Design and editorial solutions provider Pagemasters has signed a deal with Fairfax Media to expand its comment moderation service for Fairfax metropolitan sites.
Pagemasters, which is owned by Australian Associated Press, has been providing comment moderation to Fairfax for around two years, with a full-time moderator based at the AAP Rhodes office processing in excess of 1000 comments on Fairfax sites a day.
Pagemasters managing director Peter Atkinson told The Newspaper Works that the extension of that arrangement came into effect a few weeks ago and that the new moderation team will be based in AAP’s Auckland office.
“We are expanding the service both in terms of volume and also in terms of the hours and days that are covered,” said Mr Atkinson.
“We are now providing this service to them seven days a week and mostly between the hours of 6am and 10pm… It’s been primarily a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm type service up to this point.”
The new team will consist of three to four team members, although not all of those will be full-time employees, and will cover moderation of comments on articles at smh.com.au, theage.com.au, canberratimes.com.au, brisbanetimes.com.au and watoday.com.au. Fairfax pre-moderates all comments on its metropolitan sites, which means that every comment published online is first vetted by a moderator to ensure that it meets certain editorial guidelines.
In this case and others, Mr Atkinson said, Pagemasters would be guided by the client in how it approaches moderation from a governance perspective.
“Our staff always liaise very closely with our clients about whatever the task happens to be, and with comment moderation obviously it’s not just a case of either accepting or rejecting comments, there are occasions when we have to make judgments about good taste and legal issues,” he said.
“We’re actively keeping an eye out for potential story leads coming out of comments as well – so occasionally someone will make a comment that is either the catalyst for a new angle on a story, or it may be a new way in to the story.”
The team leader, Rob Ashton, a Pagemasters employee who has been moderating Fairfax comments for around two years, has been in Auckland for the past month training the new moderators, but will manage the team from AAP’s offices in Rhodes, Sydney.
Mr Atkinson said that the time zone differences between Australia and New Zealand made it desirable to have moderators in both countries, and that there were separate commercial benefits to providing the service out of New Zealand.
Pagemasters is confident that comment moderation will be an area of strong growth over the coming years, as publishers look for ways to more fully engage their readers.
“We’re really optimistic that is a service that is going to grow, we’re certainly having some really positive discussions at the moment,” said Mr Atkinson.
– For a deeper look at comment moderation both in Australia and overseas, have a read of this piece from the most recent Bulletin.