1. steveroy44

    Disarming Engagement: A Recap of Our Internet Week Event

    Posted on May 21, 2014 by steveroy44

    Engagement means many things to many people. Probably too many things in the publishing and advertising worlds. So this week in New York City, we hosted an event at City Winery that brought together some of the best minds from the industry to unpack the hyperbole and load up on straight talk. The question we wanted to answer was: do we measure what matters? This is a recap of the discussions we convened.

    Voices from the Park

    How many conferences and many more articles about measuring content success ever include the views of actual readers? Few to none. So the week before our event, we hit the streets of New York City asking people, “What does engagement mean to you?” Here’s what they had to say, and how we started off the morning. (Warning: unscripted and 100% organic cat pic reference included.)

    “Paywalls Are the Opposite of Engagement”

    We were fortunate to then feature a lively Q&A between Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Mashable’s Christina Warren. In a wide ranging discussion, Fred expressed an unambiguous view that “paywalls are the opposite of engagement” and stressed the need for publishers to foster sharing and commenting.

    Six in Under 60

    The centerpiece of our event featured six lightning talks from industry leaders who are doing engagement right. Each speaker was given no more than 10 minutes to present a case study, impactful insight or brief story about how their organization is learning to respond to the content needs of audiences and customers.

    A quick rundown:

    • Ro Gupta of Disqus shared some history of how we’ve evolved our ad and core product metrics to include time spent as a true measure of user value. (Did you know that every month, Disqus captures a trillion seconds of attention through online discussion?)  

    • Jacqui Maher of The New York Times talked about backing up journalistic intuition with data and how the Times looks at repeat visits as a key success metric.

    • Romy Newman head of digital advertising for The Wall Street Journal shared a case in point that demonstrated how clicks don’t measure the full value of advertising content, especially when a brand marketer is looking to build awareness or communicate an idea.

    • Hilary Parker of Etsy gave a talk focused on what Etsy has learned through A/B testing, stressing the importance of informed experimenting to increase user engagement and conversions.

    • Don Steele who heads up fan engagement at Comedy Central presented his “Anatomy of a Conversation” about how real communication with real fans has fostered the growth of the Comedy Central community.

    Time Spent and Premium Audiences Are Not Mutually Exclusive

    To close out the morning, I moderated a discussion with Tony Haile, the CEO of Chartbeat and Jay Lauf, the publisher of Quartz. Quartz has very effectively positioned itself as a high-end business intelligence brand where the advertiser proposition is about reaching a premium, executive-level audience. Chartbeat has popularized the notion that publishers should be looking to monetize time spent reading in alignment with the way marketers buy time on TV and other media platforms.

    So I teed up a central question. What matters more: who is reading or how much time is spent reading? (Spoiler alert: both.) Check out the discussion for yourself.

    Thanks to all our speakers and please share your thoughts and questions below.

  2. nudelzrulez

    How Paleo Food Made Strangers Into Friends

    Posted on May 13, 2014 by nudelzrulez

    We had a hypothesis that needed testing at Disqus — would people that love to talk about their interests online, do the same in the “real” world? As it turns out, they do. And with vigor.

    Online communities are our focus at Disqus. But to the average person, they may not be the most approachable or natural space to convene and connect. So we wanted to explore ways to tell the story of our communities by putting them in their natural, off-line environments. Think of movie buffs at a premiere of an indie flick. Or car fanatics at the local car show.

    This past weekend we hosted our first Disqus IRL event in collaboration with Michelle Tam (and her husband, Henry Fong). Together they run the popular Paleo food site Nomnompaleo. When Michelle and I first chatted about hosting an event for her online community members, we weren’t sure how it would play out. Would a bunch of strangers really be able to hit it off? We decided to say, “Screw it, FEED THEM AND THEY WILL COME” (I’m paraphrasing a bit here.)

    We gathered up 20 guests (via a giveaway on Michelle’s blog) for a family-style dinner at the gorgeous Cookhouse, in North Beach, San Francisco. The lovely and talented paleo chef Diane Davidson, of Cast Iron Kitchen, prepared recipes from Michelle’s book. The only thing left to do was test our hypothesis, and get our little group of paleolithic eaters together in real life!

