The New York Times announced on Monday that it will allow its stories to be commented upon, yet it stops short of embracing user-generated content by allowing comments only through third party sites (Digg, Facebook and Newsvine).

It is the first time the newspaper’s online site has added a news-sharing tool, which will allow users to discuss its stories on social news sites, though in truth users can do this anyway…

Nevertheless, the paper has embedded links to all three sites onto many of its online stories.

This represents a boost for the social media sites involved, especially Newsvine as, while Digg and Facebook are well established, Newsvine is a relative newcomer to the social media scene.

Perhaps the New York Times decided that it would be less trouble to have the comment functionality on third party sites, thereby avoiding the problem of having to moderate comments on its own site?

There are pros and cons here, though there is a business case for embracing user-generated content. Here are five for starters:

1. Increased loyalty
2. Increased page views
3. Increased frequency of visit
4. Increased session time
5. Increased word of mouth

Maybe the New York Times should have added comment functionality to its own site, thereby boosting its page impressions, and increasing traffic to its website? Or maybe it actively wants incoming links and traffic from third party sites, as some kind of SEO play?

In the UK, The Guardian, The SunDaily Mail, and The Telegraph have all adopted user-generated content to varying degrees. The Guardian mainly limits comments to its leaders, comment, and blogs, while The Daily Mail has been the most pioneering, allowing readers to comment on homepage stories.

So how has this affected web performance? Even with the caveats associated with Alexa, the chart below provides an indicative overview of relative performance here in the UK. The only online newspaper not flatlining is the Daily Mail…

Daily Mail reaps UGC rewards...

UGC gives people more reasons to return to a website. It makes for a stickier experience. People want to interact, to participate, to share their own views. Perhaps, by stopping short of fully embracing user generated content, The New York Times has missed a trick here?