Poynter’s always-insightful Rick Edmonds asks if he’s missing something: In Hyperlocal News, Where’s the Urgency?, He examines an assortment of hyperlocal news startups and comes away wanting more. “Sampling a host of aspiring online hyperlocal franchises — Examiner.com, Outside.in, OurTown.com and others — I’m consistently underwhelmed. One roundup of ‘news within a mile of me’ had crime stories a month old and many reports on the business travails of Outback Steakhouse’s parent company.”
Edmonds makes an important point about the distinction between “content” and quality. Basically, having a blog does no one any good if it’s used to publish crap. However, a lot of blogs (many hyperlocal publications are essentially blogs) put publishing ahead of reporting. Throw it up there and see if anyone reads it because – you know – you can. This is a natural result of the current fascination with social media as a shiny new object. People are publishing because it’s cool to publish. Five years from now, that novelty will have worn off and we’ll be figuring out what these new tools are really good for.
We expect that hyperlocal journalism ventures will consolidate into a small number of professional publishers who have the operational and sales skills to run profitably a lean organization of semi-professional journalists who contribute news about their immediate area. There will always be neighborhood bloggers – and some of them will be good enough to build significant followings – but readers won’t adopt the current cacophony of amateur local reporters as a replacement for major metro newspapers. Professional oversight will be needed.
There’s a land grab going on in this area right now, with aggregators like Patch, Everyblock (above) and the three organizations mentioned earlier each jockeying for position. They’re mostly using whatever low-cost sources of content they can find, and people like Rick Edmonds are astutely calling them on the shortcomings of that approach. We expect that as more ad dollars funnel down from dying dailies into hyperlocal ventures – and as the owners of these ventures become savvier about finding new sources of revenue – the quality will improve and jobs for professional journalists will emerge. They won’t be the cushy union gigs that the previous generation of scribes enjoyed, but they will be enough to bring some pros back into the business.
How to Manage a Blogger Network
Megan Garber speaks with Eric Berger about what it takes to build a good blogger network. Berger is the Houston Chronicle science reporter and blogger who created a network of science blogs at the newspaper back in 2008. The experiment was somewhat groundbreaking for a newspaper at the time, although ScienceBlogs and LexBlog were doing the same thing years earlier. Garber wants to know what makes a blog network successful and Berger shares advice that anyone can use to head down the same path:
Blogging requires passion – “If you’re writing about stuff that you’re interested in and enjoying what you’re doing, it’s going to come through in your writing.” Forcing people to blog never works. If they don’t catch the bug, they’ll simply mail in their entries until they can gracefully escape.
Blogging is a conversation – That includes responding to comments. A lot of folks think once they post an entry, they can walk away, but that isn’t so. The best bloggers want a dialog with their readers. Berger notes that it’s particularly difficult to find scientists who want to follow up on their original posts.
Don’t ignore the news hook – Key advice here: “People want stuff either that’s related to the news of what’s happening or that has some kind of popular hook.” Blogs are best at communicating timely information.
Good source = good blogger – This is a great point. “Experts who make good sources might also make good bloggers,” Berger notes. That’s because they have a natural inclination to explain.
Lauren Kirchner does what reporters do too rarely: Updates us on last year’s hot news. In this case, the subject is Kachingle, a tip-jar-style service that lets readers contribute micropayments to the Internet publishers they like without having to make a conscious effort to do so. The service was all the rage when announced in early 2009 (we gave it several paragraphs in February), but its star seems to have faded since.
Kachingle has signed up about 300 publishers, but none whose title begins with the word “The.” Kachingle founder Cynthia Typaldos said she’s been getting a great reception from news organizations, but the sales process seems to die at the executive level. Kirchner speculates that Kachingle’s transparency – visitors can see which sites inspire the most contributions – may be one barrier. But more likely it’s just bureaucratic intransigence: “Fitting a little Kachingle widget seamlessly onto a homepage isn’t actually as easy as it sounds, if the homepage you’re talking about is nytimes.com.”
Huffington Post has scored another big hire: Howard Fineman . The 61-year-old veteran Newsweek reporter and MSNBC news analyst will become HuffPo’s senior political editor. In an interview with MediaMatters, Fineman contributes some insight on why his new employer is having so much luck attracting senior journalists. Arianna Huffington is trying to bootstrap a professional news organization that stresses quality journalism and independent politics at a time when news is splintering into partisanship and theatrics. She apparently has the money to do it. “Bringing in the best of the old involved more money than we had when we launched. But now that our Web site is growing, we’re able to bring in the best of the old,” she told The New York Times. Journalists like Fineman don’t work 16-hour days and file stories every four hours. Huffington is doing something right to attract prominent people like him and veteran technology editor Jai Singh. We’d suggest that HuffPo is emerging as one of the first big winners in the race to supplant conventional news organizations.
“The English language, which arose from humble Anglo-Saxon roots to become the lingua franca of 600 million people worldwide and the dominant lexicon of international discourse, is dead, ” begins a wonderful essay by the Washington Post‘s Gene Weingarten. He proceed with a litany of recent butcherings of the language by some of the US’s most notable publications, including The New York Times, which has used the term “reach out to ” as a synonym for “attempt to contact ” at least 20 times this year. Other offenders: The Winston-Salem Journal‘s use of was “Alot ” to describe the number of locals Salemites who would be vacationing that month, the Miami Herald‘s report on someone who “eeks out a living ” and his own employer’s publication of a letter referring to the first couple the “Obama’s. ” We hope you’re socialize this article to others and reach out to Weingarten to complement him.
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