Highlighting High-quality Content as a Moderation Strategy: The Role of New York Times Picks in Comment Quality and Engagement

Yixue Wang, Nicholas Diakopoulos


Proposes a mechanism for increasing the quality of online comments, namely a quality-focused moderation strategy for picking comments for display that are found to be high quality by professional moderators and highlighting them as New York Times Picks.


News commenting is a prevalent form of online interaction, but it is fraught with issues, such as a low quality of discussion that often takes place. While various moderation methods can be used to maintain online discussion quality, one moderation strategy that is underexplored is for professional moderators to mark high-quality posts that are further highlighted in the interface. In this work, we look at the impact of New York Times (NYT) Picks. We present an analysis of more than 13 million NYT comments, examining the quality and frequency of commenting on the site in response to NYT Picks. The findings offer evidence that NYT Picks are associated with an increase in the quality of first-time receivers’ next approved comment, as well as the commenting frequency during commenters’ early tenure on the site. The quality boost associated with receiving a Pick attenuates after subsequent picks and diminishes over time as the user continues commenting but is still higher than commenters who do not receive Picks. Visible comment quality has a relatively small but significant positive correlation with the quality of the next comment, and exposure to Pick badges is also positively correlated with subsequent higher-quality approved comments, albeit to a lesser extent. Our results underscore the potential for news organizations to adopt the moderation strategy of highlighting professionally selected high-quality comments to improve overall community quality. We discuss the implications of our findings and offer design opportunities for comment sections that could further enhance quality in online discourse.


ACM Transactions on Social Computing

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Cite This Paper

Wang, Y., & Diakopoulos, N.A. (2021). Highlighting High-quality Content as a Moderation Strategy: The Role of New York Times Picks in Comment Quality and Engagement. ACM Transactions on Social Computing (TSC), 4, 1 - 24.


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