Blurring Distinctions: New, Old, Niche Or Mass, It’s All Media

Ravi Somaiya of Gawker wants me to link to his article, “How Blogs Are Becoming More Like Newspapers”. I’m doing so and repackaging a couple of his paragraphs for good measure.

Now blogs compete aggressively for audience. Politico, Deadline Hollywood and everyone else seeks to break news to differentiate them from their competition. To do so they, and we, must also now write tight, concise headlines, choose decent pictures or art, and provide readers with more evidence of journalism (pics, or documents, or it didn’t happen). Opinion pieces and rants cannot rely on raw snark — the ones that get read will hold together, under immediate comment scrutiny, like a traditional op-ed. In short, blogs must now compete for readers’ attention like a newspaper on a stand does (or did).
Blogs, like this one, used to get away with quickly repackaging content and adding a penis joke. But, as our proprietor Nick Denton explained in an internal email, “any treatment [of a story] can work, really, except for the old-school blog item, that rehashed news story with a dash of puerile snark. Nobody links to that.” Nobody links to stories with dull pictures, or lots of typos, or tenuous premises either. Stories that are not pegged to current events will not do so well. In the same way people skip over them in their newspapers.

Somaiya makes some good points, but there are blogs and then there are blogs. It seems to me some of the bigger blogs have transcended the very term “blog”. I don’t know what they ought to be called, but they more closely resemble mainstream media properties than they do a Blogger site on picking wild mushrooms.
Then there’s the fact that many topics don’t appear in newspapers at all. Neighborhood news isn’t in the paper (the papers can’t afford the coverage) and ad industry news isn’t in the paper (because there’s very little hard news to cover). When it comes to ad news, there’s no race between blogs and newspapers, or even between blogs.
What is ad news anyway? Is it the so-and-so-got-a-new-job material found in the trades? I don’t think so. News relies on facts and there aren’t a lot of facts available in this realm. Even if the client in question, or its agency surrogate, has the facts about a campaign’s success or lack thereof, they don’t want the press to know, because those prized facts are actually trade secrets.
Lastly, not every “blog” is out to seed the Web with viral, highly linkable content. Many writers of blogs are just happy to have an audience. That in itself is empowering and enough to bring the writer back to the keyboard for more.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.