Analysis - by on Thursday, July 17, 2008 11:37 - 7 Comments

The art of hoisting comments

Hoisting comments is a basic technique of beat blogging that involves highlighting the best user comments and bringing them above the fray.

Berkeley Economist Brad DeLong was one of the first to use the term to describe highlighting user comments. His hoisted comments often inspire users to comment even more, and hoisting comments is another strong community building technique.

There are several levels of hoisting comments. Kent Fischer, education blogger for The Dallas Morning news, hoists comments to the level of their own posts. He reads through the comments section on his posts, looking for comments that deserve more attention, especially ones that might be buried among many other comments. He then makes a separate post for those strong comments that users can comment on, furthering the discussion.

Fischer writes this about a recent comment that he hoisted to its own post:

Up from the depths of the Spruce High reorg discussion comes former Spruce teacher Sondra Tyler. The current college prof writes eloquently — and piercingly — about the reorganization of her former school.

Her words were too good to be left buried in the comments … so I’m elevating them here to their own post, so more people will see them.

She writes, "I believe in the power of one, and there are survivors, so there is hope…"

Fischer has only hoisted a few comments so far, but he has found enough success that he is contemplating making it a weekly feature on Monday called, "Comment of the Week."

"I’d elevate the best reader comment
from the previous week to a post of its own," Fischer said. "Just something fun to start the
week. Monday mornings are usually slow on the blog anyway. I’ve also
given some thought to picking, say, five posts from the previous week and
creating an on-line Monday poll so that readers can select the “Comment
of the Week” by voting for the one they liked best."

NYU’s Press Thinker, and Beat Blogging collaborator, Jay Rosen hoists comments and other notes and reactions from the blogosphere about his post in a section he calls "After Matter" that is directly after each post. This gives his posts more life as they are updated with additional thoughts and reactions. It is also a place to highlight the best reactions to his material.

ESPN.com has a special section for select user comments in the lower, right side of its homepage called, "Featured Comment." It is updated several times a day. What ESPN does, however, is more of highlighting comments than hoisting them. ESPN does not create a separate page for the comment, but rather uses the comment it highlights to draw traffic back to the original story that was commented on.

And then there is a taking strong online comments and posting them in print. The San Francisco Chronicle, Charlotte Observer, Orlando Sentinel and many others do this. This strategy is aimed at building synergy between the Web and print.

One thing is clear about hoisting comments, it does require time and effort. Someone has to read through user comments and select which ones deserve special attention. A good beat blogger like Fischer, however, is very active in the comments section on his posts already, and so hoisting comments isn’t a lot of extra work on his part. He interacts with users, reads what they have to say and knows what is going on in the comments section of his blog.

ESPN, on the other hand, has people whose job is to read and moderate comments. Those people also select comments to be highlighted. For beat reporters looking to hoist comments, it makes much more sense to personally hoist comments than to rely on someone else to do it. Good beat bloggers are already active in the comments sections of their blogs anyway.

Of course, hoisting comments requires a news organization to allow users to comment on stories, posts, photos and others content. A news organization would be foolish to not allow these forms of two-way communicatio and user interaction. 


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BeatBlogging.org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. BeatBlogging.org offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.

About the Author of this post
Patrick Thornton is the editor and lead writer of BeatBlogging.Org. He is @pwthornton on Twitter.