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Ten pros and cons for Facebook comments

This tweet inspired a conversation:

It is 10 weeks since Facebook overhauled its comments system, which allows websites to install a plugin to enable anyone logged into a Facebook account or with a Yahoo ID to comment.

The comment also appears in on friends’ news feeds on Facebook so has the potential to drive additional web traffic.

So what are the pros and cons?

1. More comments

Denmark-based Thomas Baekdal, founder and editor-in-chief of Baekdal.com, a business magazine about new media, media strategies, and trends, and 42concepts.com, a design magazine, has found the switch from commenting system Disqus to Facebook’s plugin has paid off by increasing comments by 800 per cent. But he has only switched one of his two sites. He added the widget for Facebook Comments for 42concepts.com but not to Baekdal.com.

This is an important thing to keep in mind. I did not change the commenting system for the business section – only for the design articles. There is a huge difference between the two – both on audience, and market.

The design content is also less about creating articles, and more about a “visual experience”. They are specifically designed to tell the story through the images. This makes 42Concepts the perfect target for people on Facebook.

Stories like this lovely example on the ‘yarnbombing’ of potholes.

Facebook Comments resulted in 10,000 comments in the first 30 days for showbiz, entertainment and media news site Digital Spy. That’s an average of 333 comments a day.

Tom Miller, community manager, told Journalism.co.uk that Digital Spy was not using a comments system (such as Disqus) before introducing Facebook Comments and encouraged commenting by directing readers from their forums, which are among the 25 most popular forums worldwide with 50 million posts, according to Miller.

2. Quantity doesn’t mean quality

Baekdal said Facebook Comments works for content that is suited to ‘snacking’.

We all know the Facebook behaviour encourages snacking (while Twitter is far more serious). The quality of comments also reflects that. Most of them are, ‘woooo!!!’, ‘omg!!’, ‘nice’, ‘cute’, ‘g0oo0o00o0od’, etc.

People do not actually comment, they express a feeling. There are no discussions.

But the result is staggering. As I tweeted, I have seen a 800 per cent increase in comments.

3. Increased web traffic

Web traffic is up for 42concepts.com as a result, Baekdal said.

Because each comment is shared on Facebook by default, the traffic from Facebook is up 216 per cent (but still only accounts for two per cent of the total traffic whereas StumbleUpon accounts for 62 per cent).

So have comments driven traffic to Digital Spy? Miller said:

I don’t think we can attribute traffic directly to Facebook Comments, but we did just have a record month with 9.84 million unique users in April.

4. Comments are attributed to a person

One big difference from using a system like Disqus is that Facebook comments are always attributed to a person, weeding out spam but also potentially reducing commenting from people who like to hide behind anonymity.

Digital Spy said Facebook’s commenting system is partly self-policing in nature. “People aren’t too controversial as they know mother-in-law will be reading what they write,” Miller said.

Baekdal told Journalism.co.uk that he’s only deleted one comment so far.

5. Comments with bad language are hidden

Facebook Comments has a language stalker tool which immediately hides comments with bad language. You can also opt to apply a grammar filter to add punctuation and expand “plz” to please and dont to “don’t”.

6. Moderation can take time

Digital Spy has found that moderating 10,000 comments a month takes time with four administrators taking half an hour whenever they can to post-moderate. Baekdal, on the other hand, only occasionally checks comments and spends an average of  just 30 seconds a day scrolling through.

Larger organisations like MTV and ITV outsource a service such as eModeration to cope with the number or comments.

7. It lends itself to post-moderation

Both Miller and Baekdal post-moderate and many news sites prefer pre-approval of comments to offer more content and legal control

8. You can enter the discussion

“Another advantage is that you have your Facebook page linked to your account,” Miller said, so that if two people are having an argument you can add a post. “It’s amazing, people do listen,” he added.

9. The backend system of Facebook Comments not user friendly

Miller said the backend of the Facebook system is “a bit of a mess” but believes Facebook will improve. “You can’t always see what article the comments have been posted to,” Miller explained.

“That is certainly true,” added Baekdal. “Administrating Facebook Comments is not a usable experience. It’s engineered, it is not designed to fit into people’s workflows. It’s very hard to see where a comment goes. It hard to track, it takes a lot of steps to moderate.”

10. It is suitable for ‘snackable content’ but not for all types of site

Baekdal has this advice based on thinking about his two websites:

I would advise people to test it. But as a strategy, I think Facebook comments fits well with “snackable content” and content that invokes feelings. I do not think it would work well for a site like the Financial Times.

Find out how to add Facebook Comments here.

To install Facebook Comments into WordPress click here.

Related articles:

Facebook: Our Comments Plugin Increases Publisher Traffic up to 45 per cent [STATS], from ReadWriteWeb.

Disqus has this month revealed it is doubling in size with investment of $10 million despite Facebook Comments, according to this article on the ReadWriteWeb technology blog, and its CEO is not worried about the threat of Facebook, says a Venture Beat article.

In the same way as you can @mention and refer to someone on Twitter, you can now do so on Disqus. It has since released @mentions, which “allows you to pull people into new conversations by mentioning them in your comments”, according to the Disqus blog, and follows Facebook @mentions, released in 2009,

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Digital Spy: Viewer rating of PSB goes up; programming hours down, says Ofcom

July 22nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

In 2008 63 per cent of viewers saw public service broadcasting (PSB) channels in the UK as ‘well-produced and high quality’, new figures from industry regulator Ofcom suggest.

