LAT to add paid links to stories, blogs *

The Los Angeles Times will begin selling e-commerce links in selected stories and blog posts — but not in news stories or columns — as "both a reader service and a revenue opportunity for the company," editor Russ Stanton announced to the newsroom in a memo this morning. The ads disguised as links will be marked in green, to distinguish them from editorial content links, and the articles where they appear will carry disclaimers. Also today, Stanton announced a revised comment policy that will let registered users of Facebook and other social media networks post comments on Times stories (but not blogs) in advance of moderation. Software will try to screen for vulgarities, and complaints by two readers will remove a comment pending review.

This transition will be a challenging one. There will be praise and intelligent conversation, but also barbs and outright hostility. As unfettered as the discussions may be, they are worth hosting – and cultivating.

Times staffers are also advised to take part in comment threads, but sparingly and neutrally. Entire memo follows after the jump.

April 30 update: Stanton emails a quibble with my headline and "selling links" terminology. His email is here.

From: Stanton, Russ
Sent: Tuesday, April 27, 2010
To: yyeditall
Subject: Web update: moderating comments, e-commerce links

Colleagues:

Today we are making two key changes to latimes.com.

The first is involves moderating reader comments. Our readers are fully embracing the functionality instituted in December that allows comments to be posted on articles, columns, photos and other non-blog coverage. However, the more the volume increases, the more time and resources it takes to moderate comments before publication.

Starting today, we will allow comments from readers who are registered through the new sign-on process (i.e., via Facebook, AOL, MySpace, Google, Yahoo and Twitter) to go live immediately. These will be scrubbed against a word filter, which will block an extensive list of vulgarities. Please be aware, though, that this system will not be foolproof. There are those who will find a way to slip inappropriate comments past the filter. Each comment has a link that allows readers to report abuse. Any comment reported twice will automatically be removed from the site. These hidden comments will be held for review by Times staffers, who will decide whether to republish the comment or keep it off the site. PLEASE NOTE: We will continue to moderate all comments on our blogs.

This transition will be a challenging one. There will be praise and intelligent conversation, but also barbs and outright hostility. As unfettered as the discussions may be, they are worth hosting – and ccultivating. The fact is, readers of online news expect to be able to participate. They want to be able to share their opinions and interact with journalists and other readers.

We also can learn from conversations about our journalism. We will be closely monitoring the comment boards and will pass along news tips and other pertinent information. You also are encouraged to spend time reading comments and joining the discussions. As such, it’s important to remember the comment policy we have in place; you are encouraged to discuss any concerns you may have with your editors.

Here are some basic guidelines if you want to participate:

n Discuss your response with your immediate supervisor.

n Identify yourself in your comment as a Times employee with your full name and job title.

n Do not denigrate a reader’s opinion; merely state what you know to be fact.

n Write in neutral language.

n Suggest additional resources or thank readers for their thoughts.

n Please participate in a sparing manner, perhaps no more than two times on a single article; there may be exceptions, like a structured Q&A.

Second, we will begin adding e-commerce links in some articles and blog posts today as part of a pilot program.

These post-publication links to sites such as Amazon and TicketNetwork will serve as both a reader service and a revenue opportunity for the company. During the testing phase, the links will be placed by an e-commerce producer based at the Chicago Tribune, where the program has been underway for about six months.

How will this work?

n Every morning the e-commerce producer will review our portfolio of agreed-upon topic areas and add appropriate links

n Each e-commerce link will be indicated in green with a double underline

n At no time will a blue editorial link be replaced with an e-commerce link

n Each article or blog post that includes a green link will be appended with the following disclaimer at the foot of the article text or blog post:

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Where will these links appear?

n In Health, Image, Food, Travel, Books, Entertainment and Sports articles and photo galleries

n In the following blogs: 24 Frames, Culture Monster, Hero Complex, Idol Tracker, Pop & Hiss, Show Tracker, Ministry of Gossip, L.A. Unleashed, All the Rage, Brand X, Daily Dish, Jacket Copy, L.A. at Home, Dodgers, Fabulous Forum, Lakers and Outposts

PLEASE NOTE: As part of this pilot program, e-commerce links will not be used in columns and news section articles and blogs.

What do I need to do?

n Nothing. This pilot project will have no effect on your day-to-day reporting, editing or other activities.

What if I think an e-commerce link is inappropriate or broken?

n Send a note to YYHOMEPAGE.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sean Gallagher
Managing Editor/Online

Russ Stanton
Editor


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