    Most of our guests were from the Bay Area, but we were lucky enough to entice people to come from as far as Park City, Seattle, and Los Angeles. And once people started to arrive, it was obvious we were onto something.

    These people were excited. One woman literally squealed when Henry offered to sign her Nomnompaleo cookbook. I thought glasses might crack when eruptions of laughter periodically tore through the room. I’m not a Paleo eater myself, but after seeing people make instant, enthusiastic connections, I considered converting then and there. I wanted to be part of the tribe.

    One of our guests, Kim, summed it up best when she said, “It was really surprising at the time (but not so much in retrospect) how passionate we all were about Paleo cooking and Michelle’s blog. It was neat to connect with people in real life over a shared interest.”

    Sitting down to dinner only fueled the discussion further. As each dish came out, people exchanged recipe tips and resources on where to find good takeout Paleo food. (Along with a little lamenting over why the recipes didn’t taste this good at home.) At one point, Lisa, one of the guests, said, “I was so surprised to see fish sauce and ghee on the counter, but then I remembered where I was — it’s awesome.”

    Much like Kim, I was initially surprised by how easy it was for people to strike up a conversation. But it soon became clear that whether people were online or off, a good community is a good community. And that means people from all walks of life sharing the same interest, getting together to share an experience and talking to whoever they’re next to with ease. Another guest, Jill, said “I knew the Nomnompaleo followers had to be a good crowd, but I had SO much fun and have some new connections.”

    One of the original promises of the Internet is the opportunity and ability to connect with people who love the same things you do. This is the core of our mission at Disqus. And for the first time in the real world, the Nomnompaleo event delivered these same connections in spades. The only thing sweeter than playing Paleo Matchmaker were the Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme we had for dessert.

  3. simpsoka

    Featured Comments: The Best of The Best

    Posted on May 7, 2014 by simpsoka

    Earlier this year we released an update that lets moderators feature comments — essentially, a way to make sure the best or most important stuff always gets seen. Since then, we’ve seen Featured Comments used in some really brilliant ways: to highlight a popular opinion, provide an editorial update, set the tone for a controversial discussion, and display release dates — to name a few.

    We’ve seen so much success that we’ve put together a Featured Comments Showcase. Check out the best of the best and get inspired to start featuring comments on your own sites! Here are a few that we love:

    We all know that Healthcare.gov has had some difficulties, so they used featured comments to give tips to readers on where to get help:

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    Armor Games used featured comments to provide moderation help:

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    Eat Your Kimchi knows when a great gif needs to be highlighted:

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    Want to know more about how to feature a comment? Check out the video below to learn how to feature and unfeature comments in less than 20 seconds.

    Have you seen (or highlighted your own) Featured Comment, that beats the ones we’ve showcased? Share it below.

    Or, post a comment yourself and try to get featured. Let’s see what you’ve got.

  4. davidericfleck

    Heads Up: We’re Testing a New Form of Advertising

    Posted on April 7, 2014 by davidericfleck

    For the last month, in very small numbers, we’ve been testing out a new advertising format: Sponsored Comments. We’re expanding that test based on early, promising results. So soon, it’ll be more likely that you come across a Sponsored Comment.

    In fact, you may see an ad like this across Disqus this week:

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    It’s part of how we’re introducing this concept to sites that already use advertising on Disqus. (If your site has ads turned off, this ad will not appear.)

    Why Sponsored Comments?  

    We launched Featured Comments earlier this year. Featured Comments are a way for publishers to highlight the best of the best at the top of a thread. This can be done for any number of reasons: to highlight a popular commenter, to highlight a particularly insightful comment, or to steer the discussion in a particular direction. This feature has been very popular in the communities which have adopted it. Here’s a good example on World Star Hip Hop. And here’s a quick demo of how you feature a comment.

    Also, because Disqus now helps websites make money from engagement and discussion, a natural question came up - can we use the concept of Featured Comments in order to allow brands to reach specific audiences? This was the idea behind Sponsored Comments.   

    So, What Are Sponsored Comments?  

    Sponsored Comments let businesses deliver a message to the people they need to reach. A Sponsored Comment can use all types of media to get their point across, just like any other Disqus comment. But they’re not part of the discussion happening on that thread or community itself. That’s too disruptive.

