ESPN this week becomes the latest major news organization to rely upon social media to help civilize its online comments.
Starting Wednesday, ESPN.com’s 25 million active users will have to log in through a Facebook account if they want to participate in online conversations on ESPN.com stories.
Patrick Stiegman, editor-in-chief of ESPN.com, said by phone that three factors drove the company’s decision to switch to Facebook for commenting: “a tremendously smooth transition for fans,” many of whom already have Facebook accounts; increased visibility for ESPN content beyond the walls of ESPN.com; and a desire to “emphasize quality of comments over the quantity of comments.”
The daily comment count on ESPN.com averaged 230,000 posts in June, according to ESPN’s Kevin Ota. That’s 6.9 million comments just last month. But while the level of public discourse on ESPN.com is enviably robust by any news organization’s standards, it isn’t necessarily always civil or thoughtful.