Interactivity through readers' comments


Within the NEWLOCAL project the partners focused on Interactivity through readers' comments, and here you can find their findings.

Readers love to comment on articles and their engagement brings higher traffic to the portals, but with it also come problems due to the responsibility for what is published on said platforms. Interactivity in comments encourages discussion and allows users to express their opinions, creating a sense of community among readers. Some Croatian news portals have directed comments from portals to social networks, where they do not have the main responsibility for what users post. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider the way comments are moderated and the responsibilities associated with them.

We have designed a commenting system on the portals to minimize the risk of unwanted posts and to motivate interesting content creators. We compared comments on various news portals and found examples we want to implement, and we devised some new solutions that we still need to evaluate to see if they are worth developing. Integrating best practices can improve the quality of discussion and user engagement and ensure that the platform is used constructively. It is also important to educate users about commenting rules and encourage constructive participation.

We defined a user registration process where users provide their details to gain the right to comment. We determined the order in which comments will be displayed: newest, oldest, most popular – top commentators (administrators assign this status). Transparency and clearly defined rules can improve the user experience and reduce abuse. We are considering a 'favorite commentators' option where users themselves assign this status. We intend to introduce elements of gamification to motivate users to create interesting content and contribute to creating tolerant, argument-based communication. The application of gamification can further increase user engagement and loyalty.

As it is important to encourage quality discussion through various models, it is also important to remove individuals who disrupt this goal. Therefore, we want to introduce options for temporary and permanent 'banning,' and the entire history of comment bans should be recorded so that future administrators have insight into the reasons for the imposed restrictions. We also want to implement the option to hide comments, as used by Facebook, so that certain posts are not visible (at the discretion of the administrator or the user themselves), as well as automatic alerts when a user uses inappropriate language (insults, calls for violence, racism...). Comment moderation is crucial for maintaining a high-quality and constructive discussion. Additionally, automated tools for detecting inappropriate content can significantly help in maintaining communication standards.

A big innovation is the attempt to create private 'comment groups' where readers can comment on portal content instead of doing so in various WhatsApp or Facebook groups. We are also testing the possibility of using audio comments, as well as exporting the entire communication into an audio version so that the content can be consumed during driving, exercising, walking... Interactive and innovative approaches to comments can significantly enhance user engagement and make the platform more attractive. Using new technologies can further enrich the user experience and open new ways for interaction.

At this stage, we have conducted a market analysis, defined the features we want to have, but have not yet evaluated whether it is worth investing in their development or whether users would respond positively to them. Testing new functionalities and collecting user feedback will help us better understand their needs and expectations, and improve our commenting system in a way that best suits our audience. Introducing regular user satisfaction surveys can further improve our understanding of their needs and guide future development activities.

The implementation of the project NEWLOCAL (New approaches for local media) is co-funded by the European Union.

Programme: Creative Europe Programme (CREA)

Call: NEWS-Journalism partnerships (CREA-CROSS-2022-JOURPART)

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