Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A blog explosion

How are your blogs doing? From the sound of this post, it seems like they're doing fine at the Centre Daily Times. You should check out the remarkable activity there, and at powerful, creative blogs being written and hosted throughout the company.

Share links to some of your success stories in the comments below, and we can all have a look.
–Howard Weaver

5 comments:

  1. One suggestion re CentreDaily.com - it looks as though there's no [complete] "blog aggregation" page - at least not one with the editor's post in it, that I could see.
    (did notice there were very few comments on his posts, and this could be part of the reason)

    The truth about online community building at newspapers, from Invisible Inkling's Ryan Sholin.

    One suggestion from experience - make your 'contract' with the community explicit, to prevent misunderstandings.
    (Example: whether you reserve the right to mass-delete past community-generated content without advance notice)

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  2. A blog such as this that focuses on a popular local team (college or otherwise) is a great way to build community and traffic.

    At the Tri-City Herald, we've taken multiple approaches to blogging and community publishing/forums.

    We have four sports-related blogs/online columns. We have one political blog and three lifestyle blogs. The sports, political and one of the lifestyle blogs are more like columns than actual blogs because we do not provide a way to comment on them (that's something MI is working on for us). My blog on wine is the only one that is a blog in the true spirit of the genre. We also have a video podcast, which I loosely count as a blog.

    Total blog/online column traffic for us is around 7k PVs per week.

    We also have three online forums, where registered users can converse (read: yell) about a variety of topics. Not surprising, politics and sports are quite popular. Traffic for these forums averages 45k PVs per week.

    Our site sees about 400k PVs per week, so traffic from blogs/online columns/forums is not insignificant for us.

    One experiment that is working quite well is our community forum that is linked by name and content with our Saturday editorial page. The best posts go in print, and the topics raised by our editorial page staff are in print and online, with polls, forums, etc. We created a forum for each local political race this fall, and traffic was heavy as a result. Now a lot of the folks who came on because of the political races are involving themselves in other topics, so they are sticking around even though many of the races were decided in the primary.

    What we need still are ways to add commenting to all of our stories. I am told MI has some folks working on a way to make the bridge between our Web sites and Drupal more seamless. This will make us much more interactive and invisible with our readers.

    If you have not checked out The News Tribune's Seahawks Insider blog, it is getting huge numbers and is worth emulating.

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  3. Some N&O blogs get high readership but only a few comments, among them our ACCNow Sports blog, where people seem to come for news. blogs.newsobserver.com/accnow

    One of the most comment-rich is our local schools blog, which has become the gathering place for community debate over a major school reassignment plan, a huge proposed bond issue, conversion of many schools to year-round calendar and so forth. Commenters debate with each other and ask the reporter for information. blogs.newsobserver.com/wakeed.

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  4. Thanks Howard. We're over 200,000 page views for blogs this month at CentreDaily.com and football blogs are leading the way.

    Among the success stories: Our news editor writes Monday Morning Quarterback; our football writer writes Nitt Notes; and a Penn State journalism student writes We Want the Lion, taking fans into the student section at games and on campus otherwise.

    To address a point: We're still operating on two blog platforms, preventing a totally shared community space. The editor's blog and others are on Typepad, while new blogs and forums are on Drupal. Only the editor's blog continues to manage comments; the others allow unrestricted comment postings.

    Thanks go to MI for letting us start Drupal so quickly, and we pounced on it to get up to today's count of 46 blogs and forums.

    We're now looking at launching blogs like The Runaround, written by three area running enthusiasts. That's the first of what we hope will be several sports/recreation community forums.

    -- Bob Heisse

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  5. We have 14 live blogs, with another 4-5 in the works.

    As might be expected, the traffic and audience engagement is varied. The most popular generate upwards of 100,000 pageviews per week. Others attract less than 10 percent of that.

    As might be expected, sports and politics are our big winners, too. But we've had real success with some others, too, including gardening and local music. The key, of course, is less the content than the audience and the blog's tone. While politics will always work, the Big Question blog has succeeded not just because of the topic, but also because Eric Black has managed to tap into a particular audience of people interested in discussing the political landscape in Minnesota. And while that discussion has sometimes veered into the swamp of pure partisanship, Eric's tone and approach has kept the blog on an even keel.

    We have already retired 3 blogs, and will continue to weed out the ones which aren't attracting a real audience, or which have grown stale.

    At this point, we face two big challenges around blogging: Adequately managing the interest among reporters and editors in launching new blogs and integrating our blogs with the larger site.

    We have drafted a Blog Backgrounder, and we give it to every member of the staff who expresses and interest in blogging. It outlines our goals and asks them to answer several key questions, including what audience they are hoping to reach. So far, that process has been successful. But we need to do more to educate the entire staff. In particular, we need to help our print colleagues understand when a blog is not the best solution.

    Finally, our blogs are operating on a WordPress platform, and are not integrated into the publishing system. We have managed to use the RSS feeds generated by the blogs to work around that lack of integration, and we have utilized the 'link-to url' capability recently added to the publishing system. But the lack of integration is still apparent. We simply need to do a much better job promoting our blogs.

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