Facebook and Twitter have got our readers’ comments, and we want them back!

In the old days using reader reaction to the stories published in newspapers was a straightforward affair.

We simply printed Letters to the Editor, weeding out submissions from contributors whose views put them on the farthest fringe of rational debate. We contemptuously dubbed them the green ink brigade.

After the internet came along, reader comment buttons become ubiquitous at the end of every story on a newspaper website.

They made it easier than ever before for people to react to the news.

But the frequency of comments, coming thick and fast at all hours of the day and night, made it impossible for newsrooms to edit them (or moderate, as we now say).

So the eccentric, the extreme and the offensive commenter got to share the same stage as the rational, the passionate and the amusing.

The green ink brigade had gone mainstream.

There is a well-established debate about this: does allowing unmoderated comments enrich our website brands or damage them?

But another complication arising from online comments is their fragmented nature.

In a perfect world people would comment on our stories on our website, where we would benefit from any traffic they attracted.

But they don’t. They use third party sites, in particular Facebook and Twitter, where, annoyingly, the quality of postings is sometimes better than on our own.

Of course, this is inevitable given that we ourselves initiate conversations with readers through our branded timelines on these platforms.

What we need is a way to gather all these comments together and republish them in one place: our own website.

Storify allows us to do just that, and in my next post I will explain how.


About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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