(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.
They want access to lots of information, quickly, easily, in one place, and from a reliable source. And they are increasingly willing to trust and rely on reputable blogs for quality content. According to a recent Forrester study, blogs and newspaper websites now have the same audience share—about 17 percent— among Internet users between the ages of 18 and 24.
If newspapers continue to offer only their own content, and readers discover they can go elsewhere to find a better selection that better matches their needs and interests, newspaper sites will be the Dodo birds of the Internet.
On the other hand, if newspapers start aggregating and curating the best local blogs and websites covering a wide variety of subjects, they will provide their time-starved readers with the ultimate customer service: They will save readers time, give them valuable information from trusted sources pre-approved by their local newspaper, and make them both better informed and happy.
Meanwhile, the bloggers featured in the newspaper’s website and print products will gain exposure they never dreamed possible. Those bloggers will become an enthusiastic grassroots viral marketing campaign for the paper and its website. At no cost to the newspaper!
It is a win-win situation for everyone.
Remarkably, only a handful of the world’s newspapers have employed this strategy, preferring to remain “pure” journalistic operations. What a noble epitaph: “Here lies the daily newspaper. It was a pure journalistic operation that saw no reason to evolve.”
There are roughly 133 million blogs on the Internet, according to technorati.com’s most recent “State of the Blogosphere” report. Millions are silly. Millions more are garbage.dreck or worse. Millions, however, represent some of the best thinking, writing, and reporting in their fields.
But a reader of most newspaper websites would never know that. Where bloggers exist at newspapers, they are almost exclusively staffers writing what used to be called columns posing as blogs to appear ”with it.”.
A few dailies have created lists of local bloggers or invited bloggers to write on the newspaper’s website. But the editors rarely vet the blogs for quality and almost always ghettoize those bloggers on a single page where blogs about sex, baking cookies, assault rifles, Jesus, kittens, baseball, and pot smoking are thrown together with no thought to organization other than chronology. Unless someone likes to read random blogs without regard to topic, these pages are useless.
Even if readers like that serendipitous approach, most newspapers also make it very difficult to find their bloggers. Newspapers tend to give their blogger ghettos non-intuitive URLs only tangentially connected with the newspaper. Consider these ridiculous reader blog site URLs:
• http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/reader.asp, and the least easily recalled URL:
And then those newspapers give each non-staff blogger an equally useless URL such as:
And finally, there is the stunningly idiotic:
1a8416ab0dd09e30c2d84b6&plckPersonaPage=BlogViewPost&plckUserId=ea20d35191a8416ab0dd09e30c2d84b6&plckPostId=Blog%3aea20d35191a8416ab0dd09e30c2d84b6Post%3afcbb16fb-dcd1-4fc4-ad23 0aeb12e3a212&plckController=PersonaBlog&plckScript=personaScript&plck ElementId= personaDest (To be fair, this is a URL provided by a service called BlogBurst that develops the “Pluck” blog platform for newspapers. But that is no excuse for such stupidity.)
NEXT: WHO’S DOING IT RIGHT?