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After a three year hiatus, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) News is once again opening up to news commenters. The site, which has been the top source of online news in the country for several years now, quietly added a standard commenting feature late last evening to all of its articles, which allows visitors to post their opinions, respond to specific views left by others, and vote comments up or down. Most of its big (and smaller) rivals already feature similar systems.
Yahoo News had previously allowed its users to comment on news articles via message boards. But the company shut those down in late 2006 in part because of the poor quality of discussion. “The feeling as I understand it was that it was degrading the quality of the site rather than enhancing it,” says Mark Walker, who heads up Yahoo News in North America. This time around, Yahoo has added filtering technologies to its comment streams, in order to ensure that higher quality comments are highlighted. (Walker says there are seven levels of “technical comment moderation.”)
Walker tells us that Yahoo News users demanded that the site add some sort of commenting system. “We sort of looked at our customer satisfaction research and some of the feedback from the audience was that the right to comment was sort of an extension of their first amendment rights,” he says. “There was a very strong desire from the audience — which is an engaged audience which has something to say — to interact with the news site at a much more profound level.”
Walker wouldn’t say what Yahoo News’ expectations for the volume of comments are, but, less than one day in, users already appear to be embracing them. The top story on Yahoo News right now — “Senate GOP leader says budget impasse to end soon” — has 697 comments. Hard to judge the quality, however. The debate is raging with both some serious historical perspective, as well as a fair amount of name-calling.