The Economist is using Quora to shape its comments section
The Economist is trying to figure out what its new comment section should look like, experimenting on platforms like Quora.
The publisher began experimenting with Quora last August when deputy editor Tom Standage used the platform to answer questions about artificial intelligence and The Economist’s digital strategy. Questions such as how the publisher is managing the transition from print to digital received north of 160,000 views. In total, Standage’s questions have had 1.5 million views.
“We were really impressed with the quality and specificity of the questions and how engaged people were on the platform,” said Denise Law, community editor at The Economist. “Clearly, [Quora] has built a community of smart people, which attracts experts; we’ve not been able to build a similar environment on the Economist.com.”
Currently, registered Economist users (who can read three articles a week in exchange for an email address) and subscribers leave 3,000 comments a week on average on The Economist’s site. But the technology powering the comments section needs improvement, and the comments themselves haven’t been as useful or insightful as the publisher has found on other platforms.
Since August, The Economist has run five more Quora Q&A sessions with its correspondents, including Henry Tricks, the energy and commodities editor; and data journalist Idrees Kahloon, whose questions received 5 million views in total, with this one on the accuracy of political polls receiving 1.6 million views. Now, The Economist is planning one of these sessions a month moving forward.
The appeal of Quora is the direct connection to The Economist’s correspondents, who traditionally don’t have bylines. Law said the publisher, which has worked on the new comments section since the beginning of 2017, is looking into whether it can incorporate the Q&A function more natively into the new comments section.
Compared to Medium, where The Economist is publishing articles and receiving high-quality comments, or Facebook Groups, where it encourages discussion between a range of opinions at scale, Quora can seem more limited in its functionality. But Quora has shed light on what interests The Economist’s readers: It’s not just about explaining monetary policy but how The Economist creates its journalism. This is in line with what it has learned from the popularity of its Inside The Economist blog published on Medium, which answers questions like how to write an obituary.
Quora and Medium both use real-name policies in their comments sections. Whether people should be able to hide behind anonymous quotes is a matter of internal debate, said Law, as is whether only subscribers should receive access to comments, which would act as an incentive to convert registered users.
After manually looking at a sample of 1,000 comments a few months ago, the publisher had to hide a handful that a third-party company flagged for violating The Economist’s policies. These were mostly from registered users. “People were registering just to leave a nasty comment,” said Law. Another consideration is that few people comment; in general, most of them enjoy reading the dialogue.
Ultimately, a more engaging comments section will drive subscribers. Other publishers are embracing their comments sections, too. For the Financial Times, readers who comment are seven times more engaged than those who don’t, spending more time on-site and returning more often. The New York Times has recently opened up comments on more of its articles to encourage more engagement.
“We invite people to disagree, as long as it’s insightful,” said Law. “We want it to be civil, a place of intelligence, where people can have a meaningful debate without being trolled.”
How TikTok is taking lessons from the record industry in building a media business
Much of the industry conversation surrounding the app has centered on its ads business but its the creators on it that could spring the bigger returns.
Why TikTok stars are pivoting to gaming
Dressler and Waud used to derive a significant portion of their income selling merchandise to their fans on tours or at meet-ups. However, as these events have been canceled due to coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, they’ve sought to find another source of revenue online.
TheScore CEO John Levy on why sports betting is going mainstream
Consuming sports and betting on them usually happen in two different places. "If you look at the traditional way sports betting has been launched in Europe and even in North America -- in the offshore and black markets -- how people bet is through betting apps," according to John Levy, CEO of theScore, a Canadian sports media company. Those apps aren't where betters get their actual score lines and injury updates; they're where gamblers turn to once they've watched the game or read about it elsewhere. His company is looking to bridge that gap.
SponsoredVideo advertisers are turning to format innovation to push beyond interruptive experiences
In a new video, experts from GumGum, The Martin Agency and Pinterest discuss the future of video advertising — and outline their vision for how video ads can be less disruptive.
In first-party data play, The Guardian rolls out registration wall
Registration walls make it easier to tailor content, services and advertising to readers.
Member Exclusive‘You have full permission to hit the reset button’: Why marketers are using this period to experiment
With coronavirus tearing a hole through the 2020 marketing plan, some marketers see room for risk.