Content Marketing

Gawker Stirs the Comment Conversation

Megablog Gawker wants to change the conversation.

courtesy of erjkprunczyk/flickrThe site unveiled a new commenting system last week in hopes of promoting more insightful discussions on its posts.

The changes, which debuted April 26, use a combination of editor judgement and algorithms to determine which comments are worthy of keeping and which ones are boring and not contributing to thoughtful conversations.

Gawker’s new system, called Pow-Wow, will involve “fractional commenting,” in which the commenters who start the dialogues control them, and the algorithm would “punish boring commenters,” according to Urtak Blog‘s Marc Lizoain.

“Each comment and thread would be evaluated by machine and by human,” he said, “and unless the commenter is generating audience response, or has been explicitly approved by the author of the post, they could find themselves locked out of the discussion, while certain valued contributors, invited in advance, could be given priority.”

Nick Denton, owner of Gawker, said that online discussions tend to degenerate into breeding grounds for the lowest common denominator rather than becoming places where people can engage in interesting conversation about articles. He said that Pow-Wow will sort out the junk, and people will be rewarded for weighing in with meaningful comments.

In addition to fractional commenting and the algorithm, users can create “burner accounts” to post under anonymous names.

On the day Gawker revealed the change, the site had already collected “1 million comments on 7,500 posts from 130,000 active commenters” during the month of April, according to Nieman Journalism Lab.

Despite those numbers, Lizoain pointed out, “People simply don’t like to and don’t want to leave comments on content. Far fewer than 1% of any given web audience will take the trouble to leave their opinions in this form.”

He also said that Denton’s approach is contradictory: He hopes that high-profile celebrities will use the comments section, but he also allowing anonymity.

Time will tell whether Gawker’s new approach will yield the desired results. What do you think? Do people really care about commenting on blog posts?

Image courtesy of erjkprunczyk/flickr

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