“What worries me is less the vitriol and verbal assault on the person whose article is being attacked and more the damage that is being done to the brand that is the IFA.”
So read part of an email sent to me a few months ago by an adviser who wanted us to ban anonymous comments. By the time I’d received the email we had already put plans in place to significantly overhaul the commenting facility on our website.
But the paragraph stood out as encapsulating the key factor which swung the heated arguments we had been having internally about the changes we needed to make.
You may have noticed we relaunched and redesigned the Money Marketing website a couple of months back (we hope you like what we’ve done with the place).
One of the big changes we’ve made is to tighten up the comments section. We’re hoping most readers will feel confident enough to leave their real name when posting comments and will be attracted by the opportunity to boost their profile amongst their peers and the wider media.
The new reader profiles allow you to add a picture and short biography/blurb about yourself and/or your firm (including website, twitter handles etc). Your profile will be linked to each comment you leave and users will be able to see a list of all your comments below your profile.
Personal finance and business journalists from across national newspapers, TV, radio and consumer magazines regularly read the website and most are always on the look out for new advisers to add to their list of contacts. Regular contributors with something interesting to say are likely to catch their eye.
The profiles are a great way to raise the profile of your firm alongside other social media and marketing strategies. They should feature prominently in Google searches. Here’s Billy Burrows’ profile as an example.
We do get some decent comments from individuals who are unable to leave their real names due to the company they work for (eg insights from within insurers, asset managers and lenders which would have their head of communications choking on their skinny Mochas if they were attributed).
We don’t want to lose these interesting and valuable perspectives from the website and so we still allow users to post under a screen name. Again these users can include an image and a blurb about themselves and their profile will link to all the other comments by the user.
In this way we obviously aren’t banning anonymity on the site but we hope that the ability for users to see all the other comments this “screen named” reader has posted will give you a good sense of where they are coming from (and whether you want to listen to them!).
Advisers have been used to working under the shadow of a heavy handed regulator and we understand the concerns of some regular posters who feel they are unable to express their full and frank opinion of the regulator under their real name. But we are hoping that the benefits of leaving your real name will far outweigh these worries and mean that most people will want to- which seems to be the case so far.
I also think the perceptive criticisms often expressed in our user comment section about public policy and new regulations are likely to be taken much more seriously by regulators and politicians if people are prepared to put their real names to the comments.
This brings me on to Almary Green managing director Carl Lamb’s opinion piece in this week’s Money Marketing regarding ”trolling” and concerns that unprofessional comments were left on a rival media website under the name of one of his colleagues who also features prominently in the press.
Now some people seem to use the word “troll” to refer to any other poster who has an opinion that is in anyway different to their view of the world and who expresses themselves in anything other than the politest terms.
But in this case I totally understand the concerns of Carl and his colleague.
To be fair to the rival website, this is something that could happen to any media site (including our own). Even with tight controls and email verification in place it is possible for people to assume the identity of others if they really want to.
From our perspective, the MM team pre-moderate any comments that go up on the site. When you leave a comment four or five of us receive an email and someone will quickly check the comment before it is published.
This might seem like quite a burden when we can receive over 2,000 comments a month but we find it works well and also ensures the team is always aware straight way of any interesting reactions coming through or new angles to follow up.
Nothing is ever perfect and we continue to think about ways we can improve the functionality of the site. Please let us know what you think about the changes we have made and any other suggestions for improvements we should be making.
Paul McMillan is group editor at Money Marketing- follow him on twitter here