July 20th, 2007

Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks?

by

Chicago Tribune just relaunched its website with, of course, more blogs — A LOT more blogs — news, entertainment, sports, living, business travel, with multiple blogs in each category. It struck me that this is more than a “me too” step, as it was last year , when launching a blog was how traditional media sites tried to show they were still hip and relevant. Now, many newspapers — from the New York Times to my own local Loudoun Times-Mirror (which also just relaunched) — have dozens of blogs, covering every traditional newspaper topic.

What’s becoming clear is that blogs are now the organizing principle for newspapers’ original online content. And these are “real” blogs, i.e. driven by one or two individual bloggers, with (often active) comments, RSS feeds, the whole nine yards.

Washington Post’s newly launched hyperlocal site, LoudounExtra.com, is anchored by a strong blogger, and the site maintains a list of local bloggers. Sites like the Houston Chronicle have had a lot of success with setting up high-quality freelance blogs — this is not “citizen journalism” or reader blogging (as the Chronicle calls them — but they’re not readers anymore when they’re writing!) or (even worse) “user-generated content.”

These are freelance journalists, who happen to be doing it in their spare time and who happen to be using blogging software.

The word “blog” has way too much baggage — it’s too often equated with opinion. But a blog is just a content management system, and you can use it to publish shrill opinion, or you can use it to publish traditional journalism…or you can use it to publish journalistic reporting with a bit more point of view.

Most newspapers are actually using blogs as platforms for daily online publishing — platforms that allow one person to publish a “mini-publication.”

This got me thinking — maybe what newspapers should become in the digital media era is a network of local bloggers — some of whom are staff writers and some of whom are freelancers. Maybe most of them are freelancers. Maybe the full-time reporters are dedicated to beats like covering local governments, which require more time-intensive reporting to fulfill the Fourth Estate mission, but which can be supplemented by freelance reporting.

Maybe there are three tiers of journalists at these blog network “newspapers”:

  1. Full-time reporters and editors, who ensure breadth of coverage, quality and standards, and public mission
  2. Paid freelancers who write on a regular basis, but not full-time — these can be stay-at-home parents looking for supplemental income, retirees looking for extra income or to keep busy, college students, etc.
  3. “Witness” reporters (avoiding “citizen journalist” on purpose), who contribute to the reporting effort when they witness news in some form

Many newspapers are closer to this model than they may realize, but there a few radical steps required:

  • Use more freelancers who can post to blogs part-time
  • Create a platform for anyone to report news — but on the established blogs, not in some big sloshing vat of random submissions — if someone wants to contribute regularly, give them their own blog, a focus, and (just enough) structure

To really take advantage of the economies of this model, which could actually enable MORE local reporting, newspapers need to consider one final step — stop publishing in print.

The big problem with transforming newspaper business models is that there’s still so much less revenue online, and only the print revenue can cover the huge cost base of publishing the print paper.

But if newspapers adopted this lean, flexible, networked blog model, and stopped publishing in print, they would shrink costs radically, and, maybe…increase online revenue enough to make it work, IF online was the only game in town.

Most papers aren’t ready to seriously consider ceasing to publish in print, but they are ready to more deliberately restructure their news operations down the blog path they’ve already taken, so that when the time comes to consider stopping the presses — in five years, two years, next year — they will be prepared to survive the transition.

Comments (74 Responses so far)

  1. Lo cierto también, es que los medios de comunicación deben estar preparados para sobrellevar esta transición que, en los últimos 5 años, ha sorprendido a la industria de los periódicos y sobretodo, a la comunicación en general. Fuente: Publicar 2.0 “La Revolución de los medios Nota: Se permite la reproducción de este editorial siempre y cuando se cite la fuente. [IMG] Istmo Noticias

  2. Jack Lail, the managing editor for multimedia at the Knoxville News Sentinel says newspapers should become blog networks to survive and thrive, and points to a must-read piece by Scott Karp about how blogs are becoming an “organizing principle” for newspapers transitioning to the new digital/interactive media reality. Karp, who writes the Publishing 2.0 blog, says, “What’s becoming clear is that blogs are now the organizing principle for newspapers’ original online content. And these are

  3. interesting debate that’s going on about blogging nationally. Newspapers are shifting their online focus from reporting news, to creating blogs that generate conversations about news, entertainment, sports, living, business travel, with multiple blogs in each category.

