Here’s the third in my series of guidance documents for journalists, hoping to ease their transition into the blogosphere. As ever, it’s posted here for advice, criticism or mockery…
Many journalists assume that blogging is just a form of opinion writing. And it certainly can be.
If you have a depth of knowledge of your subject and can add genuinely interesting new content which gives the readers the benefit of your expertise, you can add something to the debate already underway around the blogging world.
These blogs can be slow builders in terms of traffic – expertise takes time to establish in the blogosphere. But as other bloggers find your work, enjoy it and link to it, readership can grow steadily.
However, if you aren’t yet an expert on a particular subject matter, this sort of blog is a short road to humiliation. Your readers will, collectively, know a lot more than you. If you’re lucky, they’ll just never return to your blog. If you’re unlucky, they’ll come back and point out your ignorance in great and exacting detail.
irony of railing against reader content as a trade journalist is that
many of our titles started as entirely reader content titles, with
editors selecting or commissioning articles from the most expert people
in various fields. Eventually staffing levels grew, and the bias
slipped towards journalistic content.
A blog that focuses around
linking to the best content elsewhere on the web returns us to those
days: the journalist blogger as guide to the best of the web. The idea
here is simple – there’s a heck of a lot of good, interesting writing
out there on the web. Many of our readers, as busy working folks, don’t
have time to hunt this out for themselves. By guiding them to both the
best content on our sites and elsewhere, you’re providing a valuable
service for them.
Is this time consuming? It shouldn’t be. If
you’re covering a beat, you should have a round of websites you check.
Just link to the best stuff you find as you go – think of it as an open
The Big Biofuels Blog
is much like an iceberg: large, cold and prone to sinking ships. Or,
perhaps more usefully, it’s like an iceberg in that the majority of the
effort is below the surface. The published article is only the very tip
of the research effort that’s gone into building the story. Some people
actually want more than we offer them, more than the limited space a
print publication offers.
Blogging can offer a solution to
this, giving the journalist an opportunity to share additional
research, personal impressions and details of the process behind the
story. And this type of insight can be very popular with readers, too.
People are usually more interested in other people, and giving readers
a glimpse behind the curtain of traditional journalism helps forge a
stronger connection between you and the people you’re writing for.