The Daily Mail appears to find comments irritating

The Julie Moult is an idiot business has flushed out the Daily Mail on their comments policy. Martin Clarke, the editorial director of Mail online told journalism.co.uk:

If you want to complain about a story some days after it’s published you have to take a more traditional view of things and write to the editor, the same as you would as if it was in the paper. We don’t publish all the letters we get,” he said.

Clarke confirmed that 60 comments had been made on the article, but these remained unpublished as of Friday afternoon – until Ireland’s original post was set live.

‘[I]n an ideal world we’d get every [non-libellous and inoffensive] comment published’, but ‘it’s a hell of a job moderating 7,100 comments every day’, he said.

“We are reviewing our entire moderation policy. This is becoming more and more of an issue for us. We get more comments than we can possibly deal with and our moderation side hasn’t been able to keep up.”

“We’re not into censoring comments – if that comment had been posted on the day or even the day after we would have probably got it up there.”

Clearly he understands that current moderation policy is broken. What is it that this website is putting before talking to it’s audience? Perhaps trying to guess what the audience finds interesting rather than listening to the audience. Or perhaps the online team at the Mail spend all their time pleading with the hacks to write stories that are accurate so they don’t have to moderate endless embarrasing comments correcting the newspaper on its own website.

Paul Bradshaw has also reported on on how Bloggerheads has taken the original story and moved things on:

He’s now inviting readers to help document “the lies and falsehoods of the Daily Mail (focusing on a subject, speciality or columnist of your choosing)” and get Daily Mail Watch to the top of the Google search for Daily Mail.

They’re hitting the Daily Mail where it hurts – on search engines – and who can blame them? It is incredibly frustrating for any reader to put the effort into posting a useful comment on a news website only to see it disappear into oblivion. I know – it happened to me when I also published a comment correcting a Daily Mail article last February (worse, Martin Belam’s comment was edited to remove criticism*).

The lesson behind all this is best left to Manic himself:

“Just so you’re aware that your notoriously self-serving comment moderation policy does have its hidden costs; normally you lot wouldn’t be worth the time and effort, but your ignoring/deleting my quite reasonable comment response to your article annoyed me just long enough for this idea to take shape. There, now aren’t you glad that you censored a polite comment pointing out an obvious flaw?”

*UPDATE: It seems Belam’s full comment was eventually reinstated, lower down the comments and with a timestamp the day after Belam blogged about it.

What are the key lessons here:

1 If people want to talk on your website let them, help them, encourage them. Don’t ignore them. That’s rude and people don’t like bad manners.

2 If you don’t they’ll still find somewhere to talk, you may not like what they say and you wont have any authority to attempt to moderate it.

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