Why the New York Times can’t truly blog
Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003
Jeff Jarvis, vigorous blogger and president of Advance.net, writes “I’ll bet you’ll be seeing weblogs from The Times sooner than you think…. ”
Jeff is the smartest and best-wired publisher I know. But what the heck, I’ll take your bet Jeff, if you’ll accept some tweaking.
There are tremendous barriers, both psychic and fiscal, to NYT truly blogging.
NYT may allow journalists to publish some reverse-chronological, lite-edited, almost-real-time, time-stamped online news. But this is not really blogging and it won’t achieve the desired impact: more wattage and page impressions.
I’ll bet $20 that if or when NYT “blogs,” each new “blog” will omit at least five out of the following eight blog characteristics:
* strong opinions
* a sprinkle of personal details from the blogger’s life
* a blogroll
* an independent traffic counter
* a unique domain name
* the blogger’s photo
* some snark
* lots of links to other blogs and news sources
These are the ingredients that give blogs ten times more readers per keystroke than conventional journalism. Without the individualistic impulse that makes blogging great, NYT’s blogs will be Frankensteins… all the meat but none of the spirit.
OK, so those are the psychic barriers. Now the financial.
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen says he’s “startled” to learn the NYT has more readers daily online than in print. He thinks this trend will impel NYT to start blogging.
Well, if Professor Rosen had been reading this very blog rather than the Times, he’d have learned about the traffic milestone in October of 2002. But, although other media repeated the news, the NYTimes still hasn’t written online or in print about the startling milestone or highlighted it to investors.
Like Professor Rosen, NYT shareholders will be startled too, I think. And concerned. Concerned that NYTimes.com reaches more people than the print journal, but, because of a vastly more competitive environment, achieves less than 3% of print’s revenues.
Which brings up the show-stopping question NYT shareholders will ask if management ever admits that 1/5 of a NYT journalist’s paid hours are devoted to blogging. “Why the h*ck are we dumping resources into such a low-margin business? How are we going to compete with passionate zero-overhead bloggers empowered by the blogosphere, the biggest traffic spinner since the cloverleaf?”
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see the NYTimes trying to sell blog impressions to advertisers. It will further legitimate blogs and reinforce the startling fact that blog advertising, unencumbered by publishing’s traditional cost structure, is 95% cheaper. I just don’t think NYT shareholders can stomach watching their company wade into a link-quagmire to battle 10,000 infopreneurs.