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Comment Moderation at Huffington Post vs StarTribune

Arianna Huffington, originally uploaded by jdlasica.

Jonathan Dube at Poynter Online has a Q&A with the people behind the Huffington Post that includes what has been a hot topic recently for Twin Cities news sites and blogs: Comment Moderation.

What’s been the Huffington Post’s biggest mistake and what would you have done differently?

Huffington: From the beginning, I would have established a policy of pre-moderating all comments on the site. We started with pre-moderation only on blog posts, since we felt it was important to provide a civil environment for our bloggers (i.e., one where critical comments would of course be allowed but no ad hominem attacks or name calling). Our comments on the news site were originally post-moderated (i.e., objectionable comments were removed only after our moderators were alerted). We eventually decided that it was worth the substantial effort and expense to have human pre-moderation on both blogs and news. At the same time, we pray daily for a new technical innovation that will be able to automatically remove objectionable comments. But no regrets, because even our failures were valuable lessons. For me, failure is not the opposite of success — it’s one of the foundations of success.

To illustrate the difference, check out this story mentioning Hillary Clinton with over 200 civil comments on the Huffington Post compared to this Olympic swimming race story in the StarTribune that has brought out 10 unmoderated, mostly French bashing nationalistic comments already today. I don’t expect the quality of discourse to improve from there.

Perhaps the Huffington Post takes this more seriously because their stories and the comments associated with them will live on the web essentially forever while the StarTribune’s stories tend to disappear after a set amount of time?

Or, maybe both sites have found the audiences they’re most interested in reaching? The Huff Post is choosing to target smart people with something to say while the StarTribune is going after racists, bigots, nationalists, sexists, and idiots. As long as their advertisers know what they’re getting, I suppose that’s fine.

3 thoughts on “Comment Moderation at Huffington Post vs StarTribune”

  1. For the Strib it’s all about page views. After all, the more comments; no matter how racist, bigoted or downright wrong they are; drives people to read wronger, become more enraged at the stupidity and possibly contribute which gives them more page views to sell advertisers.

  2. Nice posting and good insight…hehehe, that oughta help get this comment up…oh, wait, you don’t moderate all comments anyhow.


    Just kidding, I do like this posting and agree with moderation, in moderation of course; with the goal being civility. On any issue with any level of complexity, it is impossible to sum up all facets in a single posting, and there really are two sides to virtually every argument, so the best posting/commentary allows for this exploration to progress through the comments.

    That being said–to counterpoint Sornie’s comment–
    I do not believe all pageviews are equal, and some comments do drive away the types of readers some advertisers love…so it is critical to match your advertisers to your posting AND commentary tone to maximize the effort.

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