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January 26, 2007

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Tina

Thanks David, for taking this discussion one step further.

I believe that up until now the MSM journalist's DNA included "one way communications". Why? Because they didn't have to reach out. Everybody wanted to talk to them to get in the news. Internal and agency PR people wooed them for a little bit of coverage.

Now, there's a new journalist gene out there which requires (MSM) journalists to reach out and engage in (blog) conversations which are public. That means leaving the comfort zone. Not just for individual journalists but also for the editorial organization behind them. It'll take some adjustment.

John Cass

Thanks David, good post. It is all about culture I believe, remember when most online newspapers would not link to other websites or blogs. Well that changed, I think we are seeing an evolutionary process in action, as journalists and editors become familiar with the process of blogging, and begin to understand that one way to achieve wider coverage is to join conversations on other blogs in their community. Call it conversational marketing, blogger relations, getting a clue, what have you but I think until any organization conducts outreach to other blogs they will not get the full potential benefits from blogging.

Ted Demopoulos

David,

Some of the blogs only partially implement comments too, for example USA Today's blogs (blogs.usatoday.com).

You can leave a comment, but no URL or other identifying info. So basically, you can leave rather anonymous comments, and apparently no one bothers!

Scot Finnie

Hey, all. Interesting discussion here, but I have to wonder whether you might not be generalizing a bit.

Many people in mainstream media have been working online and blogging for years. (I've been at it since 1994, e.g.) Computerworld bloggers do post elsewhere -- perhaps not as much as we'd like -- but it's not a rare thing. We also encourage them to do so, so long as it's not in a purely self serving way.

I don't completely disagree with the gist of your argument because some mainstream journalists are still learning how important this is. Some may also have outdated concerns about whether it's really okay to post things at sites that might be deemed to be competitors. But, actually, that's when the most fun happens. The ZDNet and Computerworld blogs have gotten into it here and there with cross commenting, for example. We know our readers love that. In my book, this is how the Internet was meant to be used.

If you take the time to get to know our bloggers I think you'll see that Computerworld's blogs aren't pale imitations of "the genuine Internet." Our recently launched Shark Bait -- Ian Lamont's brainchild -- is a blog-and-comment-like user site that takes advantage of many of the things that work so well on the Internet.

I was brought on as Computerworld's online editorial director to make sure of these things. We welcome your input and suggestions. David, I hope to run into you at one tradeshow or another!

John Cass

Hi Scot, well I suppose the fact that you commented here means that someone at Computerworld is monitoring what's going on in the web and willing to comment.

However, why did Ian say in the social media club meeting that his journalists do not comment on other blogs? You mention that your bloggers do comment on other blogs, do you mean only other MSM blogs, or any type of blog?

I do not think you lose anything Scot if your bloggers have not done very much up to this point. As I agree with you, learning what social media is all about is a step-by-step process; each company must choose its own path. The only reason I discuss these issues is to explain and understand why it is a good idea to conduct conversational marketing techniques because it will help a company whether a brand or a journal in the process.

The Shark Bait site sounds good in terms of allowing comments, but that’s not what we were really discussing, we were focusing on the issue of journalist who just MSM blogs commenting on other blogs.

Also, I agree many journalists have been at the forefront of blogging; Dan Gillmor is a great example formerly at the San Jose Mercury News. However, I think the industry still has a long way to come, but the pace has certainly speeded up in the last year or so. Really what we should do is conduct a study on the subject to determine the state of blogging in the MSM.

David Meerman Scott

Hi Scot, many thanks for stopping by. Yes indeed, just by you commenting there is “proof” that at least in the case of Computerworld, you guys are reaching out. Good for you!

Of course my original post was a sweeping generalization. But in my experience it is true way more than it is false. I have had many hundreds of comments on this blog and only a handful come from MSM. Yet I know for a fact based on my user stats that many MSM journalists read my blog and write about the stuff I write about. ZDNet for example just today http://blogs.zdnet.com/micro-markets/?p=925

I also must admit that together with the zillions of other hats I wear and titles I have I am a contributing editor at EContent Magazine http://www.econtentmag.com/About/AboutAuthor.aspx?AuthorID=44 and in my many hundreds of comments that I leave on blogs, I always link back to my personal blog, not the magazine.

Also, I am interviewing your colleague Ian for my EContent Magazine column. What goes around, comes around!

Thanks again Scot (and John) for this interesting dialog.

David

Ian Lamont

This is an excellent conversation about the role of the MSM in the brave new world of blogging and online communities. I think it's important to note that the MSM's role has many facets, is constantly evolving, and varies greatly from organization to organization. There is some truth to the comments by David and John, i.e, many media organizations see blogging as a one-way medium. I believe part of that relates to the media's traditional gatekeeping/megaphone role, which some organizations are unwilling to adjust. For certain companies, there seems to be a lingering reluctance to embrace a technology or processing publishing that seems new and risky.

