Optimism, these days, is a tough thing to sustain. It’s tough for everyone, but it’s especially tough for publishers, whose business model Big Tech continues to chip away at. But a new year is almost upon us, and with it a chance to rethink old approaches.
The fact is that, despite the doomsaying, this is actually an excellent time to be a publisher. In an uncertain world, where we’re always on the brink of the next COVID variant or political meltdown (or so it feels), people are desperate to be informed. They are also desperate for community. The big social companies have shown themselves unequipped (or unwilling) to foster the kind of illuminating, non-toxic discussions that people crave. By allowing their platforms to devolve into chaos, they’ve created a real need for connection that publishers are perfectly positioned to fill.
Which is all to say that publishers really do have a lot to feel optimistic about, as we enter 2022. With OpenWeb’s technology, they can capitalize on the widespread desire for connection, and in the process drastically boost retention and revenue. Below, a quick guide to some of the ways that OpenWeb helps publishers to build flourishing, hate-free communities.
Bringing Your Readers Together
Commenters have long gotten a bad rap—disparaged as trolls or troublemakers, caricatured on sitcoms as mouth-breathing nerds. These notions are, obviously, absurd. All kinds of people leave comments. Some—a glancingly small minority—do so with the intention of sowing chaos or hate. But the vast majority of commenters are posting in good faith. These are people who want to extend the conversation that your content has started—people with fresh, enriching perspectives, relevant anecdotes, solid jokes. The trick is to amplify their contributions while minimizing (or, if they’ve broken the rules, deleting) the kinds of comments that throw a wrench in the conversation.
OpenWebOS was designed to do precisely that. Every posted comment is put through a multi-pronged moderation process to ensure that quality is prioritized. Think of one of those airport x-ray systems—each comment sent down the conveyor belt, inspected for incivility, white supremacy, spam/abuse, etc. Our technology also takes into account the individual poster’s history—building Civility Profiles on each commenter and using them to evaluate each new comment. In other words: a trollish comment, from someone with a history of trollish comments, will be automatically deprioritized. Meanwhile, through Best Sorting, the highest-quality contributions will be floated to the top. The end result is a smarter, saner, and decidedly less toxic discourse.
Comments as the Ultimate Retention Tool
Picture a cafe overrun with volatile loudmouths. They’re harassing the barista, spray painting the walls, interrupting pleasant conversations. Now picture a placid, sun-filled cafe where, at different tables, people engage in polite, overlapping dialogues. Where would you rather spend more time?
Put otherwise: when a reader reaches the bottom of an article and finds a festering swamp of invective and hate, that reader’s going to promptly close the tab. Stimulating discourse, on the other hand, is a surefire route to retention. Your website becomes a place that people want to return to, over and over again—to read your content, of course, but also to see what your community has to say about it.
And in the new internet economy that’s currently taking shape, retention is first priority. 2022 brings us ever-closer to an online marketing ecosystem primarily reliant on first-party data, and the more time your users spend on-site, the more first-party data they’ll generate. A healthy community redounds to the benefit not just of commenters, but of all readers, even those too shy to comment. From a retention perspective, lurkers are just as useful as posters—and people are much more likely to lurk if the conversation is respectful, fun, vibrant.
Liveblogs, Topic Tracking, Polls, and More
Beyond comments, OpenWeb offers countless ways to boost retention (and, consequently, revenue). Our technology makes liveblogging easy—editors can guide readers through major cultural events in real-time, and even take questions from the audience. WIth OpenWeb’s Topic Tracker, readers can follow and receive notifications about the topics they care about the most, encouraging them to register, stay longer, and keep coming back. Real-time polls, meanwhile, are another rich resource—a way to keep readers engaged while soliciting valuable feedback and first-party data.
2022: A New Beginning
For publishers, these are exciting times: people are more eager than ever to engage online, but warier than ever of doing so on traditional social media platforms, where the loudest and most toxic voices are given free rein to wreck the discourse. OpenWeb’s moderation and engagement tools allow publishers to turn their own websites into thriving communities—healthy, fun alternatives to the chaos of social media. As the ’20s kick off in earnest—let’s call the COVID era a false start—it’s time to reassess the effort we’re putting into the big social platforms, and build something new.