  4. Publishing 2.0

  5. Random Cool Stuff from the Web: Work Together: 60+ Collaborative Tools for Groups from Mashable! The Free and Open Source PC from Mashable! RustyBudget: Multi-Author Blog Management from TechCrunch Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? from Publishing 2.0 How walkable is your neighborhood? from Download Squad Essential Firefox Extensions from dotCULT.com – Blogging about Internet Culture

  6. . Yeah, some will scream build more refineries. So, do it. Spend the bribery bucks and get it done. But the real issue is that all of those huge profits lately haven’t gone into maintenance. Wonder why that is? Newspapers are jumping all over the blogging thing as they attempt to stop their downward spiral. The Washington Post was news on this front last week. The Chicago Trib is this week. Movement. But hidebound. Dave Winer says Feedburner (now owned by Google) is in trouble. Is it?

  7. Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? –

  8. ’t blog. Nor do the majority want to. We’re kind of reminded of all those industries where the workforce were replaced by fewer more technically-skilled staff with better machines to do the job… Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? » Publishing 2.0 Related PSFK Stories Local To Go Global? The Critical Weakness In MSM’s Future [IMG] [IMG]

  9. media sites tried to show they were still hip and relevant. Now, many newspapers — from the New York Times to my own local Loudoun Times-Mirror (which also just relaunched) — have dozens of blogs, covering every traditional newspaper topic. More …

  10. Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? » Publishing 2.0

  11. bloggers. It’s not so far from where the Loudoun Times started afterall. The people who wrote the local section? Local volunteers. (Actually, after visiting Karp’s blog again to grab the link to the original post I saw about the paper, I see that he’s thinking along these lines too.)

  12. Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks?

  13. with opinion. But a blog is just a content management system, and you can use it to publish shrill opinion, or you can use it to publish traditional journalism…or you can use it to publish journalistic reporting with a bit more point of view.” – Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? » Publishing 2.0

  14. can’t blog. Nor do the majority want to. We’re kind of reminded of all those industries where the workforce were replaced by fewer more technically-skilled staff with better machines to do the job… Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? » Publishing 2.0 Related PSFK Stories Local To Go Global? The Critical Weakness In MSM’s Future [via PSFK]

  15. Newspapers and the web: should newspapers become local blog networks?

  16. According to Scott Carp. “What’s becoming clear is that blogs are now the organizing principle for newspapers’ original online content” Interesting point and he continues “Most newspapers are actually using blogs as platforms for daily online publishing

  17. maybe newspapers should become nothing more than local blog networks

  18. Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks?

  19. Publishing 2.0 reports on that issue. Updates: none so far

  20. Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? » Publishing 2.0

  21. Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks?

  22. Scott Karp @ Publishing 2.0

  23. Scott Karp

  24. Desde hace un tiempo se especula que los diarios impresos en papel tienen los días contados.Las razones son muchas,como por ejemplo la frase “no hay nada más viejo que un diario del día anterior”. En http://publishing2.com/2007/07/20/should-newspapers-become-local-blog-networks/

  25. newspapers jacking up their blog count

  26. Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? — Chicago Tribune just relaunched its website with, of course, more blogs — A LOT more blogs — news, entertainment, sports, living, business travel, with multiple blogs in each category. It struck me that this is more than a

  27. Does Monestizing Your Blog Cost You Readers? Web Worker Daily has a useful post for Firefox users with 6 Firefox Extensions for Web Workers. There’s a couple there that I’m going to try! One last question for the day – Scott Karp asks whether Newspapers should become local blog networks? Advertisement: Want a Blog Job? Look through our blog job listings at the ProBlogger Job Boards

  28. Social Bookmarking Plugin – Confluence Extension – Confluence Spolsky on Blog Comments: Scale matters. Many-to-Many: Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? » Publishing 2.0 /Message: Backfence Is Dead: What About Hyperlocal? Unit Structures: Where are Facebook’s Early Adopters Going?

