Web news site MSNBC.com will introduce a new Web logs section by the end of August, a move that will allow it more editorial control over the opinionated ramblings of its former online discussion boards.
Web logs, commonly called "blogs," allow people to post commentaries and other written musings for Web audiences. Blog authors oftentimes include links to other blogs and to articles relating to a particular topic.
But for a mainstream Web site such as MSNBC.com, blogs offer a stepped-up level of editorial control over the often raucous ramblings from readers in online discussion boards. The site closed the popular boards last December because of the high cost of monitoring discussions that often turned into obscene flame wars.
"The bright side is that Web logs create a different kind of community," said Joan Connell, executive producer for opinion and communities at MSNBC. "Like-minded people come together to talk about things...it's an issue-driven encounter."
Blogs are becoming a on the Web. Writers, artists, celebrities, not to mention the Web populace at large, have created their own blogs. And in MSNBC's case, blogs offer a way for their correspondents, such as Chris Matthews, to develop an editorial connection to their readers. Other commentators, such as Andrew Sullivan and Eric Alterman from The Nation, have their own blogs as well.
Unlike Web logs, discussion boards have long been a staple on the Web. Most content sites have discussion boards that allow readers to express their opinions about hot topics of the day. Discussion boards offer a sense of community to a site by providing an emotive outlet for readers. Much of the time, however, these areas are home to hostile postings that toe the line between free opinion and rudeness.
Indeed, discussion boards are popular on MSNBC, with 17 million posts each month during peak news times, according to Connell.
"It was a business decision" to close the discussion boards, Connell said. "Much like a public park, you have to keep (discussion boards) clean and free of litter, and that involved hiring people."
News.com's Stefanie Olsen contributed to this report.