Online comments prove valuable in wake of Brexit

The flood of reader comments that emerged after the UK referendum decision to leave the European Union underscored the value of building a healthy comment environment, an engaged audience and alert editors.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | June 28, 2016

Image: David Kellam

In the hours after the Brexit decision,  millions of comments were being shared about the decision and its consequences. One reader of The Financial Times, Nicholas Barrett, made a comment that went viral.

The FT then contacted Barrett to ask him to expand on his thoughts.

Financial Times


We’ve commissioned FT reader Nicholas Barrett to expand on his viral Brexit comment 

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Andrew Losowsky, Project Lead of The Coral Project, an open-source software platform for journalists to strengthen their digital communities, recognized the need for a fresh perspective within a supportive online community.

In his article ‘Brexit and the Value of Comments‘ Losowsky writes that “if news organizations want to be part of these conversations, they need to do a better job of making people feel safe, respected, and listened to on their platforms”.

George Brock, Professor of Journalism at City University London, told the World Editors Forum that “commissioning a reader as a result of an online comment is just an updated version of someone at the Letters-to-the-Editor desk, in the print era, spotting a particularly powerful letter and suggesting to the opinion page that might like to ask the writer to expand the argument of their letter into an article”.

Brock does not believe the culture of reader contribution has shifted, but the change in medium has changed the way that journalists interact with their audience. Journalists need to adjust to digital and remain diligent in their research, sure to “always scour varied sources – and certainly comment threads – for original stuff,” said Brock.

Stig Abell


Amazing Guardian comment on the poisoned chalice of .

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Incentivising both journalists and readers is one way to build a collaborative platform. Dutch startup De Correspondent, which has remained intent on audience contribution from the get-go, rewards members for sharing their insights and knowledge and this has increased readership.

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