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Reader Comments as Content: Here’s Why It Works for AOL UK

By Kristen Dunleavy

Nothing quite beats the high of being recognized by your favorite journalist or influencer. Whether it’s a like, an upvote, a reply, or a retweet, it’s always a highlight when you get a shoutout from someone you admire. 

When we asked our Twitter followers if they’ve ever been recognized in this way, we found that more than 58% haven’t—and that’s a missed opportunity. (That’s why we have features to help facilitate those 1:1 relationships.)

reader comments

The relationship between publishers and readers is similar, and publishers who feature their best reader comments stand to grow a loyal and engaged community. One of our partners, AOL UK, does just that—and the results have been truly notable.

AOL UK partners with OpenWeb to build and engage their community, and they’ve baked highlighting community members (in what we’ll call “comment highlights” in this piece for the sake of ease) directly into their editorial strategy.

Combined with OpenWeb’s multi-layered moderation to facilitate quality conversations, these comment highlights play a key role in AOL UK’s audience engagement and retention strategy. In this post, we’ll explain why comment highlights are so powerful, and break down how AOL UK uses comment highlights as part of their editorial strategy.

Comment highlights lead to more engagement and quality conversations

Interacting with and replying to readers is an important part of any publisher’s job—and has existed as long as the “Letter to the Editor” has. But when a publisher hosts a thriving community, this looks a little different.

Publishers who feature comments accomplish a few things. By centering their readers, they highlight a diverse range of voices and opinions outside the editorial staff. They also put on display how smart, humorous, or interesting their readers are, which helps build the strong ties that keep readers coming back.

Readers that know their voice matters form a stronger bond with the community, and they’ll continue to return, interact, and post thoughtful comments. Surfacing your best comments often leads to more productive comments and higher quality conversations.

How AOL UK highlights comments as part of their editorial strategy

AOL UK understands the value of giving their readers a voice. They use OpenWebOS to facilitate high-quality conversations that keep their readers engaged and coming back over time.

They created a weekly series that features the top reader comments in their community. Throughout the week, editors at AOL UK keep an eye out for their most insightful reader comments, and every Friday they announce their top-trending articles along with the winning comment.

Comments featured by AOL UK include the user’s reputation points and “Comment of the Week” badge, both powered by OpenWebOS

AOL UK also uses this feature to boost email subscriptions. The winning comment is featured both on AOL UK’s website and in their email newsletter with a “Comment of the Week” badge. They encourage readers to subscribe to their email list to be the first to find out about the winning comment—and see if they won.

The Comment of the Week series gives readers a reason to keep coming back to AOL UK’s website and incentivizes them to post thoughtful comments for a chance to be featured. This wildly popular strategy gives their readers something new and exciting to look forward to each week.

Giving your readers a voice builds a loyal fanbase

Loyalty is on every publisher’s mind, and it all starts with building strong relationships with your readers. Featuring reader comments can help build those relationships by giving readers a voice and making them feel like valued members of the community. And readers who see these insightful, interesting comments feel more inclined to contribute to the conversation themselves.

Thousands of publishers—including AOL UK—rely on OpenWeb to build and grow thriving communities where they host quality conversations. Publishers using this strategy can boost engagement, grow registrations, gather first-party data, and support their retention efforts. Learn more about why comments are valuable for publishers.

Let’s have a conversation.

Right now OpenWeb has a limited number of partners we can work with in order to provide the highest quality service to each and every one. Let us know you’re interested and stay informed about how OpenWeb is empowering publishers and advertisers to change online conversations for good.