At Computerworld, we have learned a lot from our experience as publishers of blogs and participants in the many online discussions that are taking place about technology. One key thing I would advise ANY publishing organization or company considering blogging is that it entails becoming part of a dialogue, not only on your own site, but also all over the 'Net. Audiences -- readers, users, other participants, other bloggers -- expect this. If you don't join the dialogue, don't respond to new issues or questions that are raised by the interconnected community, your voice will be marginalized, and in many cases you will be viewed by the online communities as old-fashioned, arrogant, control freaks, etc.

What I sometimes see in MSM blogging efforts are mini-me versions of existing opinion columns or news publishing operations. Often, there is not much of a dialogue taking place -- comments are disabled or very strictly controlled. In these blogs and in news articles, there is also a reluctance to link off-site (although this is becoming less and less common). I am happy to say that many of the larger players and their employees in the IT publishing sphere seem to be enthusiastic and effective bloggers -- I know some of the bloggers at ZDNet link a lot to what we do, and I also like reading CNet's Blogma ( http://news.com.com/2060-11199_3-0.html ) from time to time, which actively links to some of the more interesting discussions on the 'Net. At Computerworld, we developed a blog called IT Blogwatch ( http://www.computerworld.com/blogs/blogwatch ) that really digs into these daily conversations across the 'Net, and links to both independent and MSM bloggers, including competitors (IT Toolbox, ZDNet, etc.). The reason we developed IT Blogwatch, is that many readers in our industry simply don't have the time to find interesting blogs, or scan through dozens of RSS feeds every day, looking for interesting tidbits. We do it for them -- and present the summaries and links in an easy, fun-to-read format.

David brings up an interesting observation relating to who is commenting on his blogs -- only a small fraction are MSM bloggers. Why is this so? I would guess that it partially relates to your peer group (PR, new media, as opposed to "old" media or IT publishing) but also the makeup of the blogging population: Of the millions of blogs that are regularly created and maintained on the Web, very few of them are operated by journalists. I got my start in television news, and later worked as a newspaper reporter and editor; very few of my colleagues from those organizations operate blogs today. Even if there are 100,000 journalists worldwide who have work-related or personal blogs, that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the giant global blogging population numbering in the tens of millions. Moreover, not every journalist/blogger leaves comments on other people's blogs, either because they can't, don't want to (i.e., it's not their style) or they are not aware of relevant conversations taking place. There are so many interesting blogs out there -- we can't read them all!

At Computerworld, we have about six to eight editors who regularly blog. Some respond to queries on their blogs, or make corrections/clarifications in the comments area (National Correspondent Rob Mitchell is especially strong in this regard, please see http://www.computerworld.com/blogs/mitchell ). Others leave comments on third-party blogs or websites. We use our own names. Often it's to participate in an interesting conversation, to make a clarification or correction, or to sometimes let other people know that Computerworld has a parallel conversation taking place. I've done it before, and I know Scot and Richi Jennings (lead writer for ITBW) do as well.

I would like to that while we have journalist-operated blogs on Computerworld, not every journalist on staff can blog. It basically boils down to whether or not you cover a beat. If you are a beat reporter, you are supposed to remain objective about the industry/technology you are covering. Blogging is often a subjective medium, and for this reason we have not distributed blogging accounts to our beat reporters. That may change, if we can work out some guidelines that protect our editorial integrity.

I'll add a quick note about corporate blogging as well. In the corporate IT (non-publishing world) I love reading Jonathan Schwartz's blog ( http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/ ). He responds to some discussions taking place about technology, uses it as a platform for his own ideas, and of course, uses it to help promote Sun products. He enables comments, and responds to them. Other large technology companies that seem to "get" blogging (mostly without CEO participation) include Microsoft, Oracle, Linden Networks, and Google. I have to ask, though, why Apple does not seem to want to make a splash in this area -- there is so much potential to interact with their customers and the 'Net community. Why not blog? I know that for some companies there are legitimate worries about spam, technology infrastructure (can it handle traffic? Can it scale to large numbers of bloggers/comments?) and time -- it takes time to compose and submit blogs, respond to comments, etc. But these issues primarily affect smaller companies, not the big players.

Anyway, I've prattled on long enough. David, John, Tina, and Scot, thanks for starting such this interesting thread. And David, I look forward to our interview!


david Meerman Scott

Ian, thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. I'm looking forward to our offline conversations.
Best, David

Banaticus

That's interesting -- now how many blogs belonging to other people, on sites other than webinknow or their affiliated groups, have you responded to in the last year?

David Meerman Scott

Banaticus - I have commented on more than 500 blogs in the past 12 months. Thanks for the comment. David

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