    So instead, they’re pinned to the top of the discussion environment where things are just getting started. It’s like movie previews. It’s not the thing you came for, but if done well, it adds a little bit to your experience without being intrusive. We’re testing whether or not we can make this true.

    Our Goal: Ads We’re OK With

    We have a lot to learn about advertising within Disqus. We want to understand what kinds of sponsored content will work well versus ones that won’t be so great. But the overarching goal is straight-forward: ads people are ok with. If we can complement the experience people already enjoy using Disqus, while at the same time helping businesses reach the people they care about, it has a lot of potential for us and our publisher partners.

    So how are we thinking about the overall experience?  

    Quality - Businesses don’t want to ruin your fun.  We have a team that is continually refining our approach to advertising content so that it’s in keeping with the site you’re on. 

    Positioning - Sponsored Comments aren’t there to interrupt the conversation.

    Feedback - We want to hear from you.  If you have feedback, please provide it in the comments section of this post.  

  5. annmony

    Disqus East: The Birth of a New Office

    Posted on April 3, 2014 by annmony

    Disqus is headquartered in San Francisco, but I’m proud to say that we now also have a permanent office in New York City. Goodbye co-working spaces, hello beautiful new office in “Silicon Alley!”

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    Who cares? I care because I’m the Office and Operations Manager at Disqus (I manage everything tangible in our offices from equipment to food to decor). My East Coast colleagues care because they now have a space where they can be the best Disqussers they can be. And you should care because I have two big takeaways that can help you build a better office.

    It is possible to build out a beautiful office on a small budget

    Disqus is no longer a scrappy startup, but we still avoid unnecessary lavishness. Not a small feat when our offices are located in the two most expensive cities in America. New York City’s real estate market is brutal, so we kept all avenues open while searching for a space. We ended up finding our little slice of heaven thanks to a flier a friend of ours sent us. Thanks, friend!

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    I then kept my budget small by designing the space myself and purchasing retail furniture. Since I had decorated our San Francisco office it was fairly easy for me to maintain a consistent design, and frankly, making design decisions was one of the most pleasant parts of the whole project.

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    The corporate furniture business is surprisingly similar to the wedding industry in terms of inflating prices. Shopping for items online, assembling them on-site, and timing deliveries is a time-consuming hassle, but it can save you tens of thousands of dollars. Here are a few of my top choices when outfitting an office:

    • Art and signature furniture pieces: Etsy
    • Conference room tables: Ikea
    • Desks and chairs: Overstock and BizChairs
    • Breakout furniture: CB2, Crate & Barrel, Ikea, and Target
    • Electronics: Amazon Prime
    • Office supplies: Amazon Prime
    • Maintenance and cleaning supplies: Home Depot

    I also set up our internet myself with the remote help of our CTO, something which I recognize is not always feasible depending on a company’s wiring and IT needs. Labor that we paid for, and that proved invaluable, consisted of professional movers and TaskRabbits hired to assemble the furniture.

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    It is worth it to adapt the design of each office

    My philosophy is that cookie-cutter spaces are appropriate for restaurant chains and retail stores but not companies that value their employees’ individuality. Granted, an office should reflect a company, the guests who visit it, and even potential new employees. But I’ll go one step further and say that an office should reflect the people who work within that particular office. Is your office in London and filled with young gamers? It it in Portland and filled with health-conscious bikers? Not only does our new office feel Disqussy, but it also has a subtle New York flavor with a dash of sales.

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    The space is vibrant, polished enough for a legitimate tech company, but humble and homey enough to make everyone feel at ease. Gone are the days of general malaise born of working in a co-working space! From impromptu meetings in conference rooms, to quietly working from soft seating, to having a conversation around a pod of standing desks, everyone can look forward to enjoying a good day at work. Best of all, now that we have large communal tables, people are actually sitting down to eat lunch together! Since moving into our new office the increase in team cohesion and general energy has been palpable.

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    I flew to New York City twice in one month to set up our new office. It was a lot of work within a short period of time, but it was all worth it to see the delightfully surprised look on my CEO’s face when he first walked in and saw the place humming with happy activity. “It feels like Disqus.” Mission accomplished.