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Articles, News

Eager for Updates on Election Night, Readers Look to the Comment Section for Updates

By OpenWeb

The following data was observed on the OpenWeb network across major news publishers between November 2nd-November 3rd.

OpenWeb’s quality conversation platform helps top publishers like AOL, Salon, Fox News, MarketWatch, and more host healthy and civil discussions between readers. With razor-thin margins determining the winner of the presidential race, it’s no surprise that readers were glued to their favorite news sites, eagerly waiting for updates.

We carefully monitor the trends in our Partners’ communities, and on Election Day 2020 we observed a few notable ones. Below, we’re outlining two of our biggest takeaways for you that we know so far.

1. Faced with Slow News, Users Turned to UGC

As news updates were slow to trickle throughout Election Night, with little hope of any definitive results, users headed to the comments section en masse, looking for something to engage with.

We saw a 20.3% increase in users spending time in OpenWeb’s comments section on Election Day (these are “active users”). 

What’s more? The share of readers who spent time reading other users’ comments – lurkers – went up by 7%, we saw a 31% day-over-day increase in users who clicked the “show more comments” button. That means a huge portion of readers scrolled to the bottom of the comments and wanted more, staying on site and engaging for longer and longer.

2. Perhaps Unsurprisingly, Comment Toxicity and Anger Were on the Rise

If the presidential debates taught us anything, it’s that our leaders’ tone can influence the quality of online conversations. So, on an Election Day fraught with tension, it’s easy to imagine that toxicity rose. 

All in all, we saw a 21% increase in reported toxicity in our randomized Conversation user survey on Election Day.

That’s why incentivizing users to have civil conversations while de-incentivizing bad behavior is crucial for building healthy communities.

On the OpenWeb platform, readers have the option to react to news articles. On November 3rd, readers did not hold back their feelings about the slow Election Day news (or lack thereof) expressing a 13.9% increase in “angry” reactions. 

And, as we know, many of them then headed down to the comments to keep reading.

For news publishers, all of this highlights the role of user-generated content in extending time-on-site and how hosting a conversation increases relevance even when news is slow – especially during a critical news cycle like the 2020 Election, when all eyes are fixed on the news.

Stay tuned – we’ll be reporting with more updates on trends and observations from this historic Election.

– The OpenWeb Team 

Looking for ways to drive loyalty after election season is over? Read our post, The path to user loyalty and lifetime value.

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