In recent weeks we’ve seen foodblogger Amy recruited to blog for the Condenast owned Epicurious. Freakonomics has migrated lock, stock and blog to the opinion section of the New York Times. Brian Stelter of the TVNewser blog was also recruited by the New York Times. Then, just this week, there are rumours that the Cleveland Plain Dealer is interested in hiring four popular political bloggers. The current trend, if there is one, is about getting experienced bloggers onto newspaper and magazine blogs, but not necessarily into print.
From working with ScooptWords – where we tried to sell blog content to print publications – I quickly realised that most bloggers simply don’t give a shit about selling stories and writing for the press. A tiny proportion cared. A yet smaller proportion of those were up to task. But, what’s happening now is different. Bloggers are being recruited to blog, not to write for print.
Why are newspapers and magazines recruiting bloggers? What’s in it for them? What, in effect, are they buying?
With bucketloadsa lolly being ploughed into digital, most journalists still have little or no experience of blogging. Even fewer have a deep understanding as to why online journalism differs from print. Whereas tonnes of bloggers have that knowledge. It makes sense to recruit experienced bloggers to steer some newspaper blogs. In the long run, it’s probably cheaper too and far more likely to succeed than going to all the expense of training a print journalist, who isn’t really interested and who may or may not ever be any good at it anyway. Plus, most experienced bloggers have a sizable online contact list and some have developed large communities around their blogs. If the community comes with the blogger… what price do you put on that?
Another question, if newspapers want to nurture star bloggers, and they need them, how do you quantify a "star"?
Number of posts? Number of comments? Degree of engagement with commenters? Inbound links? Outbound links? Journalistic skill? Writing style? Consistency? An always-online lifestyle? All are factors and perhaps some more important than others. But I don’t really know exactly what criteria a newspaper would use to gauge the success or otherwise of a particular blogger.
Whenever I’m asked to talk to print publications about starting blogs there’s invariably an assumption that the more senior staff and the ‘celebrity journalists’ will be the ones blogging. To which I always reply,
"Maybe your star blogger isn’t the editor or the ‘sleb columnist. In fact, the chances are your star blogger almost definitely is not either of those people. The first question you have to ask is, who’s interested in writing a blog? Maybe your star blogger is the photocopy boy or the tea girl. Someone who’s passionate about sommit and interested in blogging. That’s who you start with."
While the idea of ‘covering what you do best and linking to the rest’ still applies, with more digital dough floating about, it increasingly makes sense to try and recruit the best too – if you can still afford them that is…