On the dynamics of user engagement in news comment media

Many news outlets allow users to contribute comments on topics about daily world events. News articles are the seeds that spring users' interest to contribute content, that is, comments. A news outlet may allow users to contribute comments on all their articles or a selected number of them. The topic of an article may lead to an apathetic user commenting activity (several tens of comments) or to a spontaneous fervent one (several thousands of comments). This environment creates a social dynamic that is little studied. The social dynamics around articles have the potential to reveal interesting facets of the user population at a news outlet. In this paper, we report the salient findings about these social media from 15 months worth of data collected from 17 news outlets comprising of over 38,000 news articles and about 21 million user comments. Analysis of the data reveals interesting insights such as there is an uneven relationship between news outlets and their user populations across outlets. Such observations and others have not been revealed, to our knowledge. We believe our analysis in this paper can contribute to news predictive analytics (e.g., user reaction to a news article or predicting the volume of comments posted to an article).