The Zero Theorem
My local newspaper website, www.examiner.co.uk, has switched from a subscription based commenting system where people were able to define their own user names to a Facebook based system.
The result? Engagement has died overnight. From an average of between 15 or 20 comments on each story to zero.
We can speculate about the reasons – there are probably a few. But of those, the lack of pseudonymity and privacy has to be a consideration.
It should be said that although commentary on the site was frequently robust, there was little outright trolling or flaming going on. But whether you like the idea of anonymity on the Internet or not, I think most of us would like the right to control our identities online. And, for many folks, Facebook is a private, family and friends based space that they feel requires a level of protection.
That’s why services like Disqus and LiveFyre are valuable; dedicated comment management systems that discourage the burner accounts loved by trolls.
As it is, in this case at least, an otherwise digitally savvy local outfit has filled its foot with buckshot – and is losing the return traffic, commentary and engagement that a busy comments section encourages.