The ability to leave comments is both a blessing and a curse for content sites. On one hand, they’re an invitation to drown a site in spam, they can be nasty and they can start fights between members of a community.
On the upside, they can start fights between members of a community. Come on, you can say you hate it when people start taking swipes at each other but a good text-based donnybrook can drive a ton of traffic.
The Huffington Post has found a way to capitalize on that traffic with their new feature called Conversations. When a comment gets replies, this button appears at the end of that section.
Click through and you get a pop-up that looks like this:
The pop-up contains just one comment thread. This particular article already has 115 conversations and 323 comments. Each thread has its own link, an specific comment box and social media buttons so you can share your thoughts.
See the empty space below the article summary on the right? According to PaidContent, AOL is going to fill that space with display ads.
This is smart in a dozen different ways. First off, it cuts the signal to noise ratio of a busy post by pulling out the most valuable comments. Now, people with a specific point of view to hone in on their area of interest without having to wade through dozens of irrelevant comments.
Second, by giving a thread its own page, they’re implying that there’s value in the content which should encourage commentators to continue the discussion.
The unique link and social media options, means a commenter is more likely to invite others into the conversation because it’s focused on a subject he’s passionate about.
And of course, every conversation is a new page and a new place to run ads.
PaidContent says that the site uses a computer algorithm to decide which comments are worthy of their own conversation thread but they do have human moderators to search for missing gems.
I think that comments are one of the most underused features of any content-driven site. Comments can help you come up with new ideas. You can use them to find community influencers and writers to guest post. And, as a marketer, you can use the comment block on other websites as form of outreach and promotion.
Time for you to leave a comment about comments – love ‘em, hate ‘em and what do you think of HuffPo’s plan to monetize them?