  29. Does Monestizing Your Blog Cost You Readers? Web Worker Daily has a useful post for Firefox users with 6 Firefox Extensions for Web Workers. There’s a couple there that I’m going to try! One last question for the day – Scott Karp asks whether Newspapers should become local blog networks? Advertisement: Want a Blog Job? Look through our blog job listings at the ProBlogger Job Boards

  30. Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks?” It’s a good question. Imagine the screaming and hollering that would probably ensue from so-called “traditional journalists” and so-called “citizen journalists” if newspapers did become blog networks. It would be good to see the two

  31. hiring a blogger to replace a journalist. 5. The Chicago Tribune Newspaper recently relaunched its website, adding multiple blogs in the hot categories – entertainment, travel, sports and others. As Scott Karp points out, essentially the paper has become a blog network. 6. Yesterday, a congressional panel in the United States voted to pass the amended version of Free Flow of Information Act, which proposes to shield journalists and advertising-supported bloggers from having to reveal their confidential sources in

  32. radio, television, and books. Recently, Phil Cooke posted on the question, “Should Religious Organizations Shift Their Media Focus to Blogs?” I suggest that you take a look at his post along with Scott Karp’s article about the national blogging debate. Sometimes it’s nice to be a little ahead of the game. [IMG]

  33. ublishing 2.0 looks at the recent attempts by traditional newspapers to create New Media presence

  34. Media blog Publishing 2.0 looks at the recent attempts by traditional newspapers to create New Media presence though the use of blogs.  The problem is, at what point does a newspaper column end and a blog being?  Is it the WordPress software? Washington Post’s newly launched hyperlocal site, LoudounExtra.com

  35. [...] endlosen Tagebuch-vs.-Weblog- und Weblog-vs.-Journalismus-Diskussionen hinter sich gelassen haben: Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? bei Publishing 2.0 (dämlicher Name, aber was solls?). Scott Karp berichtet über die Versuche [...]

  36. I don’t think local news organizations are going to get very far by simply publishing more content, which is what the effect of a blog network would be.
    Folks already struggle with an abundance of content. The way to help them (read: generate revenue) is to find ways to organize/filter that content for them.

  37. Your observations about the role of bloggers are consistent with my post from earlier this week: “When hyperlocal news succeeds, it will be because it successfully re-created and upgraded the word-of-mouth, village-based communication processes of 500 years ago, before the printing press was invented…the hyperlocal news experience will be like hearing and spreading the latest facts, opinions, and rumors that come from a village’s authorities, know-it-alls, eccentrics, gossip-mongers, friends, braggarts, neighbors, and people who just plain talk too much.” (Steve Boriss, The Future of News)

  38. [...] Publishing 2.0: Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? “Blogs are now the organizing principle for newspapers’ original online content. … The word ‘blog’ has way too much baggage — it’s too often equated with opinion. But a blog is just a content management system … (tags: blogs regional hyperlocal journalism chicagotribune) [...]

  39. Our local newspaper in recent times enabled comments on the news stories plus they also added a blog section for special features. The blogs they add always seemed to bother me because they seemed to pull the people who do them from “popular people” in the community but the content always felt “fake” when reading it. An “old media” like a newspaper trying to look “hip” by using new media tactics always looks like a parent trying to look “cool” to their kids. They wind up looking immature to their industry peers and goofy to the younger generation. I’d rather see newspapers focusing on providing excellent journalism instead of gimmicks (I’ve seen local TV stations try the same tactics and people just make fun of them).

