Friday, December 17, 2010

Comments, comments, comments: Huffington Post impresses with sheer volume of reader involvement

I like to tell a story of the early days of Internet publishing, it goes like this: back in the early nineties, the very, very early days of "online" publishing (let's not even call it web publishing) we had many discussions at McGraw-Hill about what it would take to succeed online. Amazingly, we came up with half of the right answer: community. The other half of the question was "how do you build community?" That part was a mystery.

Today, some people like to talk about page views and unique users, others talk about reader involvement like comments.

This is a long way of getting into a little item. You might have heard of the story released today of the study conducted by the University of Maryland which informed readers and viewers are concerning political issues -- or put another way, how misinformed those same readers and viewers are based on the source of their information. The results show, shock-shock, that Fox News viewers are, let's say, a bit misinformed.

OK, no surprise there, and many of the more liberal websites are having a bit of fun with it. But after reading a few versions of the same story something really shocked me. The story posted on the Huffington Post, which was posted this morning, has at this hour 5,725 comments. Seeing 300+ comments on a Paul Krugman or Charles Krauthammer column impresses me. But 5,725 comments?

Oops, over 5,800 now. You've have to admit, that's impressive. But this is not even unusual. A story that simply recaps Jon Stewart's last show of the year has over 4,000 comments.