Is ‘conversation management’ a core newsroom function?

There a good bit of continuing discussion about comments and how to manage them (see the link list below). One camp, of which newspapers and TV stations seem to be moving toward, are trying to find pain free ways to manage comments (technology solutions) or to elminate them. The problem: They’re just so darn messy. Technology solutions alone are unlikely to be successful.

The other, mostly Internet news organizations, are putting more bodies (theirs or their users or both) to managing comments as a content resource. Whether they can create conversations instead of flame wars remains to be seen.

It is possible both strategies will succeed, at least in the sense of meeting the objectives of the people putting in the policies. Those that find comments altogether too messy will find ways to minimize or hide them. Those that want to use them to feed audience interest may be successful as well.

The question is whether “conversation management” is a core function of news organizations and their newsrooms or if they are still at heart one-way communicators?

While not just about comments, this piece on “The Princess and the Trolls” is a fascinating read.


  1. The question is whether “conversation management” is a core function of news organizations and their newsrooms or if they are still at heart one-way communicators?
    Yes. It should be. But old dogs do not learn new tricks easily.

  2. It amazes me that this is still an issue. Are there successful news organizations that don’t engage their users?
    If nothing else know this: without community engagement a news site in nothing more than an rss reader.

  3. Newspaper people got it in their heads that it is “free content” and are determined never to any human resources toward it … with predictable results. Yes, it is messy and mean and racist and sexist. It is easy to get overrun with trolls. But comment areas could be better. Even as they are, comment conversations definitely contribute to engagement and time on site.

  4. To expand on my previous comment, newsrooms should do news. Engaging nuts to increase pageviews should be the sales and marketing department’s problem.

  5. I think your characterization of commentors as nuts is perhaps a false premise that you should reconsider. Your point about the sales and marketing department does have merit however.
    I would say that engaging the community is THE role of newspapers, and everyone is part of that community so, yeah, sales and marketing should probably also participate. The newsroom is positioned to be credible and authoritative on the subjects of discussion, so who better?.
    I think you’ll also find that in environments where the site takes the time to engage the community, the quality of discussion is heightened when compared to environments where bad behavior is left to flourish. It’s like gardening. Just as journalists cultivate leads, they should cultivate readership. Journalism should not be just ‘throwing messages in bottle’ at the audience.

  6. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a
    comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

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