    I’d rather see a new company who is experts in the blogging world set up their own networks as they understand the culture. Of course I am biased in this opinion as this is an idea I have been thinking about doing in my community using my company as a host but I had a passion for doing something like this in the mid 90’s before blogs we’re even around.

  40. Rick,

    I agree that aggregation is a huge part of it — bloggers in the network can be independent, and not necessarily employed by the newspaper. But although there is an overabundance of content on the Web, there isn’t necessarily and overabundance of good hyperlocal content for each community. The key challenge for newspapers is figuring out how to continue to both create and aggregate a robust supply of local content when they ultimately cease to publish in print.

    Patrick,

    I think newspapers are ready to — and some already have — evolve beyond blogs as gimmicks to blogs as organizing principles.

  41. ” a blog is just a content management system”

    ?

    It’s so much more. It also involves “community” and “participation.” Successful bloggers link to each others’ posts, write about similar topics, and link-bait to attract new readers.

  42. Rob,

    “Blog” has many positive conotations and many negative. It’s best to strip all that away down to the core, which is the CMS, and then be very specific about the elements that create value, such as active comments and cross linking.

  43. [...] just read Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0, in which he writes eloquently about print newspapers converting their online presence into [...]

  44. [...] The most recent of discussions on the topic is up on Techmeme this morning, steming around this article. Coming from the media industry (I’ve been a publicist for most of my career) and having [...]

  45. Amen to that. Most of us are in need to know what’s happening around us, in our neighborhoods. Its time Newspapers should face the music.

  46. [...] glad I’m not the only one who thinks the word ‘Blog‘ is [...]

  47. I think what it really comes down to is that people like to know who’s on the other side of the pen.

  48. [...] Wall discusses the link and arbitrage issues in this unique post.  Scott Karp also raises interesting [...]

  49. Scott:

    Glad to have found you and this discussion via Darren Rowse.

    I think the bigger question is what is the role of media in all this? I attempted to answer that question a couple of weeks ago (or more) http://www.conversationagent.com/2007/04/media_as_connec.html

    I do think that the role of media — newspaper, magazine, etc. — is to connect us to content in meaningful ways. To be responsible hubs. Some of the blogs at BusinessWekk do that — Nussbaum on Design comes to mind. John Timpane at the Philadelphia Inquirer does that — I based some of my thinking on his column for the Sunday paper a couple of times already. The most recent was in my post about blog|Philadelphia — Welcome to the Future, Now.

  50. It’s too late for that. It’s not that newspapers should become blogs. It’s that blogs are already the modern newspapers. Until newspapers quit thinking like newspapers, what they need to do is keep dying, only faster.

  51. Maybe what we need is blog software that generates print format-friendly display of its content so that the blogs within these networks literally become the database storage center for original content and the print assets are simply byproducts of the blog information.

  52. [...] Still at the cottage, and crawling through my feed reader from time to time on one of the slowest dial-up connections since the mid-1990s, which is where I came across a post by my friend Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0, who asks whether newspapers should become local blog networks. [...]

  53. [...] Still at the cottage, and crawling through my feed reader from time to time on one of the slowest dial-up connections since the mid-1990s, which is where I came across a post by my friend Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0, who asks whether newspapers should become local blog networks. [...]

  54. [...] Should newspapers become local blog networks? Yeah, pretty much. Via [...]

  55. Probably OT, but I find the design a bit plain and generic. It looks like one of those sites that you land on if you get one of the letters wrong on an URL.

  56. The three tiers of journalists you define seem to have existed as long as newspapers. There have always been full-time and freelance writers and columnists, and readers have always contributed, whether in the form of ‘letters to the editor’ or as guest columnists.

    My point? You confuse the change in delivery format with a fundamental change in the medium. A blog is really just what we used to call an editorial column. We simply created a new name for it when it migrated to the internet.

