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.