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This article was published on March 30, 2013

Disqus CEO Daniel Ha: Four ways Web comments will change

Disqus CEO Daniel Ha: Four ways Web comments will change
Daniel Ha
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Daniel Ha

Daniel Ha is the CEO and cofounder of Disqus. Daniel’s background is in product design and web development. Previously, Daniel studied compu Daniel Ha is the CEO and cofounder of Disqus. Daniel’s background is in product design and web development. Previously, Daniel studied computer science engineering at UC Davis before deciding to drop out of school to pursue the startup world. Disqus is the web’s most ubiquitous discussion network, reaching nearly one billion unique visitors every month and spanning nearly any topic or type of community imaginable.

Last week, research from content analytics company Chartbeat confirmed a secret I’ve known for some time: readers are spending most of their time on the south side of web pages. 66% in fact according to their data.  The takeaway could not be more important for revenue hungry publishers: reader attention is on unattended page space.

Take a look at virtually any publisher page.  The biggest ads, the best design and most of the content is all up top. The writers and their bylines, they’re there too. Scroll down and things begin to dry up. But who is there? The readers. The commenters. And what are they doing? They’re reading or participating in the discussion and they’re spending a lot of time doing so.

To unlock the potential in this shift in audience habits, the section universally recognized as the comments will need to change dramatically. Let me share with you four changes we’re likely to see.

1.  Media

Including attractive photos, user sketches, and videos that can add new depth to a conversation. In addition to adding to the reader experience, rich media connects with younger users who find adding photos or videos less daunting than writing blocks of texts. New usage patterns have emerged and a new language for discussion has come along with it. It may be more more appropriate (and easier) to add a photo or video to a community discussion rather than words.

2. Community

Community means participating in a more personal way — not because you’re with real life friends, but because you’re in a group of shared interests and context. Publishers will move to build out new layers of community development and activity. The unfortunate reality is that content is increasingly easy to copy. Community is copy–proof. Community experience will become a major point of differentiation for publishers.

3.  Discovery

Today’s content discovery offerings largely exist as little blue links surfaced by fairly blunt targeting capabilities. It’s recommended content and has little of the serendipity that comes with a true discovery experience. Think of an archaeologist digging for artifacts. Content discovery will become much more personalized and responsive to user input. It will be another unique experience delivered by the publisher.

4.  Money

The bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked “Why do you rob banks?” to which he replied: “because that’s where the money is.” For publishers, new revenues will flow from creating new experiences where the readers already are. Experiences lend themselves to greater brand participation. And ad dollars eventually flow to where time is being spent. Many think about comments as a cost to minimize rather than an edge to exploit. This will shift and the comment service budget line item will disappear.

There’s a lot of talk about brands as publishers. But publishers as brands is less well understood. The changes publishers will take to re-envision the world below the fold should be very familiar to savvy brand marketers. They’re going to make experiences part of the product. Experiences are shared. They bring the user closer. They can’t be commoditized or easily copied. And in the case of publishers, they will break the old expectations of what happens “below the fold.”

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