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article imageSurvey: News sites' comment tools can attract young readers

By David Silverberg     Aug 22, 2011 in Internet
A new survey found younger news readers are three times more likely than those 55 and older to say that engagement tools will make them more likely to visit a site. Overall, though, a third of those surveyed said they never comment on sites.
News sites continue to push for engagement features to make their content "sticky", but what kind of response are they getting from commenters? According to a new survey, it depends on the demographic.
The Ad Age/Ipsos Observer American Consumer Survey reports "fully half of the 1,003 households that took part in an online survey said adding more tools for engagement would have zero impact on the likelihood that they would visit a news site." Also, 37 percent of respondents said they never comment on news sites, while nine percent say they often comment.
The survey went deeper to find out who engages most on news sites. Readers aged 18 to 24 are three times more likely than readers 55-plus to visit a news site based on its engagement tools. Close to 20 percent of younger readers comment on news sites compared to four percent of the 55-plus crowd.
The survey offers some advice: "If media want to attract the readers who will be reading them in some media or another in five, 10 and 15 years, they'd better be investing in the tools to engage them the way they want to be engaged now. And then they'd better be ready to re-invent as needed."
The survey didn't specify what kind of news site (or articles) the survey respondents had read recently.
In July, media expert Anil Dash wrote a popular blog post calling out publishers for having shoddy commenting guidelines. He said deplorable comment threads are the responsibility of news publishers. "When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you're the person who made it possible, it's 100% your fault." His advice for publishers? "You should make a budget that supports having a good community, or you should find another line of work", and he adds, "Fix your communities. Stop allowing and excusing destructive and pointless conversations to be the fuel for your business."
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