To be clear: Commenting is not a new feature. But the fact Yahoo News has existed as a top player in the online news biz without any interaction or input from its audience is surprising in a world where words like “social media” and “user engagement” are dropped endlessly in executive board rooms.
The commenting system on Yahoo has been suspended for three years. The newly implemented user engagement platform now allows visitors to comment, respond to comments left by others and vote comments up or down based on quality or relevance.
So why did it take three years? Mark Waller, head of Yahoo News in North America told Paid Content comments were shut down in 2006 because of poor quality of discussion. “The feeling as I understand it was that it was degrading the quality of the site rather than enhancing it,” he said.
Today’s commenting system is far more sophisticated, as the company uses seven levels of “technical comment moderation” to filter comment streams in order to help the good stuff float to the top.
Yahoo News re-implemented comments, Walker said, because Yahoo News readers were demanding it.
“We sort of looked at our customer satisfaction research and some of the feedback from the audience was that the right to comment was sort of an extension of their first amendment rights,” he told Paid Content. “There was a very strong desire from the audience—which is an engaged audience which has something to say—to interact with the news site at a much more profound level.”
The comment system also seems to be working; at time of writing, the most-viewed story was “Authorities bust 3 in infection of 13M computers” which had received 1091 comments.