But funding for original programming and the number of programming hours fell year-on-year in 2008, its third annual PSB report suggested.

Full post at this link…

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DigitalSpy: ‘BBC standards are falling’ says Peter Sissons in Mail on Sunday

July 13th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

Digital Spy picks up on BBC newsreader Peter Sissons’ piece about the BBC in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, and reports that ‘he has blamed ‘political correctness’ for falling standards at the corporation.’

“The 66-year-old broadcaster, who recently announced his retirement, claimed that senior BBC figures are afraid to challenge journalists when they make mistakes.

“Writing in The Mail On Sunday, he commented: “At today’s BBC, a complaint I often heard from senior producers was that they dared not reprimand their subordinates for basic journalistic mistakes – such as getting ages, dates, titles and even football scores wrong – it being politically incorrect to risk offending them.”

Full story at this link…

Sissons’ article does not appear to be available online at the time of writing, but the Mail on Sunday’s own report can be found at this link.

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Digital Spy: Tiscali director of TV says broadcasters should pay for online content distribution

June 23rd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

The Tiscali director of television, Simon Hunt, has said that broadcasters should pay for the online distribution of their content because they already pay distribution charges for other platforms, Digital Spy reports.

“Hunt said [in an interview with Digital Spy] that consumers will increasingly want to view TV content over the internet and so this should be viewed as another distribution platform that must be paid to use.”

Full post at this link…

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Undercover Soldier: why didn’t the Beeb open up the debate online?

September 23rd, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Online Journalism

It’s a story that has seen a hive of online activity: the BBC puts a new reporter in the army for six months (he’s never worked in the media before); puts out a documentary, based on mainly anecdotal evidence; the army suspends five people (not clear how many were a result, if any, of the investigation); the mainstream media reports on the whole thing (Telegraph report linked here, as an example).

A Facebook group has been created criticising the reporter for the programme – suggesting he should be tried for treason – which at the time of writing has 1,460 members.

Yet nowhere on the BBC website is there anywhere to post a comment. Although BBC news stories don’t always allow comments, this could have been ideal discussion material for a blog. But because there wasn’t any we’ve seen a flurry of activity on our own site, from users who probably wouldn’t normally use a journalism news site. Likewise, Digital Spy had a fair number of comments. The other place with high level of comment is an unofficial Army forum, Arrse (British Army Rumour Service).

People reacted to the question I asked on Friday ‘why the low ratings?’ with a range of suggestions.

Most, if not all, the commenters disagree that the footage was ‘shocking’ or ‘remarkable’. I agree with those that think the documentary had flaws in its method and reportage, but stand by my original comments. Whether it needed this type of ‘undercover documentary’ to give exposure to racism and bullying in the army (anecdotal evidence, or otherwise) is another matter (that was the discussion I was expecting to be provoked).

Bizarrely, if you currently search for ‘Russell Sharp’ on Google you’ll come to our own website, rather than the BBC’s. While we welcome the additional comment and discussion on our own site, would this not have been better placed on bbc.co.uk?

I emailed the BBC Press Office a number of questions about their online management. Initially I was told that there had been an opportunity for feedback in the phone-in on Radio 5 Live, immediately after transmission. I know, I tried to listen. Russell Sharp was supposed to be on it, but was replaced at the last minute – the explanation on air was that he was (or had been?) ‘holed up’ in an edit suite.

I’m posting here the full response from a spokesperson at the BBC in regards to the response to the programme.

I asked why the BBC decided not to open up comments to the public:
They said: “It’s good to see our journalism promoting debate and discussion. We don’t always provide an opportunity for people to comment on every story posted on the news website – decisions are taken on a case by case basis. In this case there was also a phone in discussion on 5Live which examined the issues raised and heard from people with an interest in the story.”

I asked if they were disappointed in the low ratings.
They said: “The broadcast of Undercover Soldier last week is absolutely in keeping with BBC One’s commitment to placing agenda setting investigative journalism at the heart of the peak time schedule. We are proud to have ensured the maximum number of viewers had the opportunity to see it.  An audience of 2.3 million viewers alongside the  media exposure it brought to the issue of bullying in the army is an illustration of public service broadcasting at its best.”

I asked them what they thought about this story that appeared in the Sun, which suggested Sharp could be called back into the army.
They said: “The Sun approached us for a response to their story on Friday but sadly didn’t see fit to include it in their piece. It was as follows…..
‘We would never comment on a hypothetical situation but the MoD will no doubt want to focus on the issues raised by the programme rather than the individual who helped raise them. We are cooperating with the Army in their investigations’.”

The discussion continues, as does our blog traffic. When I posted on Thursday I expected a few reactions from journalists criticising the reportage of the documentary, to explain its low ratings, or a comment on the interests of the viewing public.

Instead, it became apparent that there has been very little outlet for the viewers of the programme to voice their concerns with the BBC’s methodology and subsequent reporting.

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Digital Spy: Digital Spy sold to Hachette Filipacchi

April 10th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Magazines

Hachette Filipacchi, publishers of Elle and Psychologies magazines, has acquired entertainment and media news site Digital Spy.

No changes will be made to the management and editorial teams of the site.

As part of the deal DS claims ‘significant investment’ will be made in the site to increase the breadth of its coverage.

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