GateHouse Media has decided to take the social media highway when it comes to a commenting platform for our newspapers.
We announced to employees last week that we would be switching to Facbook's commenting platform at the same time we redesign our nearly 400 websites over the course of the next three months.
Here are the benefits that I laid out to our newsrooms:
— Significant traffic opportunity as every comment a user makes can be seen in that individual's news feed.
— Creates a larger conversation around our content based on the number of users in Facebook.
— Should create a cleaner and more valuable conversation in the commenting area of our sites.
— Moderation tools that help newsrooms manage the comments on our sites through the Facebook widget.
There are some downsides, which we heavily weighed, like the fact that just because you go to Facebook comments doesn't really mean that we'll have real names for our commenters across the board. Facebook even announced this week that 83 million of its 950 million accounts were fake.
In addition, as we talked to editors across the country about this potential move, many said they were surprised at the number of folks who didn't have Facebook accounts or didn't want them. But many said it was worth it for a few reasons:
— The conversation around commenting became a lot cleaner than what it was when it was part of the newspaper's content management system.
— The number of those who didn't have Facebook accounts was pretty small.
— The conversation around the newspaper's content expanded because of Facebook's deep network of users. The content was simply reaching more people, more non-traditional readers.
— Newsrooms didn't have as many hassles as before because some of the "trolls" didn't come over to the Facebook platform.
Made good sense to us. You can see what it looks like on one of our redesigned sites at the top of this page.
We'll be following analytics and referral traffic from Facebook closely. We think the fact that comments will feed into a user's news feed could mean great stuff for our traffic and we're excited to take the Facebook technology longterm into more areas of our sites, like user-generated-content for stories and photos.
David Arkin is Vice President of Content & Audience for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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