BLOG MATCHMAKER: CREATING SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN INFORMATION COMPANIES AND WRITERS

One of the best newspaper industry analysts and practitioners, Ken Doctor, has just published a book, “Newsonomics,” and created a companion website. He asked me to answer some questions about bloggers, the news industry, and how I help bring the two together. Here’s a link to the piece.

In a nutshell, he asked if I was a “blog wrangler.” I told him “blog wranglers” just grab as many bloggers as possible and dump them into blog ghettos on newspaper websites with little regard to organization or quality.

By contrast, as a “blog matchmaker,” I deeply search, carefully analyze, thoroughly vet, and then personally invite only the very best bloggers in a niche to partner with a news or information website to the benefit of both parties.

Read the entire piece on Ken’s new Newsonomics site. And let me know what you think.

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“CHICAGO NOW” EDITORS MAKE LIKE EARLY ROCKET SCIENTISTS AND MISFIRE WITH BLOGS

ChicagoNOW editors make blog aggregation look like U.S. rocket science in the Sputnik era (Flickr photo by numberstumper/CC)

ChicagoNOW editors make blog aggregation look like early U.S. rocket science: Misfires (Flickr pic: numberstumper/CC)

Blog aggregation is not rocket science.

It does, however, require common sense.

And common sense would seem to scream: “STOP! DON’T DO IT” if someone suggested creating a stand-alone website made up of a bunch of largely anonymous writers with no organizing principle other than that the writers are all largely anonymous and all from Chicago.

But that’s what the Chicago Tribune’s highly touted “ChicagoNOW” is doing. No categories (well, there’s “recent posts”). Virtually no promotion on the Tribune site. No promotion in the print version of the Trib. No helpful editorial decisions indicating that a couple of blogs that day are really excellent. Continue reading

UNORGANIZED USER-GENERATED CONTENT DUMPED IN A BLOGGER GHETTO IS NONSENSE

"Hey, honey, I've got a great idea for Friday night! Whaddya say we go home and read some generic user-generated blogs tonight?! Sound like fun?" (Flickr photo by larryfishkorn/CC/With permissions)

"Hey, honey, I've got a great idea for Friday night! Whaddya say we go home and read some generic user-generated blogs tonight?! Sound like fun?" (Flickr photo by larryfishkorn/CC/With permissions)

HIGH-QUALITY NON-STAFF BLOGS SHOULD RUN IN THE WEBSITE (AND PAPER) SECTION PERTAINING TO THEIR TOPIC.

When was the last time your colleagues said they were heading out for a wild weekend of reading generic user-generated blogs?

Never, right?

No one (in their right mind) reads blogs just because some other reader wrote them.

And yet, that’s what editors must think because they keep putting ALL reader-written blogs together on one big web page (ghetto), whether those bloggers are writing about knitting or martial arts or kitty cats or Jesus. How fascinating. How compelling. Continue reading

WHY CAN’T NEWSPAPERS FIGURE OUT HOW TO INCORPORATE QUALITY LOCAL BLOGGERS?

Le Monde's website integrates high-quality non-staff blogs like this one.

Le Monde's website integrates high-quality non-staff blogs like this one.

In my last post, I looked at the failures of newspapers who are trying to do the right thing (incorporate high-quality local bloggers) but failing because they are either opening the doors to everyone (it’s fun but mostly nonsense), they are putting the bloggers in a blogger “ghetto” all by themselves (as if readers were interested in reading any blog), or they are turning their blogger aggregation operations over to an outside company — for example, in the case of the Des Moines paper, to Pluck (note: Chris Snider pointed out in his comments that the Register is doing good work elsewhere on their site; more on that soon).

It’s not like there aren’t great examples of successful blog aggregation staring newspapers right in the face.

The Huffington Post came into Chicago and stole great local bloggers who otherwise might have appeared in the Tribune and driven traffic to the paper's website instead of the interloping HuffPo.

The Huffington Post came into Chicago and stole great local bloggers who otherwise might have appeared in the Tribune and driven traffic to the paper's website instead of the interloping HuffPo.

