Don't shut out your community, instead guide them towards civility

Tom Hardington
Tom Hardington

You've heard it before: "Don’t Read The Comments"

It’s a common online mantra that is gaining traction. In fact, over the past year, several major Canadian publications such as the Toronto Star, Sun Media and The National Post have taken this phrase to heart, and made it so you can’t read comments.

Where does this leave community engagement and contributors of quality user generated content?

Taken out with the trash it seems. Looking to Michael Cooke, Editor of the Toronto Star, who says their decision to close commenting was partially financial, but also because they’ve “lost patience” dealing with the “cowardly, anonymous, racist, sexist, homophobic and hateful comments that really pollute online commenting,” a move that redirects their onsite community of engaged readers off-site to comment on social media.

There’s no denying that online comments can get pretty bad — especially for minorities in the media. Often, as Jessica Valenti of The Guardian says, “It’s [a] never-ending stream of derision that women, people of colour, and other marginalized communities endure.” So it’s not hard to see why these publications have decided to shut down onsite commenting, at least in the interim.

But this can’t be the final word on the matter…

Is shutting down commenting really the answer when it comes at the cost of shutting out your community or redirecting your audience off-site; a decision that seems to divert from the operational goal of increasing engagement and  attention time.

Analyzing the behaviour of registered and anonymous users across our network of 600+ media brands, we know 68% of audiences spend more than 15% of their time onsite reading comments; a significant decrease in time spent onsite, if you remove commenting.

So how do you ensure the best possible user experience, eliminating the “never-ending stream of derision,” while increasing the civility of your community to earn the return on engagement your content deserves?


  • Authenticate individuals with Social Login to minimize anonymity and false identities.

  • Create a safe and civil community with Smart automated algorithmic Moderation (SaaM) for onsite and social commenting.

  • Measure user engagement with Audience Insights and go beyond moment based metrics with a focus on attention time.

Viafoura Social Login attaches an avatar to a social profile and a human to a comment, which helps to identify and regulate a user within the community.  The anonymity and lack of accountability that comes with onsite user profiles is the very reason why publishers like the Toronto Star are silencing their onsite communities and handing their user engagement to Facebook.

Automated Moderation empowers publishers, journalists and users to engage onsite and on social, 24/7, free from harassment and trolls. SaaM also significantly reduces the costs, resources and headaches required to power manual moderation, while increasing the civility of the online discourse onsite and across your social media channels.

Viafoura Audience Insights measures audience engagement and quantifies the impact of those engagement metrics on key performance indicators such as page views, attention time, reach, loyalty and revenue.

Tom Hardington
Tom Hardington
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