Monday, July 19, 2010

No Comment!

CNN has an interesting story on its website today examining how news websites are handling anonymous user comments. The article talks about how some news outlets are attempting to civilize the discourse on their sites by requiring users to register with their real names, e-mails, and sometimes hometowns so that posters can be held accountable for their comments.

I think this is an interesting topic for a number of reasons.

First of all: How will this impact the business end of news websites? If there are extra steps to commenting, will that mean fewer comments? If there are fewer comments, will that mean less page views, which in turn will mean less advertising? Hardly an ideal business move considering the economic state of many newspapers, so will the news outlets stick with this practice if it costs them money?

Second: What does this move signal about interactive discourse online in general? It is interesting to read articles from American Journalism Review (available through Communication and Mass Media Complete database) which point out that when comment boards were first created a few years ago, editors didn't give anonymous postings a second thought. Now they are a major topic of contention because profanity, vulgarity, and other undesirable content has become more pervasive. Thus, a pattern seems to have emerged - give the people free reign to post things until it gets out of and and then reel them back in. (Wikipedia comes to mind.) So will anonymous online posting across the internet survive or will it die out?