By embarrassingly stark contrast to clueless newspapers, the Huffington Post came into Chicago and stole the very best local bloggers from under the Chicago Tribune’s nose. HuffPo gave those bloggers an enviably simple and attractive HuffPo URL on one of the most popular sites in the world (e.g., http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-jones, and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-cusack). Continue reading

CAN HIGH-QUALITY BLOGGERS HELP RESCUE NEWSPAPERS?

Dodo Bird silhouette(The INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS 2009 World Report is out and I have a piece in it called, “Can Top-Quality Local Bloggers Help Rescue Newspapers.” I republish it here for those who have not seen the report. It can be ordered here. This is the first of two parts.)

No one knows what the Dodo bird sounded like. But it might have sounded a lot like the bleating of today’s newspaper editors: “Never change, never change, never change!”

The Dodo bird was fatally fearless of its predators and could not evolve fast enough to survive in a changing environment. By the late 1600s, it was gone.

Wake-up call to newspapers: Don’t be dodos! It’s not too late to evolve. But time is running out. And here’s a tip: When it comes to information, people want great content.

They do not really care if the content has been created by the newspaper’s own reporters. Readers simply want the BEST content available. Continue reading

Nine minutes that could help save your newspaper: How local bloggers can add content, revenue, reach

When I spoke at the International Newsmedia Marketing Association “The Newspaper Outlook Experience” conference in Vienna, Austria last fall, I was interviewed by Artur Karda, multimedia reporter at Media Regionalne, for the Forum4Editors report on the conference.

This is a shot taken during my presentation at the INMA Europe "Outlook" conference in Vienna, Oct. 2008

This is a shot taken during my presentation at the INMA Europe "Outlook" conference in Vienna, Oct. 2008

Artur e-mailed the video to me recently. In it, he poses all the questions I hear from newspaper publishers and editors, and gets it all into a tight 9-minute piece.

I’m putting it up so everyone can hear, in one concise presentation, all the editorial, advertising and traffic arguments for incorporating high-quality local bloggers into newspaper print and online products.

GlobalPost launches with hundreds of global blogs

globalpost-home-page

With the recent launch of GlobalPost, high-quality bloggers are being given positions of prominence for the first time on a major news media website, starting with promotion on the home page. Hundreds of top-notch bloggers from 41 countries around the world also appear on the region pages (e.g., Europe), the country pages (e.g., South Africa), and pages of their very own (e.g., Iraq Pundit, South Africa Rocks, Mexico Woods, The Soul of Japan, etc.).

"An Indian Muslim's Blog" on GlobalPost.com

"An Indian Muslim's Blog" on GlobalPost.com

GlobalPost, where I am the Global Blog Coordinator on a consulting basis, recognized that there is a lot of terrific content being created around the world by excellent writers who are experts in their field or who are simply well-informed or passionate about a subject or country. That on-the-ground, grassroots-level reporting adds to the professional work of our correspondents in each country, giving GlobalPost readers a complete picture of life, events, trends, and peculiarities in each of dozens of countries worldwide. Continue reading

FINDING THE “WORLD’S BEST BLOGGERS” PROJECT AT GLOBALPOST.COM

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I want to introduce you to a very exciting project I am working on as the Director of Global Blog Development for a cool new organization called GlobalPost.com.

It will be the first online-only world news service, and will launch in January with 70 correspondents in 53 countries “to satisfy a growing need for independent, reliable, insightful and up-to-the-minute coverage and analysis of news in every region of the world.”

A pioneer in the development of 24-hour local cable news, former New England Cable News President and founder Phil Balboni came up with the idea with another New England legend, Charlie Sennott, the former veteran Boston Globe foreign correspondent. They have an awesome video about their mission on their home page. Go take a look: <a href=http://www.globalnewsenterprises.com/>

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I approached them over the summer about adding hundreds of local bloggers from around the world to GlobalPost’s corps of correspondents. While the correspondents are great, they can only be in one place at one time. Bloggers are everywhere. And they are very, very local. Continue reading

NERVOUS EDITORS, PART 3: HOW LONG WILL BLOGGERS TRADE CONTENT FOR EXPOSURE?

