We just interviewed a potential candidate for our operations manager position. Not surprisingly, he also blogs. When I asked why, he said it was about having passion, and that getting paid to blog is nice but not as important as having a voice. The comment resonated with me given some thoughts I’ve had recently about newspapers suddenly embracing blogging after brushing it off for several years.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to see traditional media (aka Old Media) finally get jiggy with blogging but I think the number of really good blogs done by newspapers will be few and far between, which is one reason why the blogosphere will continue to have a wide variety of big and small voices operating on a fairly level playing field. Why? Fundamentally, most reporters writing blogs are doing so because they have to do it; not because they want to do it. As a result, these blogs lack passion and enthusiasm – two critical elements for successful blogs. Many newspaper bloggers are just going through the motions.
You have to remember that the current generation of reporters are being asked to do more – write for the newspaper, write for the Web, blog, podcast, video blog – with little or no additional compensation while newsrooms are shrinking. How much energy would you put into something new if your boss said there was nothing it in for you except more work? Of course, the next generation of reporters will likely have an entirely different attitude and skill set, which may means they’ll be more enthusiastic about blogging, video blogging, etc. In the meantime, most newspaper blogs will likely be, at best, alright but nothing to write home about.
I would be remiss by not pointing out there are newspapers that get it. The Guardian and Telegraph in the U.K. do it well, as does the Washington Post and the San Jose Mercury. In Canada, Mathew Ingram is one of the best newspaper bloggers – and I’m not saying that just because he’s my friend and one of the mesh organizers.
Update: Business 2.0, which has made blogging mandatory for its writers, has issued checks for the first three months of the year based on a $2.50 for every 1,000 pageviews. The most popular – and most lucrative – blog is Business 2.0 Beta, written by Owen Thomas; followed by the Apple 2.0 blog written by new executive editor Philip Elmer-Dewitt. Business 2.0 editor Josh Quittner said a handful of bloggers made $2,000 to $2,500 over during the first quarter. Based on Business 2.0’s experiment, you have to wonder whether paying writers/reporters is how newspapers and magazines are going to get their people to blog, and blog well (passion for hire?).