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Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Are We Really Still Talking About the Merits of Linking in 2008?

In brijit, editorial, publishing on Monday, 31 March 2008 at 14:05

It was all I could do not to write a headline laced with profanity, such is the depth of my frustration. (My colleagues talked me down.)

Brijit has enjoyed a great run of mainstream media visibility over the past couple of months, by pretty much any standard. We were on the cover of the Life section of USA Today, the lead example in a piece titled Services cater to our speeded-up lives.” We got a nice mention on MSNBC in a story called “How to dig out from the information avalanche.” And last week we appeared in the April issue of Wired, which identified Brijit as a prime example of The Human Touch,” one of “nine trends driving business in 2008.” Great stuff for any company, especially a startup like ours. Just one problem: none of these actually linked to www.brijit.com!

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but these particular masters of mainstream media are killing me. According to Comscore, MSNBC had 28 million unique visitors in January. USA Today’s sites had more than 8 million, and Wired 2 million. These are big brands with big audiences, the kind of audiences that entrepreneurs like me would ordinarily salivate over. If some small fraction of these audiences finds its way to one of these articles, and some small fraction of that fraction clicks through to visit Brijit, and some small fraction of that fraction likes what they see, sticks around, and shares Brijit with their friends, well, that’s a big deal for a site like ours. Which is why it’s so enraging to be written about but NOT linked to.

When we launched late last year, it was a piece by Frank Ahrens in the The Washington Post that brought us to the world’s attention. More than four months later, we continue to see a trickle of referrals from this story. Why? Because on first reference, there’s a link to Brijit. Now, The Washington Post is about as mainstream as mainstream media gets, but they get it. This isn’t complex neuroscience. This is common courtesy. Hell, this is the Golden Rule we’re talking about: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you’re a publisher, you want other publishers linking to you. If you’re a reader, you want easy access to whatever it is you want to read, listen to, or watch. It’s pretty simple. So what, exactly, is wrong with USA Today, MSNBC, Wired, and the host of other outlets that still haven’t instituted link-friendly standards? Are they so desperate to keep people on their sites that they’re willing to treat their readers with such disrespect? Do they think not linking is the key to consumer satisfaction? Really?

I know this is well-worn ground. It’s pretty common knowledge at this point that the link is the coin of the realm online. The blog as a medium is built on a foundation that linking is good. So is Google. So is Yahoo!. And so is Brijit. And when Tom Rosenstiel, who supervised The State of the News Media 2008 report for the Project for Excellence in Journalism, goes on Bob Garfield’s On the Media and declares that “your website should be a way-station, a place that can help me get to where I want to go. If it were a dead-end street, a cul-de-sac, it would be less useful to me,” you’d think that everyone was on board.

They’re not.

The Meta Times: Bloggin’ About Bloggin’

In Connecting the Dots on Thursday, 28 February 2008 at 11:57

Blogs are for everyone, it seems, as Talk of the Nation’s interview with Stuff White People Like author Christian Lander is riding high on our Most Popular list this week. New York Magazine also has a list of other blogs worth your time, including a DC-based Casanova and a confessional translation of The Iliad. Meanwhile, Utne Reader reviews some feminist blogs. But if politics is too polarizing for you, you can always turn to that classic Internet staple — pictures of cute animals.

Paying Writers Based on Traffic Is (Mostly) a Race to the Bottom

In editorial on Thursday, 3 January 2008 at 12:11

Plenty of virtual ink is being spilled over the new pay scheme for writers over at Gawker Media. Nick Denton and company are replacing their pay-per-post model for paying bloggers with a salary-plus-traffic-bonus model. According to the internal memo posted on Valleywag, the change is meant, in part, to incentivize the creation of quality content. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Scott Karp does a nice job elucidating the “cons”:

“The downsides of this approach are obvious — the incentive rewards content that is salacious, titillating, slanderous, nasty, etc. — anything that appeals to the base interests of a mass audience. It rewards gaming of social news sites… And of course it rewards search engine optimization … with headlines written for search engines rather than people. “

The “pros” are a little harder to discern. Mathew Ingram seems willing roll the dice:

“[I]n the long run it is likely to make them more intimately involved in their blogs, and more interested in developing a relationship with their readers, and that’s a good thing.”

I’m skeptical. Yes, there’s something to the idea of relationship-building IF the bloggers in question are sticking around for years. But is that really the universe we’re talking about? What’s the average tenure for a writer with a blog network gig? And will this mythical writer actually put more money in his pocket doing an extra-special good job then he might have churning out commodity volume-filler posts?

Of course it’s important to have a strong relationship with one’s readers. But in the end it’s the editor’s responsibility to make sure that the blog owns that relationship. Individual voices are eminently brandable, and can become great businesses. But the biggest content businesses brand businesses, not bloggers.

Dan Blank’s headline, The War Against Mediocre Online Editorial Content, is tough not to love, because we’re all sick of the flotsam and jetsam that pollutes the web’s waters. He rightly points out that “[t]he recognition that the web is is now littered with news and commentary is the key here.” But I think he’s stretching with his assertion that “Gawker is taking a measured step to bridge the gap between blogger and journalist.”

Professional journalists don’t get paid individually based on circ numbers. In fact, compensation based on individual performance would be a disaster for most working writers — it’s the publications (Web and print doesn’t much matter here) to which most readers have fidelity.

Now, that doesn’t mean the occasional rock star journalist won’t make bank. They will; but it’ll be on the back end of building an audience, and come in the form of higher salaries, book deals, speaking engagements, and the like. But these are the exceptions to the rule (and even then their rewards come only for producing a meaningful body of work). It’s not the same thing as Gawker’s traffic-bonus model. Not even the same sport. Denton and company are doing something interesting, but it’s almost the complete antithesis of bridging the gap between bloggers and journalists.

As Scott Karp notes toward the end of his piece, “[w]hat the web lacks most right now is a content filter that adheres consistently to a high standard of quality.” I think that’s absolutely right. Fundamentally, it’s why we’re building Brijit. But we don’t believe paying your writers based on traffic is the way ensure quality. Combining the best aspects of algorithm, user-generated content and traditional editorial control allows us to control for quality. Pay-for-traffic, more often than not, is a race to the bottom.

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