All the News That’s Fit to Print

Bassey EtimWhile some news organizations have run away from online comments, The New York Times has shined by embracing them and holding commenters to a level of quality that reflects their editorial work.

Bassey Etim is at the center of these efforts. He leads the 14-person Community desk, which focuses on comment moderation, while also helping the Times to unearth and maximize the value of their reader community – and the value they provide to readers.

We talked about how comments have improved the journalism at the Times, plus:

  • How Bassey hopes to build a celebrity class of commenters
  • The ROI of comments for news organizations
  • Why he’s excited for the Times to build community one-on-one with readers

Our Podcast is Made Possible By…

If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsor: Emoderation.


Big Quotes

“If you run a news organization – if you run a content business – and you’re just allowing a piece of your content to go without any serious monitoring or care, of course it’s going to fail because people came to you for your content business, not for a random assortment of things from the internet.” -@BasseyE

“Since we’ve started having comments on, I feel that the quality of our journalism, in terms of its ability to talk directly to folks [and] the amount of complaints we get about the way something was contextualized, it’s just gotten so much better.” -@BasseyE

“To get people to subscribe to anything is a process. First, they need to hear about you. Then they need to realize what your mission is, and what the unique value proposition you’re trying to offer them is. Then they’ve got to have a unique moment with you that sticks in their memory. Then they’ve got to come back again and feel as if they’ve got the time and the opportunity to subscribe, but also that they want to, almost like you’re smiling as you subscribe, like, ‘you know what, I’m going to get these guys back for what they’re giving me. They’re going a great job, happy to support this.'” -@BasseyE

“There’s a pretty discrete value, in terms of getting somebody to become a registered user to your site. It’s a step that you can kind of look at it financially and say, ‘okay, this person is X more likely to subscribe because this happened.’ And once you can pinpoint where comments were involved in that, then that is when you really start to justify spending money to make sure that the comments are of really high quality and they reflect the value that you’re trying to advertise to readers.” -@BasseyE

About Bassey Etim

Bassey Etim is a journalist, author and musician who, as community editor, is the resident expert on community management at The New York Times. He runs a 14-person desk within the Times newsroom and is the editorial head of the Times’ community development team.

Bassey is part of The Coral Project, a team that won a $3.9 million dollar grant from the Knight Foundation to develop open source tools that help news organizations build better community.

He released an experimental cross-platform novel with WorldLive Mobile in 2012. The novel was integrated with the WorldLive Authors app, and included The God Project: A Soundtrack, with artists from Paper Tiger and Eyeball Records.

The child of Nigerian immigrants, Bassey is from Milwaukee and a University of Wisconsin alumnus. At the Badger Herald, the nation’s largest fully-independent college newspaper, he served as managing editor. But it was his column writing and live-blogging about local politics that drew the attention of the state’s political scene and ultimately, The New York Times.

Links Mentioned


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