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The Daily Mail has decided to stop pre-moderation of comments on its website, a move which should see an explosion in the number of comments left on the site.
Concerns have been raised, such as the possibility that advertisers may object to their ads may appear next to questionable content, but I think it''s a smart move, which should increase engagement on the site and raise the number of page views.
You can already see the effect on the changes on the newspaper's website, with comments on the majority of today's articles, and 100+ comments on a number of stories.
Having users comment on articles is a great way to increase engagement with a website, and have people coming back to keep up with ongoing debates, making for a stickier experience and more page impressions.
Pre-moderation negated this effect, thanks to the delay in publishing comments (I have waited an hour or so in the past, or didn't have comments published at all), as it slows down the debate. Readers don't like to wait too long to see their comments appear, and will be discouraged from posting further comments, so the new post-moderation policy will address this issue.
According to Malcolm Coles:
Pre-moderation was a huge commitment for them and slowed down reader engagement, and they've conceded they didn't have the resource to get through everything, so some comments weren't published that would have been fine.
Malcolm also points out that the Mail will have some sort of filtering / flagging system in place for inappropriate language (it wouldn't let me post any swearwords!) and for topics that may be the subject of court orders, such as the names of the Baby P killers. Indeed, there are still some restrictions on this subject, with comments on this article still pre-moderate:
Some have mentioned possible legal problems for The Mail as a result of this new policy, but Dominic Sparkes of Tempero has a different view on the matter:
Ironically there may be greater liability associated with any moderation as the operator assumes responsibility for content which appears on that site. But it's a tricky question with some law not defined in this area and lack of legal precedents here in the UK. Risks (and potential liability) vary across different types of communities, such as those aimed at children or where contentious issues are likely to be discussed.
I like the way that The Mail has implemented the comments policy to allow readers to sort and make sense of large numbers of comments, something which The Guardian, which has had a post moderation policy for some time, could do better.
As shown below, readers can click to rate comments, which produces an overall score and allows for some degree of self-moderation by users. You can also choose to view the comments in a number of ways, by newest, oldest, top rated and worst rated, an excellent idea:
Naturally, users have to register first to post comments, and have some house rules for users to follow, but the move to post-moderation makes the whole process of commenting much easier.
Of course, this will naturally lead to a greater number of comments by trolls, but even this will increase page views and unique user numbers, and the tools are there to vote down such entries.
All things considered though, the Mail's new comment moderation policy is an excellent idea. It doesn't mean no moderation at all, so any legal issues are likely to be dealt with pretty quickly, and the overall effect should be to make the website stickier.
Mail Online managed to get more traffic (for the first time) than The Guardian and The Telegraph in June's ABCe figures; it will be interesting to see what effect the change of comment policy have on the next set of stats.