News Sites Moving Away From Anonymous Online Comments

The New York Times published a great article last week about the desire of certain news organizations to move away from anonymous online commenting on articles. The case for this is compelling – many comment streams on news sites, to quote Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., have become “havens for a level of crudity, bigotry, meanness and plain nastiness that shocks the tattered remnants of our propriety.”

Web content managers at media companies are becoming aware of this, and are adjusting their user engagement strategies to help facilitate more productive and relevant conversations on their website. As the NY Times article notes:

“Several industry executives cited a more fundamental force working in favor of identifying commenters. Through blogging and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, millions of people have grown accustomed to posting their opinions — to say nothing of personal details — with their names attached, for all to see. Adapting the Facebook model, some news sites allow readers to post a picture along with a comment, another step away from anonymity.”

A great way to achieve this is by allowing site visitors to register via their existing identities at a social network or web mail provider.  Chicago Tribune, for example, has disabled anonymous commenting on stories, and instead encourages users to sign up via an existing account from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, AOL or MySpace:

chicago tribune registration with janrain engage, a regional media company in California, also requires online readers to register or sign-in before they can comment on a story:

As does, an online content site for women:
The Los Angeles Times also recognizes the value of a registered user, and is currently running a promotion to encourage visitors to register on the site via an existing social identity:

It’s great to see media sites begin to leverage social media to promote meaningful interactivity with their content using real identities.