Posts about Weblogs

The International Brotherhood of Blatherers, Local 123

I posted over at Comment is Free about the amusing effort to start a union of liberal bloggers.

How to liveblog

Ethan Zuckerman shares his considerable experience and wisdom on liveblogging. I like liveblogging conferences but will confess that I often run out of gas halfway through.

Hey, Fox: Duck!

This is like sending weapons to the Mujahideen to get them to attack your real enemy: Robert Greenwald, Fox News attacker, mashes together every Fox attack on blogs that he can find: red meat to the link army — and pretty damned funny.

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 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, “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.

What he says

Read this post by Saul Hansell about Yahoo on the NY Times’ new tech blog. It is opinionated, filled with opinion, and that’s what makes it so good. I doubt that this would appear in the paper but I certainly don’t know why. Hansell rips into Yahoo and its new/old CEO, Jerry Yang, for his buzzwordy performance in his first earnings call.

If any Yahoo users — and there are half a billion of them — listened to Jerry Yang’s debut earnings conference call as chief executive, they would have heard not a single reason to get excited about going back to . . .

“So many people want Yahoo to win,” he said. “I’m committed to making that happen.” . . .

The top buzzword today at Yahoo was “ecosystem.” Mr. Yang and Ms. Decker said they wanted to make Yahoo a “marketplace” where advertisers sell their products, publishers distribute their content and developers run their programs.

Why would an advertiser, publisher or developer choose Yahoo rather than, say, Google, Facebook or even Microsoft?

Mr. Yang’s answer had more buzzwords: “Insight,” “openness,” and “partnership.”

: LATER: Hansell responds in the comments:

Thanks for noticing what we’re doing over at Bits, Jeff.

I think that blogs in fact do give us lots of great tools to do our traditional job better: We can be quick, say as much or as little as we need to, and of course connect to the broader conversation through outbound links and comments.

But I don’t think that blogs are as much of a revolution in the way that opinion and analysis is expressed as you and others may say. My watchword, as the editor ofBbits, is to work in the same voice long used by columnists in news pages, such as Floyd Norris, David Leonhardt, Joe Nocera and David Carr (not that I am putting my blogging on a par with any of them).

I can do that because in my new role I am no longer the beat reporter covering any companies. So I can step back and be a second voice on some technology topics.

Bits is a bit of a combination because it also includes posts from the rest of the reporters, who sometimes need to use a slightly different tone. The blog is less formal than the paper, and allows for first person writing. But for a beat reporter, it is a way to marshal curiosity and conversation. And again these forms of writing -news analysis pieces and reporters notebook collections-have long existed in our pages and others.

I won’t say that’s false humility. I’d say it’s politics. I do think Saul is changing the voice of the paper, one peep at a time.
Openness and partnership are taken for granted in Silicon Valley these days. No one says they want to be an island, even if they do. Insight is a code word for one of Yahoo’s differentiations: its data about its users and willingness to use it in order to target ads. Microsoft is also building targeting capability, but has fewer and less engaged users. Google is building up a vast repository of data, but it has been conflicted about what to do with it.

But Mr. Yang didn’t even try to explain — in words of any number of syllables — why users would want to visit his ecosystem: Is it warm, beautiful, exciting, relaxing?

Until Mr. Yang is able to say what Yahoo stands for and why people should use its services, he is going to reviewing and reorganizing and buzzwording as the company he founded continues to wither.

I would go farther — but then, I’m just a blogger; I’m dripping with opinion. I think that Yang needs a strategy to take Yahoo into the distributed web and away from the old-media model or he will fail. It’s not about convincing people to come to Yahoo. It’s about finding the ways to take Yahoo to the people. In other words, the question isn’t whether I Yahoo. The question is whether Yahoo Jarvises.

But that’s not the point of this post. I find it fascinating that Hansell, a respected reporter who, I believe, helped invent this blog, took on a new voice. Now in one sense, that could be said to misinterpret blogs; just because a blog, doesn’t mean it has to be snarky (as I have to tell my students). But on the other hand, I will say that having a blog opened up a reporter to a new voice that got to the point directly and quickly and didn’t make me read between lines or guess what he thinks. I like hearing what Hansell thinks and I’m glad I now can.