Thursday, August 14, 2008

The journalists have taken over the blogs

Robert Scoble writes a fairly long post about blogs and the PR industry and how the PR industry is promoting things the wrong way when it comes to tech blogs–or the blogs are getting pulled into their strategies. I think Robert’s trying to get at ways that can make blogs better and more interesting–possibly returning to their roots.

Here’s the thing I think Robert skips over: It’s not just the PR people that are disrupting classic tech blogs, the journalists are too. In fact, over the last few years, I’ve argued several times that much of the talked about online growth has been around journalistic endeavors. The writers and publishers have moved online. No problem here; they should have. However, it’s meant that with this transition there’s been money in the game and quite understandably people have migrated from being tech enthusiasts to journalists. Can’t blame people for moving to where the money’s at. But with this transition I think the flavor of tech blogging has gotten muddled.

In no particular order, here are my pet peeves about how this trend towards tech journalism has tainted some tech blogs–particularly the largest ones:

1) The journalists blog like journalists. What do I mean? They report what’s going on. OK, that’s fine, however, quite often their sources are another blog post from some other person journalistically blogging about someone’s comment or news leak. So what you say? Well, more often than not, the journalist blogger will repeat the key news (quite respectfully usually) reporting the key facts that the original blogger found. You know what? A tech blogger wouldn’t just do this. They’d simply say, “Look at this. So and so found out some info” and then provide a link to it. They might go on and add some commentary, but they wouldn’t think they’d have to lay out the whole story, which the original site did just fine. A journalist is going to repeat the whole story and effectively try to keep the reader on their site. A tech blogger will link.

2) Publishers of sites that want to make a living often do things to keep people on their site only. Tech bloggers aren’t as concerned with this. Ways of doing this are:

a) Link to their own articles rather than outside original sources.

b) Provide partial feeds so the reader has to go to the full site to see the full article.

c) Don’t link out, even if they credit another source. Big media blogs do this more commonly, but I see this enough to irk me more than I’d like.

d) And from the point in #1, journalists repeat news from other sites when a link will do.

3) A journalist’s mission is to report; a tech blogger’s mission is to spread their enthusiasm and knowledge for something. It’s not that a tech blogger is simply more benevolant. I don’t think that’s it at all. It’s just that a tech blogger knows they are biased–because they are enthusiastic about something–and shares it. A journalist focuses on reporting. (I will add that for some strange reason tech journalist bloggers seem to rant with some of the loudest. I don’t get this at all. You’d rarely see this in print media, though maybe on the radio or in video. Still, I don’t get it.)

4) Journalists like to point out the conflicts. Yes, tech bloggers will too. However, a tech blogger is just as likely to share info that resolves some conflict or problem. The reason? A tech blogger wants to nourish something. A journalist wants to get the next big story and attract readers and get clicks on their ads. Conflict keeps the click flow going–today. Archiveable information isn’t as much about clicks right now.

5) A journalist is more concerned about the number of readers; a tech blogger is more concerned about the richness of their community.

Yeah, this all is probably a bit of an oversimplification, but hey, I’m an engineer-minded, tech blogger and not a journalist-slash-analyst-slash-PR rep blogger, so I’m allowed. And, you know what, for some reason a smiley face just seems like a highly appropriate way to end this post :-).