One paper and blogs

Pardon me if I brag for a moment about my friends and former colleagues at the Star-Ledger in New Jersey and the work they’ve been doing with blogs. Full disclosure: I’ve been consulting with them on this, so this is not only blogrolling but is also self-serving. So sprinkle on those grains of salt.

Take a look at five Ledger projects:

* Yesterday, the Ledger launched NJVoices, a local version of the Guardian’s Comment is Free and HuffingtonPost. It’s the same idea: Invite in some opinion leaders — including the paper’s own columnists — and give them a platform to have their say and interact with their public. The idea behind NJVoices is that it’s entirely local. And it is also a means to blow up the notions of the op-ed page, the letter to the editor, the column, and even the editorial. I remember when I first showed CiF and HuffPo to my friend Jim Willse, the Ledger’s editor, it clicked with him; he saw the future of local opinion. And now it is launched. I next look forward to seeing how this feeds back into the paper.

* They tried to figure out how to get involved with local bloggers and the first step is a blog of blogs. Staffer Kelly Heyboer tracks and writes about local bloggers, which also establishes a relationship with them and creates an expertise within the paper about the scene (‘Is anybody blogging about _____?’ ‘Go ask Kelly’).

* Last week, they invited a bunch of prominent local bloggers to go along on the paper’s beloved Munchmobile — a van with a big hot dog on top, dear to the editor’s heart, that goes around the state taste-testing local treats. Inviting the bloggers meant that the paper was writing about the bloggers, the bloggers were writing about the paper, pizza and links were had by all. Smart.

* One of their first moves was to take a beat reporter covering the pharma industry, which is huge in Jersey, and have him start a Romenesko-plus blog covering the news through links and more: Pharmalot. It has gained traffic, links, respect, and now targeted advertising.

* When the paper wanted to show off more and more video, we talked about using existing tools to do video. They put up video on YouTube as well as on NJ.com. Then they invite readers to make their local videos and put them on YouTube, tagged TV Jersey. All this goes up on a blog at TVJersey.com, “the television station New Jersey doesn’t have.”

Lots of papers are now starting their own blogs; that’s an important element of the strategy. But it’s also important to use this as a way to have a new relationship with the public and you see some attempts at that here: steps in the right direction.

  • Cooler Heads

    The pharmalot blog is great. But the rest? You wouldn’t be highlighting these if you weren’t a consultant to and personal friends of people at the Star-Ledger.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Cooler,
    Your judgment but clearly, I disagree. A local Comment is Free is new and cool, I think. And involving bloggers in what the paper does is also important, I say. But my caveat is clear: Sprinkle all the salt you want.

  • http://www.blognetnews.com Dave Mastio

    The first thing Cooler and a lot of other folks need to understand is that “great” isn’t the standard folks should be using in engaging the local side of social media. The first priority for local folks should be to try new things and see what works, then when something looks like it has traction work on making it better.

    This is part of what paralyzes newspapers and is highlighted in that new NAA report: Everyone is so worried about getting new launches perfect, that new launches are rare. Jeff’s friends deserve credit for getting past that.

    A lot of what the Star-Ledger is doing is going to be SOP in a few years — having a local writer cover local social media personalities? That should be as obvious as covering any other influential part of town.

    Cooler is just wrong about TV Jersey. On a technical level, the idea is a solid hit, but what makes TV Jersey great is the marketing angle. New Jersey has no TV station of its own, so the local paper uses new media to give it a start at one. A century ago, newspaper men were marketers too and those editor/entreprenuers are the ones who built the economic infrastructure of our industry.

    We need folks like that back.

    Course, I am trying to make a buck working with newspapers too, so cooler can feel free to ignore me as well.

  • http://roborant.info Rob

    Jeff,

    You need to call on the Austin American Statesman. They have just about the lamest newspaper blog site on the planet:

    http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/austin/index.html

    Most of the stories are just trite crap that didn’t make the print version – “Fire closes popular pizza restaurant” – and often there are days between new posts. No pictures in the blogs (except, of course, for lots and lots of ads) and no video. There are “reader blogs”, but judging by the lack of comments, no one reads them (although a couple look like they’re OK).

    I think “local blogging” is going to turn out to be hard. Lileks makes it look easy, but it’s not; it takes a real writer. The talent pool of good writers just may not be deep enough to cover all communities within a city with one each.

  • Cooler Heads

    Well, here’s the thing. Are there other papers doing what the Star-ledger is doing? probably. Does Jarvis highlight them? maybe, maybe not. It’s a matter of who Jarvis is consulting for.

    Also, I always look carefully when someone would basically label all the interactive stuff a paper does as terrific. Clearly there must be some differentiation. Does it all deserve to be lauded?

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  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    “Cooler,”
    I am not lauding everything they are doing. I am lauding a list of things related to blogs. I wish I knew who you were and what your perspective is. Why not use your real name? This is hardly a state secret, this discussion. Let’s have the discussion openly, transparently, like adults, eh?

  • http://www.blognetnews.com Dave Mastio

    So Jarvis is hiding the real innovation from us because the real innovators aren’t paying him?

    There are slightly more than five bajillion and three people writing about new media, if Jarvis is such a problem for you, why not go visit some of them? Here’s a list: http://www.blognetnews.com/newsinnovation

    And if you don’t like my list, there are a half-dozen others out there. That’s the beauty of the blogosphere, there are always credible voices out there. You just have to go find them.

  • Cooler Heads

    Jeff, even now, in this state of openness, some of us can’t yet have opinions without threatening our work.

    But…I applaud what you and the newspapers are doing. I just don’t want to see you become the cheerleader for everything and everyone you consult for. It undermines your credibility.

    Likewise, I’m not sure everything should be cheered for.

    But overall, I am a strong supporter of the new populism that grows from blogs, and all of it.

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