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Startup SolidOpinion offers “Promoted Comments” for publishers

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Startup SolidOpinion offers “Promoted Comments” for publishers

New York City-based company says its commenting platform provides a new source of revenue and makes comment moderation affordable.

Have you ever felt so strongly about something you read online that you wanted your posted comment to stand out?

This week, a New York City-based company, SolidOpinion, launched its first product — a new commenting platform — to turn that passion from readers, competitors and advertisers into revenue for publishers.

Publishers can set up a point system where, say, new commenters get a certain number of points for performing actions on the site. Or they can purchase points.

When posting a comment, a user can decide whether to bid for a Promoted Comments position and how many points to offer. Top bid gets the top position for the life of the article, until someone else bids higher. By default, the first few lines of the top three comments are shown on the page, under the article but above the non-promoted comments, and readers can click to see more Promoted Comments.

Promoted Comments ss

SolidOpinion Chairman and founder Michael Robertson — the founder and former CEO of music site MP3.com — told me that his company has two clients at launch, Tribune Publishing’s San Diego Union Tribune and Reason.com.

He said that, to his knowledge, this is the first time comment positioning has been offered for sale. Commenting is usually a money-losing proposition for publishers, he pointed out, but now it can be a revenue generator. SolidOpinion is available internationally, in eight languages.

Publishers can set up such parameters as the number of points awarded for certain user actions like sharing a comment, as well as prices for points, the number of Promoted Comments displayed without clicking to see more and so on. The Tribune, he said, is charging $1 for 88 points, but is also giving out points for various actions that increase engagement, like registering or liking a comment.

Promoted Comments, he said, are designed to work like Google’s text ads, with bidding for placement on relevant pages. In fact, he sees SolidOpinion as a venue that’s particularly hospitable to advertisers.

An article on maintaining your house, for instance, might have an ad-in-a-comment for a local roofing company. There is no special labeling for ads, but Robertson pointed out that the Promoted Comments label, like Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, indicates someone has paid for that position.

SolidOpinion has moderators who see a stream of newly posted comments and the related stories, and they can nix any comments that are not related in some way to the story’s topic. The publisher — for a desktop or mobile web site, or an app — could decide to automatically post comments and then have them moderated afterward, or require approval before posting.

A key question is whether the platform will be used primarily to boost reader engagement by acquiring points or whether it will become a revenue generator because of ads. It’s difficult to envision that there are enough commenters willing to pay for higher positions to generate a significant revenue stream.

If Promoted Comments does become a venue primarily for ads, then the question will be if the presence of ads will downgrade the value of the comments section. That is, do I want to wade through the ads to find actual comments?

With a few lines of JavaScript, SolidOpinion’s Promoted Comments will also work with two of the most popular commenting platforms, Disqus and Facebook. As an add-on or a standalone platform, there’s no charge for SolidOpinion, which takes a cut of the point purchases.

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