The prickly area of user comments …


How much power does a publisher give its users to make comments on content? It’s a topical issue right now in light of the Matthew Johns incident.

I’m talking about comments users leave at the end of stories/videos and other pieces of content.

These comments on YouTube are generally pretty low-end … inflamatory bickering between users and also sentiment that could be considered racist/sexist or just plain idiotic by most people with a brain.

The idea of user comments isn’t that new – talkback radio is a similar form of participatory media and exhibits a lot of the same traits. A small % of opinionated, generally negative or extremely one sided participants. The same thing was true of forums 5-10 years ago and the same thing is true of a lot of brand sentiment on Twitter.

We’re told that we NEED to allow “the dialogue” to continue unedited, uncensored and show transperency. Problem is – this content is generally supported/funded by ad dollars and we need to ask the question – do advertisers want to be running their carefully managed, crafted and developed brands next to Joe Dickwad’s 2 cents about life.

Case in point – here is an article on yahoo!7 sport about the Matthew Johns incident – http://au.sports.yahoo.com/news/article/-/5574575/scandal-puts-sharks-skid-row

“Scandal puts Sharks on Skid Row” it reads. The article is harmless – it’s 200 words probably from a feed.

The comments are more interesting, perhaps sensitive. There’s 97 of them.

Here’s some of the more colourful ones …

“This little skank has had second thoughts and has then proceeded to go to the police and they found nothing illegal”

“I wander is she has aids? Or any of the players? Sexual disease anyone?”

“no body put a gun to is low lifes head, she loved it”

“When that girl went into a toilet with some broncos, she knew she was up for some action. And then she try’s to hide behind being a women to get out of it. It’s all her fault and these poor footballers have been disgraced.”

“I am sick of this “dirty girl” she never said a word for 7 years – she bragged about it at the time and now all her friends and workmates think she is a trollop (and rightly so) – she probably has no friends over it and its all her fault. She enticed them to her room”

“She may have regretted it but wasnt it the 2nd time she done it?..or did she only regret it the 2nd time..give me a break she was a trollop.”

To be fair, there are a lot of more sane comments … but the issue remains there’s a lot of sh*t being spoken. I’m not ganging up on Yahoo!7 – the issue is prevalent across most news providers.

The question needs to be asked – is this a good area for an advertiser to be around? Remembering – there is no shortage of advertising supply out there … are there better areas to spend advertisers money?

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8 responses to “The prickly area of user comments …

  1. Roger Lintzeris

    It comes down to agencies & clients being aware that if a campaign is running across sites which contain comments sections (the irony hasn’t been lost on me) then you have to be prepared for people to say the worst, which as proven above, happens.

    I’d dare say, without the slightest bit of evidence to back it up, that the Farifax news sites have a much lower proportion of ‘Joe Dickwads’ and more Joe Hockey. (Set up gag).

  2. talkingdigital

    “I’d dare say, without the slightest bit of evidence to back it up, that the Farifax news sites have a much lower proportion of ‘Joe Dickwads’ and more Joe Hockey. (Set up gag).”

    That’s a swish from 21 ft mate 🙂

  3. What about Unis. Mine is going to go all blogs and twitter on our arses, but what do management do about these sort of sentiments,
    http://theworstofperth.com/2009/05/08/more-svenkage/
    including exhortations for students not to enrol?

    Ignore, engage or request retraction? Non management or IT staff will be moderating.

  4. I don’t know…a TV is usually on in pubs with TVCs running on top of all sorts of dodgy behaviour. If you stop and think about it, there’s not a huge level of difference between this and dodgy comments is there?

    The second thing I’d say (which is more thought out!) is that unmoderated and unmanaged comments areas reflect a lazy organisation.

    The Huffington post employs 20 comments editors. We work very hard ourselves on moderating, cleaning and educating our commentors on what’s acceptable.

    So I’d argue that ‘oils ain’t oils’, and comments ain’t comments from a brand perspective.

    Certain environments are better than others.

    But what a brand does get by choosing a slightly more risky environment is highly engaged users.

    To draw this home – have a look at the 150+ comments on this article on The Roar, which was published yesterday.

    The difference in terms of depth of level of articulation and analysis is chalk and cheese to your Yahoo comments example:

    http://www.theroar.com.au/2009/05/18/the-waratahs-blew-winning-the-super-14-tournament/#comments

    These are articulate, engaged readers.

    As an advertiser, I wanna reach these people in their environment.

  5. Leon Bombotas

    Would the position of the ad and it’s proximity to the comments make a difference I wonder?

    My feeling is that this is s a challenge that can be overcome through clever layout such as clearly delineating the original article from the comments. Users hopefully assign higher authority to the articles and the ads that support them.

  6. Zac – I couldn’t agree with you more. I think it’s all about creating the right culture on the blog/site/portal so that people leaving comments feel obliged through their sense of social etiquette to make a good point.

    Like this blog. No rude comments here.

    Once you’ve fostered a good community on your blog and can demonstrate your blog attracts a certain market, advertisers will come flocking…

  7. The key thing is to set up some basic rules about what is and isn’t acceptable in comment and then gently moderate so things don’t get out of control.

    It’s one thing to have a strong opinion, it’s another thing entirely to slander or abuse people.

    Depending on the target market and audience there should be guidelines about language etc as well.

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