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Is The Newspaper Model Useless For Blogs?

Jeff Jarvis over on BuzzMachine doesn’t like the idea of newspaper blogs:

I mostly find posts via links from trusted peers or through RSS subscriptions. Blogs spread not because they reside on huge sites but because they have relationships with people, because the are viral.  And the way to be viral is to live at the same level as other linkers: blog to blog, brand to brand, person to person.

This piece I wholeheartedly do not agree with.  Yes, newspapers presently have a really screwed up delivery of blogs.  They are bolted on as afterthoughts, you have to dig down through to many levels to get to one, yada, yada.  All those things Jeff says are right.

But consider what’s right about the idealized notion of a paper and forget the poor packaging of today.  Why do people like the Times or the WSJ?  Because of editors.  Editors have selected writers and articles that convey the conceptual integrity that is the “flavor” of the Times or the WSJ.  That’s a value added we should be able to respect.  That’s right inline from Jeff’s finding of posts “via links from trusted peers”.  The trusted peers are just Jeff’s exercise of his own editorial discretion about who he likes to read and why.  Is it so hard to think that we could have someone else do a sufficiently good job of making some of the same choices that it wouldn’t be a value add?  I don’t think so.

In fact, this kind of value choice I will argue is something many are craving.  Why?  Because being your own editor is too hard.  It’s too time consuming.  Your only aid if you take this to its logical conclusion is Google, and it’s not enough because the Web is too vast and you may not know the right question to ask Google.  So we rely on others to help us find things.  We rely on experts who we trust, or whose opinion and style we at least have agreed with in the past.  You know it’s true.  Rabid blog readers love to discover the treasure trove of a new blog that speaks their language.  There are many web properties founded on the “birds of a feather” idea.  Social networks, social bookmarking, and others are all based on the idea that people think alike and if you can only find those who think like you, you will have found a measure of bliss.

What the newspaper does in the ideal world is package up a collection of these blogs and ensure they hang together and continue to speak the same language.  They are simply trying to do this in a systematic and professional way, as a business.  That’s no knock on others: we need all these mechanisms to make sense of the vast cacaphony that is the World Wide Web. 

So maybe Jeff isn’t throwing the baby out with the bath water when he says, “The blogs may be getting more plentiful and they are getting better. But now they’re ready to move out of the house and find homes of their own.”  Maybe it isn’t the blogs that need to move out, but the newspaper’s other dowdy web presences that are just in the way.  Newspapers can still provide a valuable role if they’ll just adjust to the medium and quit trying to reproduce wood pulp with great fidelity.

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