Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Breaking News vs. Breaking Press vs. Editorial Content

or, Blogging from your toilet 101: A Rant

As I make my way through my soon-to-be-deceased Google Reader list, I find myself especially annoyed this morning by how many repeat blog posts I'm seeing.

There are far too many blogs falling back on the, in-case-you-don't-look-out-your-window-or-watch-cnn-or-read-drudge-or-the-times-or-deadline-here's-some-breaking-news paradigm.

And they leave it at that.

These stories often don't get further opinion or insight on their way down the food chain.

They just tumble on down.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I've been guilty of this in the past. It used to make sense when everything was traditional media and certainly someone had to migrate it to the web. (I remember when we used to actually scan pieces of paper for text and images.) But that's all changed.

In my opinion, the big changes started when the "official press release" marketing machine got thrown out of whack by the Internet.

Once upon a time, we used to rely on daily trade publications to read placements masquerading as breaking news. You gotta give Nikki Finke credit for this one. She took a game that, in the entertainment world, was OWNED by daily publications Variety and THR and proved she could scoop their printed breaks on a blog, hours if not days earlier.

Her success, in my mind, defined the news-breaking paradigm that blogs can serve. They're not CNN. They're not KCAL 9. Meaning, blogs will never bring you live transcription of supreme court hearings or a helicopter shot of a police chase. But they can successfully sift the noisy deal-making, publicity and marketing machines of an industry, and find news there before official press releases break.

This is a massively powerful function. It subverted the way corporations communicated. And it now drives an entire derivatives market of lesser bloggers repeating high value content, like scooped press.

This is actually one of the many reasons the death of Reader breaks my heart. The ability to consolidate news sources and consume them in chronological order sheds a huge a mount of light on who broke a story and who's regurgitating it. Furthermore, who's regurgitating it in a timely manner and who might be adding valuable insight.

In a world were my time is valuable and I need to consume information as efficiently as possible, Reader helps me identify low-value content and either skip it or remove it from my list.

So, breaking news like Bank-Robber-on-PCP-Speeds-Down-405 breaking news doesn't seem to be a good plan for your average friendly neighborhood blogger.

Scooping official announcements seems to be a surgical craft, owned by digital operations who have emerged from or replaced legacy print operations. And merely repeating this information can drive traffic, but  you're not generating valuable content.

This leaves editorial.

Editorial is the space in content that you get to fill with personality that separates you from other blogs and other bloggers. This is the space where you can make your content valuable by making it uniquely yours.

If you want to successfully blog from your toilet or a Starbucks or a Starbucks toilet, please stop creating low-value content.

If I've seen it already, it has no value.

I don't care if you're a movie blog and the information is movie-related, so you want to share it.

If I've already seen it, it doesn't make me think you publish a lot.

It makes me think you publish too much and you're not contributing value to the conversation.

I guarantee you, if you're blogging in a niche, there is demand for amazing original content. This sounds pretty basic, but if you look at my Reader list, doing this well is still the realm of a small handful of key players in any given niche.

For instance, io9 and Geekologie are some of my favorite nerd reads. The two blogs cannot possibly be more different. io9 provides a well edited magazine-type experience. As much science as sci-fi. Extremely well written and detailed, original content that appeals to my interests and always sheds new light on a topic, even if it's about something familiar.

On the other hand, Geekologie is quick. Snappy. Image-driven. But GW's commentary is funny. It's brief, but it shines and it's distinctly him.

In my mind, both these blogs are premium offerings within the nerd niche and are equally important components in my reading list.

My interest in them is not story breaking ability, but quality and presentation. Valuable editorial content. From them, I know it's a good read. I know I want to read their next articles. I know I want to share their stories with friends.

There's a real value proposition going on with both these blogs.

Regurgitating breaking news in a large field like entertainment seems like a better recipe for traffic, but that's not how you're going to keep an audience over time. It's not a feasible business model to push from your toilet.

Making it onto my Reader list is half the battle.

You also have to keep me on.

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