    The only thing that rings true about your post is the observation that the only way to counteract the new, more efficient revenue model on the web is to also shift your expenses to the web. If all writers work from home, you don’t need offices. If all content is ont he web, you don’t nee dprinting presses.

  57. As one of those Houston Chronicle “reader bloggers,” I have to say that I do not think of myself as a journalist – which to me suggests a role of digging up facts and stories and telling people about them. My particular blog is commentary on news, and while I enjoy it & it seems to have attracted a wide readership, it’s not journalism. Maybe a form a freelance, unpaid, punditry.

    Some of the the other reader blogs do, I think, fit into the “journalism” bucket better.

    Maybe my definition of journalism is too narrow.

    The community aspect is important; I’m amazed that a core group of readers use my blog at the Chron as a discussion forum, and that seems to be the value they get from it – a venue for talking about the news.

  58. [...] Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? Some working journalists are likely to blow a gasket at what Scott Karp is suggesting but there’s a lot of sense in his proposal for restructuring the local media. [...]

  59. What Scott describes is more or less what we’re doing at NewWest.Net (san print). Check out our local iteration at http://www.newwest.net/missoula...

    Jonathan Weber
    NewWest.Net

  60. [...] i just saw this very interesting piece he wrote: Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? among a lot of other thought-provoking things, he writes: “The word “blog” has way too [...]

  61. [...] Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? » Publishing 2.0 “What’s becoming clear is that blogs are now the organizing principle for newspapers’ original online content. And these are “real” blogs, i.e. driven by one or two individual bloggers, with (often active) comments, RSS feeds, the whole nine yards (tags: internet newspapers newspapersites journalism citizenmedia hyperlocal blogging business migration) [...]

  62. [...] Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? » Publishing 2.0 [...]

  63. The next big trend in the web is localization. For some things, like online ordering, we need world connectivity. For the rest, we need internet groupware, and local blogs and social networking are part of this.

  64. [...]  Read more of Scott’s analysis here: [...]

  65. [...] Scott Karp writes that perhaps newspapers ought to harness the significance of blogs and attempt to be more blog-centric. This got me thinking — maybe what newspapers should become in the digital media era is a network o… [...]

  66. [...] Karp asks: Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks? “What’s becoming clear is that blogs are now the organizing principle for newspapers’ [...]

  67. [...] In previous posts, I’ve written about the joys and pains of a “blogging ministry” and the advantages of the blogging platform vis-a-vis radio, television, and books.  Recently, Phil Cooke posted on the question, “Should Religious Organizations Shift Their Media Focus to Blogs?“  I suggest that you take a look at his post along with Scott Karp’s article about the national blogging debate. [...]

  68. [...] One last question for the day – Scott Karp asks whether Newspapers should become local blog networks? [...]

  69. [...] Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks?: “What’s becoming clear is that blogs are now the organizing principle for newspapers’ original online content. And these are “real” blogs, i.e. driven by one or two individual bloggers, with (often active) comments, RSS feeds, the whole nine yards.” [...]

  70. [...] Karp argues in his blog post “Should Newspapers Become Local Blog Networks?” that the traditional media transforms itself into blogs that consist of three types of [...]

  71. [...] und macht außerdem süchtig. Blogs sind hierzulande komplett irrelevant. Allenfalls in den USA könnten Blogs irgendwann einmal Bedeutung [...]

  72. [...] andra tecken är avsevärt mer seriösa, såklart. Alla traditionella medier försöker antingen omfamna bloggen, eller kasta skit på den. Fler och fler avslöjande och scoop startar i bloggosfären. Hela [...]

  73. [...] – customization means including the public in what you do. In fact, as noted in this blog post at Publishing 2.0, newspapers are adopting blogs and joining the blogosphere in record [...]

  74. [...] This plays directly into WSJ’s hands since they invest the most in the talent.  Same is true for the NY  Times, but they have actually integrated blogging into their online site which has no subscription firewall.   Interesting strategies by both companies.  Many have said that newspapers should create blog networks.   [...]

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