Over my last two posts, I have answered five of the most common questions I get from editors curious or nervous about incorporating bloggers in their newspapers and websites. Three posts ago, I answered questions about risking hard-won credibility. Two posts ago, I addressed fears of losing control of content, and the differences between professional journalists and reporters. And in my last post, I talked about the limits to reader involvement, and the fear of bloggers enabling publishers to cut staff.

The sixth and last question, about bloggers’ willingness to trade content for exposure, is one I get from editors and bloggers alike. Here are my thoughts on that subject:

6. Are you sure that community bloggers will be willing to produce their content for free in the future, as they mostly do now? How will it affect newspaper economics if these bloggers ask for a payment? Continue reading

REASSURANCE FOR EDITORS NERVOUS ABOUT USING BLOGS IN THEIR PAPERS & WEBSITES

Editors are worried about publishing local bloggers in their web pages. I answer their concerns below. (Photo by Tom Carmony, on Flickr/CC)

I just returned from Vienna, Austria where I spoke to the International Newsmedia Marketing Association’s Europe Outlook 2009 Conference about using local bloggers to enhance their reach, relevance and revenue.

Olivier Bonsart, Director Délégué of Ouest-France leads a song at INMA 2008 Europe conference in Vienna.

Olivier Bonsart, Director Délégué of Ouest-France, leads a song at INMA 2008 Europe conference in Vienna. (Photo by Knallgrau; courtesy INMA)

(By the way: Those folks know how to drink! Unlike too many of my American editorial friends who drink to get morose — not a long trip — and stupid, these people drank to have fun. We started with a traditional “Heuriger Dinner” at 8 and were still going strong at 2, taking turns singing drinking songs from each country. With more than 20 countries in attendance, we provided quite a musical buffet at the restaurant, on the bus back to the hotel and in the hotel bar! I’m looking for good American, especially Boston, drinking songs if anyone has suggestions!)

The audience — publishers, editors and marketing directors from more than 20 countries — were very interested in adding local bloggers to their content mix. I have already heard from newspapers in Hungary, England, India, France, Sweden, Belgium, and Poland about how to go about integrating user-generated content in their publications’ websites and print products.

The questions and concerns were the same that I hear when I speak to American editors: What about our hard-earned credibility? How can I trust writers I don’t know? Isn’t there a difference between professional journalists and bloggers? Is there a limit to reader involvement? Couldn’t this just be a publisher trick to cut staff? And, how long will bloggers be willing to do this for free? Continue reading

ANSWERS TO EDITORS WORRIED ABOUT PUBLISHING LOCAL BLOGGERS, PART 2

Editors are not publishing reader blogs on their main website (if at all) and not at all in their print products because of concerns over credibility, professionalism, accuracy, etc. I answer those concerns below and in the previous post. (Photo by cayusa on flickr, CC)

In my last post (“Doubting Thomases“), I began answering the questions of editors who are nervous about publishing local bloggers in their websites and print products.

Prior to my speech Oct. 2 in Vienna, Austria at the International Newsmedia Marketing Association’s Europe 2008 conference, the organizers posed the questions they’d been getting from editors concerned about the use of user-generated content.

In my last post, I answered the first question, “Don’t third-party content providers threaten our hard-earned credibilty?”

Here are questions #2 and #3:

2. Editors are responsible for what they publish. How can they take responsibility for authors and content they know nothing about?
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DOUBTING THOMASES: TOO MANY NEWSPAPER EDITORS STILL QUESTION THE VALUE OF BLOGS

Newspaper editors mimic these monkeys when it comes to incorporating local bloggers in their print and Web pages. (Photo by by Demi Sourire/CC)

Newspaper editors mimic these monkeys when it comes to incorporating local bloggers in their print and Web pages. (Photo by by Demi Sourire/CC)

Even as Technorati is releasing its 2008 State of the Blogosphere report documenting the fact that 346 million people world-wide read blogs, that 184 million people world-wide have started a blog, and that there are almost a million blog posts a day, there are still doubters.

If blogging weren’t such an information creation and disbursement tsunami, I could shrug off editors who shrug off bloggers.

