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?
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.
I just got off the phone with an editor who excitedly informed me that her new website design was going to have a separate page for “user-generated content.” And that the so-called “UGC” would be included on a page of its own in the paper.
She was really excited.
I was puzzled.
What is appealing about a web page filled with an unorganized collection of reader blogs?
Who wants or has the time to read something for the sole reason that it was written by a “user.”
Nobody I know. The bloggers themselves, I suppose. Maybe their friends and relatives. Under duress.
Why would you go to a page where literally anybody can write about literally anything? No filters. No organization, other than that a “user” wrote it. No thematic thread. No culling of the crap.
Why create such a page?
The only answer I can come up with is that someone told the editors they should have user-generated content, and so they created such a page, or a company like Pluck came along and offered them a system to collect and present unorganized, unreviewed reader blogs.
Pluck lists an insane number of newspapers as clients and you can go see for yourself how bad it is right here.
Pluck is the company that thinks it doesn’t need to give reader blogs easily recalled web addresses like PaperName.com/ReaderName. Nossir. Here’s an example of what Pluck thinks is a good idea for a Florida Today reader blog URL (the reader blog URLs are like this at all of the papers Pluck “serves”):
That’s 380 nonsense characters.
Huffington Post gives its reader blogs addresses like: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-jones. That’s 36 characters.
But enough about the Pluck madness….
So editors create these blogger ghettos where they bury all their “user-generated content” and then they feel they can say, “yes, I are involving the community in my newsapper and my website!”
These editors think they’ve done their duty in terms of connecting with their readers and this new social media thing. So now they can go back to operating on their own, trying to create all the content they think we should be reading, never mind that their staffs are shrinking and were never large enough to begin with to create the breadth and depth of content required to appeal to a wide variety of local constituencies.
But, in their minds, they did what their training had prepared them to do in this situation: keep the unwashed writers at bay who have the temerity to create content without the benefit of a journalism degree (poor creatures).
Time to wake up, editors.
Comb your market for the highest quality local bloggers writing in as many categories as possible (and there are dozens, if not hundreds of them), and then aggregate them where they belong: in the section of the website that deals with their topics, not a blogger ghetto. And then excerpt them in your print product (again in the appropriate section) to better promote them and tie the two products together.
Better hurry. There are lots of aggregators out there looking to steal what should be your franchise. They aren’t pretending to be a newspaper. They are simply content providers, each in his or her own niche. Add’em all up, and you will wake up someday soon to find all the pillars of your franchise nibbled away.