up reporting.

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    3. Share a story about how a particular comment or set of online comments influenced a local government decision or decision-maker.

    4. Have readers acted as “citizens” on your forums to organize or coordinate action to meet some sort of local public challenge?

    5. What generates the highest volume of comments as well as page views?

    6. What technology has worked best for you? How is your technology generating better value?

    Steven Clift
    E-Democracy.Org

    Tagged: best practices blogs comments forums
    • HarfordNow.com was started to allow the everyday citizens of Harford County, Maryland to have a place where they can share what was happening in their neighborhoods, in their own words. Within the first couple of weeks of the site being up, we had a new user blog about some dumping in her community. She provided pictures and background on the neighborhood’s attempts at contacting the local government about the issues.

      Through the post’s comments, we learned who the owners of the property were and some background on why the condition was the way it was. A few weeks later, two of the local newspapers picked up the issue based on our initial blog post, and the county government promised to take action. Within a week, the developers had cleaned up the area.

      The community had been trying to clean up the area for over a year, and thanks to a “citizen journalist” and the blog comments, action was finally taken.

    • For Pegasus News:

      Some questions to ponder:

      1. How are your online reader comments helping your media organization meet your mission?

      They are the primary means by which our community interacts with our news and information service — Users not only give opinion, but add to stories, correct and copy edit. We get lots of database info from users submitting corrections to items like restaurant hours and drink specials. Comments are easier than sending an email or submitting a story. Our regular users tend to navigate the site via the latest comments, making it consistently the top link off the home page.

      2. Share a story about how a particular comment or set of online comments influenced follow-up reporting.

      That’s every day around here — most of our stories that get picked up by the larger traditional media come from tips we get in our comments. This is on everything from zoning, to local reality show contestants to elections to “news of the weird.”

      3. Share a story about how a particular comment or set of online comments influenced a local government decision or decision-maker.

       In that ballpark — comments and investigation of the user accounts making them had a major effect on a local council election.

      4. Have readers acted as “citizens” on your forums to organize or coordinate action to meet some sort of local public challenge?

      Not really– in fact I would say that there’s great resistance to anything that smells of organization. 

      5. What generates the highest volume of comments as well as page views?

       Local controversies with broader social context. See the equine graveyard.

      6. What technology has worked best for you? How is your technology generating better value?

      We use our own system, the cornerstone of which is a licensed copy of Ellington. We’ve built our own customizations on top of that. 

    • The Newspaper Association of America has two case studies out from this summer that might help. The first is about the Racine Journal Times in Wisconsin, which saw page views grow exponentially when it introduced comments on blogs and more. The other is about IndyMoms.com, one of Gannett’s Mom-sites, which is pretty much built around a forum and already profitable.

      Here are the links:
      Building Community at the Racine Journal Times
      IndyMoms Draws Busy Parents with Discussion, Niche Content

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