But bloggers represent one very powerful solution to the circulation/readership problems faced by newspapers. And editors ignore them at their peril.
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BRINGING BLOGGERS INTO YOUR NEWSPAPER MAKES YOUR PAPER “OUR PAPER” FOR READERS

How many newspaper readers feel a personal connection with their metro daily newspaper? How many think of the paper as “our newspaper” or “my newspaper”?

Nobody I know.

Readers see their metro paper as “their” newspaper, a publication reflecting the interests, opinions, and work of other people not remotely connected to the them and their lives.

Not BostonNOW.

When BostonNOW was up and running (I was the editor-in-chief), we had 3,900 local bloggers posting to their blogs on our site (which, sadly, closed after a year in business when the investors ran out of money in April).

Our bloggers, and their friends, families and business connections, considered BostonNOW “our paper.” And it truly was. The website AND the paper carried their work, and the work of people like them.
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THE POWER OF LOCAL BLOGS IN A NEWSPAPER

The cover slide of the presentation about blogs and newspapers I gave to the national Brazilian newspaper association in August, 2008

The cover slide of the presentation about blogs and newspapers I gave to the national Brazilian newspaper association in August, 2008. Click on the picture to see the high-quality version. (Warning: It is a 21-minute presentation with six embedded video interviews.)

I’m back.

I spent most of August preparing for a big speech at the national Brazil newspaper association’s annual convention about how bloggers can build a newspaper’s circulation, web traffic, and revenue. It took a lot of time gathering data, doing video interviews, editing, creating, etc. (see show above).

My daughter and I at Newport, RI.

My daughter and I at Newport, RI.

Full disclosure: I also spent a wonderful ten days on a work-free vacation on Buzzard’s Bay with my wife and two daughters surfing real waves, not the Web (Melissa and I with our boards on the left)!

Speaking at the Brazil national newspaper conference.

I presented the slide show with six embedded videos in Sao Paulo in late August. You can view it here (medium quality, and it might not work on Firefox) and here (high-quality). More thoughts on the incredibly healthy Brazilian newspaper industry later…
If you don’t want to sit through all 21 minutes of the show, I am going to publish pieces of it here in my blog all week. Each interviewee, in particular, makes a compelling case for newspapers to include local bloggers in the print and online products in a significant way.
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The Worst “Blind Pews” of U.S. Newspapers, PT II

You might think that as you move down the list of large American newspapers, away from the tradition-laden (tradition-handicapped?) major metros of the east and west coasts (and, OK, Chicago), that you might find a greater connection between a newspaper and its community (e.g., more local bloggers and vloggers on the papers’ websites).

After all, among the 19 largest circulation metro dailies, we only found seven papers that welcomed bloggers — Denver, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Cleveland (hmmm, no east or west coast papers among that group….). It HAD to get better, right?

Wrong.

Sad to say, local bloggers are no more likely to be integrated into daily newspaper websites as you move down to papers below 400,000 circulation.

Of the next 15 largest metro newspapers (numbers 20-34), only five integrate local bloggers (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Portland Oregonian, Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and San Antonio Express-News).

So, as editors wave goodbye to more and more laid-off, right-sized, bought-out staffers, those editors remain as incapable as “Blind Pew” of seeing the rich content being created all around them. As the old proverb goes, “God protects fools, children and drunkards,” but probably not purblind editors and the newspapers they work for.

THE SECOND TEN “BLIND PEWS” OF AMERICAN NEWSPAPERING
Of the top circulation newspapers in the U.S., these are numbers 11-20 that have chosen to ignore the existence of top-quality bloggers in their midst. (See my Top Ten list here.)
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THE BLIND PEWS: The Top 10 Most Purblind Papers

Blind Pew from It’s time to be name names.

Too many big, ordinarily smart newspapers still refuse to involve high-quality local bloggers and vloggers on their websites and in the pages of their paper in any significant way beyond a lame, well-hidden, token local blogger index page (if that).

Now the thieves are at the door, about to make off with the family jewels (audience and advertising) and newspapers are leaving the doors unlocked and the valuables in plain sight.

