Every year, newspapers hold conferences about online news and they invite the people who run Slashdot, Kuro5hin, and other geeky community sites to speak to them. They listen raptly to tales of how to build community online. And then they go back to their home markets and continue to dump their news on the Web.
I know of no US newspaper that lets its users attach comments to news stories — something nearly every does. If you want to comment on a news story, you’re going to have to put a pointer to it somewhere (on your blog, on a community site, on a static page) and put your comments somewhere else. No one can reply. No one can provide their opinion. No one can provide their insight from direct experience of the story.
Nobody who reads the story on the original site will be able to find your comment, because newspapers don’t support trackback (more on that later). And people who read your comments won’t be able to read the original story after it is moved to archives, usually about two weeks.
Free content management software is so competitive that it’s hard to find a package that doesn’t offer a pretty good facility for adding comments to individual posts, and most are moving in the direction of (optional) user registration. What that means is that there are literally millions of web sites run by regular human beings that welcome comments from readers.
Newspapers demand registration and acceptance of advertising email as a condition for reading their news, but none use those registrations to create a community.
It’s hard to find a better example of how newspapers still treat the Web like a broadsheet.
Note: Jonathan Dube’s piece “101 ways to improve your news site” addresses some of the issues that I’ve raised in this series. But he doesn’t address trackback.