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Evaluating the media: September 2013

PR geekiness - the tools & techniques to gain insights from PR exposure

Monday, September 09, 2013

What is the value of an online newspaper comment?

Much has been said about the value of a Facebook Like and so it seems only logical to think about the value of other online  third-party endorsements and claims. What about comments on online newspapers? Just about every site that could be described as an online newspaper has a mechanism for allowing readers to comment, however in the many years I have been evaluating online content (mostly manually) I have not included or ever been asked to include consideration of the online comments. I would be very interested in any readers experiences?

While it might be suggested that online comments have moved up the agenda following Arianna Huffington's decision to stop all anonymous comments on the Huffington Post, it was actually an article in the Telegraph this weekend that got me thinking. There a few more emotive subjects in the UK than housing and this article waves a red flag with the headline 'House prices spiral up in 'virtuous circle''. In the last 3 days there has been 466 comments, taking for main part, a counter view. 

If I were evaluating just this article (not the comments) I think you would have to ascribe it as positive towards the housing market and the efforts of the Government to support it. If on the other hand you were evaluating just the comments you could seriously only take a contrarian view. Just take a look - see what I mean?

Comments seem to be becoming a bigger part of the online newspaper experience. Today's Guardian home page has on average received 232 individual comments per news article. 

A search of Google on the value of comments has so far been unproductive - if you have anything please get in contact. I strongly believe this area needs more research.

As mentioned, with this volume of feedback there is a need to find ways of analysing and integrating this material. 

There are a couple of options:

  1. Skim-off the top comments for separate or composite analysis. Most online newspapers allow you to sort the comments in order of the time, popularity, recommendation, etc.  
  2. Develop a comparative index to integrate the impact of all the comments across the online newspapers.
But there are also a few hurdles. If you relay on electronic cuttings from a cuttings agency the likelihood is they will not include the comments. Similarly if you use a social media monitoring tool the chances are it will not capture or analyse comments - I just tried to use one to find the comments on this Telegraph cuttings, with no success.

So if these tools won't help you find the stuff and there is little research to suggest it matters, maybe we should carry on ignoring it? I am thinking to the contrary. In our social/connected world there is valuable intelligence and relationships going to waste.

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