Arianna Huffington’s announcement last week that she will be launching 12 local Huffington Posts with aggregated news and local bloggers is only the tip of the iceberg, the flashiest fox in the henhouse. The chairman of the board of one of the top U.S. dailies told me last week that he is seeing a lot of other crafty characters coming into his market looking to steal market share in exactly the same way, and he’s finally ready to act.

It’s time for editors to drop their tired excuses: “Bloggers aren’t journalists,” and “they’re just loonies in jammies,” and “my paper’s reputation will be sullied” (hey, guys, YOU choose which ones to publish!).

Pull in the best local bloggers and vloggers now or lose them and the thousands of folks who follow them, going where they can find the best local content and communities of shared interests.

So, in the spirit of your mom’s classic “I’m only going to tell you once more” warning, here’s a whack upside the head for what I’m calling:

THE BLIND PEWS: AMERICA’S TOP 10 MOST PURBLIND PAPERS Continue reading

Wake up, folks, Huffington is no Backfence

HERE SHE COMES.

If you are a newspaper editor or publisher, and you haven’t worried about Outside.in, YourStreet, Topix, or BackFence (deceased), it’s finally time to worry.

Like Craig Newmark before her, Huffington Post creator Arianna Huffington plans to steal our lunch. In her case, she’s announced she is going to launch at least a dozen local sites, starting with Chicago this summer.

You could ask a stadium full of people if they had ever heard of YourStreet, Topix, BackFence or Outside.in, and you might hear a faint voice or two from the bleachers. You could FILL dozens of stadiums with people who have not only heard about the Huffington Post but have also been there. Like three to eight million people a month, depending on which measurement you believe.

Now Huffington says she’s coming after our most precious asset: our local readers.
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It’s the placement, stupid! Newspapers blow UGC

“It’s the economy, stupid” worked for Clinton.

“It’s the placement, stupid” would work for newspapers’ in their efforts to make user-generated content successful.

But most newspaper websites place (“bury”) user-created stuff in UGC ghettos nowhere near the subjects they’re blogging or vlogging about.

A typical newspaper website nav bar with theme sections and the blog area (or ghetto)

If newspapers treated their own content the way they treat users’ content, there would a newsroom revolt and website anarchy. There would be no “news,” “sports,” “entertainment,” or “opinion” tabs. Everything would go under two tabs: “our stuff” and “your stuff.”

Oh, yeah, reporters (and readers) would LOVE that.

Editors organize and promote their reporters’ and photographers’ best stuff on separate pages by category, displaying it well according to what they think is the best, most compelling stuff.

Not reader blogs. First they bury them, then they don’t promote them, then they gang’em all together with no rhyme or reason.
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Why are there no user video blogs in newspapers?

We’re blind.

Or stupid.

Great local content is staring newspapers in the face … and we can’t see it. Or we choose not to see it.

Hundreds of thousands of videos are uploaded daily on YouTube. Every MINUTE of every day, ten HOURS of new video is uploaded, YouTube says.

In one month alone (January 2008), nearly 79 million viewers, or a third of all online viewers in the U.S., watched more than three billion user-posted videos on YouTube, according to Fortune.cnn.com.

That’s a ton of content.

And you’d be surprised how much of it is local.

Yes, there is lots of garbage and stuff we can’t touch due to copyright violations or good taste, but take a look at the results (chart on the left) of my one-day survey of local videos posted on YouTube today, this week, and this month:

Even if a measly 10 percent of the videos are terrific, that’s still dozens or hundreds of pieces of local content newspapers are not publishing today.
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Houston Chronicle is local blogger heaven

Talk about doing it right.

The Houston Chronicle gets it.

Chron.com\'s citizen-generated Faith blogsThey have local bloggers EVERYWHERE on their site, even on their specialty sites: MomHouston.com and HoustonBelief.com (left).

Most importantly, the citizen bloggers are not buried on a “blogs” page. They are incorporated on the theme-appropriate Web page: citizen sports bloggers are on the Sports home page; local political bloggers are on the Politics home page; ditto, Health, Tech, Gardening, Entertainment, even Real Estate!

Not only that, chron.com promotes the most recent local blogger posts prominently on the chron.com home page, right below the main news stories.
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