“The Beef”: rethinking audience interaction

A prototype by Yle (Finland)

Many media are grappling with user comments. Some are shutting down comments in favour of moving the conversation to social media. Others staunchly stand by their comments sections despite the time and cost of moderation. In April, we asked Finnish newsrooms to rethink communities on news sites beyond the comments section.

A screen capture of The Beef

Yle News won the first Editors Lab in Helsinki with “The Beef”, a tool aiming to make it easier for a reader to interact with a news story while keeping them on the site, not migrating to social. The tool allows readers to indicate what they consider as the most powerful section of a news story, or in other words, the “beef” of the story. After having read the article, readers can highlight their chosen segment of the story at the click of a button. The readers’ highlights are displayed in line with the article. On top of the article, the readers can see a timeline of the most highlighted moments of the story.

What inspired this project?

The Yle team was inspired to create The Beef by features of multiple services including:
 • The audio commenting system in SoundCloud that allows listeners to comment at a specific point in the track.
 • The Genius Web Annotator that lets the readers add line-by-line annotations to any page on the Internet.
 • Quartz’s annotations system that allows readers to add annotations to Quartz stories on the level of individual paragraphs.
 • Kudos, a simple widget that allows users to show their appreciation for some piece of content in just one click.
 • Imgur, image-sharing website where posts are ranked based on users’ votes and anonymous comments are an essential part of the user experience.
 • Facebook’s reactions, a more nuanced way for users to interact with content.
 • Amazon Kindle’s Popular Highlights, a feature that shows the passages of the book that have been highlighted frequently by other readers.

The jury chose this prototype because its easy interface, and potential to increase engagement with minimal moderation. The Beef provides a more visible in-line alternative to commenting for readers who wish to interact with a story. It can allow busy readers to skim the most important parts of a story and easily understand other readers’ opinions without having to scroll through a disorganised pile of comments.

The winning team from Yle: Teemo Tebest, Ville Juutilainen & Ville Juutilainen

The implementation of the project is on hold at the moment. The team hopes to revisit The Beef in 2017 after this year’s site redesign.

[Get The Beef source code]