A drop of 50,000 to 4000 in the number of reader comments might sound disastrous for a news site, but it’s all part of an eastern European paper’s plan to improve the quality of posts.
The most popular news site in the Czech Republic, Novink.cz, was being swamped with comments, often of a low quality and all needing time consuming moderation. Their solution was to make it much harder for users to post.
Anyone wishing to contribute, now needs to apply for a user name that will be sent to them by snail mail. Only then are you allowed to comment, with your name and town displayed. As a result the site has seen the number of page hits rise by a third due to an improvement in the quality of the content.
Other Eastern European sites are leading the way too. Pravda.sk, one of the leading dailies in Slovakia, ask readers to authenticate their identity through SMS.
With user comments always on the up, if western sites want comments to have real value they’re also going to have to think about making it a little harder to post.