The New York Times now allows some of its "trusted" commenters to bypass moderators entirely and post comments on its site at will. This is a big move for an established media brand like the Times, which has caught the general trend of ceding some control in exchange for increased engagement with its audience.
Designation as a trusted commenter is available via invitation only. The Times said this status would be granted to those users who have established a record of regularly contributing valuable comments. These trusted commenters will now be able lead conversations on the Times' site.
All other comments will still be vetted by Times staffers before they appear, although in some respects this loosening of the reins has been extended to everybody. All users can now respond directly to other comments and create threads, and they can share their posts on Facebook and Twitter.
This strategy is borne of an entirely new environment in which consumers not only demand to be heard but want to use social media tools to amplify their voices. The Times is walking a fine line between controlling its brand and giving its audience (formerly known as readers) a say in what that brand should be. This is a smart next step and, for an authoritative media brand like the Times, a courageous one.