The free-for-all model of online conversation has had its chance and failed; we now know, all too well, what happens when an online forum is left to its own devices. We also know, via the Facebook Papers (and our own lived experiences), what happens when the most inflammatory elements of a conversation are intentionally elevated–chaos reigns, pointless arguments and personal attacks grow and spread like weeds. A new year offers a new chance to clear those weeds away, opening space for smart discourse to bloom.
For publishers, that means opening up the comments sections––those much-maligned town squares in which anyone can have their say, whatever that may be. At OpenWeb, it’s our sincere belief that a comments section can be a space of pure possibility––a place where like-minded readers can connect, swap jokes and stories, and generally increase the world’s quotient of happiness and fellow-feeling. A comments section can also help publishers calculate a variety of important metrics, like traffic per article, time users spend on each page, and more.
Having a successful comment section that’s both engaging for readers and useful for publishers, however, is dependent on the behavior of all involved. If aggression and toxicity reign, no one is going to get anything out of it. In today’s climate, that’s a very real concern for publishers.
So how can publishers get to that ideal of free and easy intelligent public discourse? Quality, multi-layered moderation.
Why Moderation Matters For Publishers
Sane, respectful dialogue is its own reward. But it can also, for publishers, yield countless competitive advantages.
In 2022, we’ll likely see a continued move away from the traditional Web 2.0 publishing model––i.e., mostly free content disseminated at scale via social media. Publishers are more wary than ever of social media (and with good reason), while readers, primed by streaming services and subscription boxes, are more willing than ever to pay for quality content. Accordingly, paywalls have proliferated, and subscriptions are making up an ever-larger share of publishers’ revenues.
In this arena, an engaged, toxicity-free comments section can play a major role. It offers a sense of community, and turns what could otherwise be a passive reading experience into an engaged, two-way dialogue. Nothing is likelier to keep the reader coming back—and the more return visits a reader makes, the likelier that reader is to subscribe.
It’s a process of turning casual readers into loyal, logged-in users. OpenWebOS Identity helps to make this happen, incentivizing registrations and boosting revenue, retention, session duration, and pageviews. In 2022, the clock is audibly counting down on third-party cookies, which makes the first-party data you can get from registered users more valuable than ever.
Everyone Is Tired of Fighting
In the years (!) since the pandemic started, countless facets of US life have been revealed as, basically, hollow traditions—things we did because we never stopped to think about why we were doing them. Obviously, phenomena like the Great Resignation come to mind—people fed up, finally, with thankless, unremunerative work. But the furor around the Facebook Papers suggests that people are also sick of online toxicity.
Nearly two decades into Web 2.0, the thought of witnessing (let alone participating in) another flame war, pile-on, or name-calling tournament is enough to chuck one’s devices into the sea. How much longer can we go on like this? Why are we going on like this in the first place?
By turning their websites into oases in the deafening storm of noise, publishers can capitalize on this pervasive sense of burnout. With the right moderation tools, what had once seemed like a fantasy—polite, intelligent conversation, on the internet of all places-––becomes eminently achievable. Offer that, and you’re sure to have a banner year.
Moderation: The Most Effective Tool in the Fight Against Toxicity
OpenWebOS‘ advanced moderation tools are designed to foster a new kind of online conversation—one that’s insightful, engaged, and decidedly non-toxic. Every posted comment is intensively vetted via AI and machine learning tools, which are able to identify incivility levels, white supremacy, spam/abuse, and more. Behavior is tracked at the user level, so repeat offenders are de-emphasized; intelligent contributions, meanwhile, are floated to the top, setting the tone for civilized, engaged discourse.
Partisan energies in America show no sign of slowing down: 2022 is, after all, an election year, and we can expect the discourse’s temperature to rise considerably as we get closer to the midterms. No one can eliminate partisan rancor from American life––but, by the same token, no one should have to host it on their website.
Hard as it is to believe, there are still people––tons of them––who may disagree with each other but who are still willing to discuss these disagreements civilly. Common ground can still be found. With the right moderation tools, publishers can ensure that their websites become spaces for productive, exciting conversations.