Cap J: Bad news for blogs
No more than four of every 100 readers get to newspaper Web blogs, a national study finds.
At the same time, of course, everyone in a newsroom is encouraged to write blogs ” online diaries, basically. Many papers insist, I’m told.
So much effort for just 4 percent of the readership.
The blog business is just one more symbol of the state of newspapering today. As an “industry,” we have lots of very confident bloviating about what we should be doing, but little real clue.
A couple of years ago, all the rage was a Readership Institute litany of things that would surely bolster newsprint readership. The institute, based at Northwestern University, had a pretty impressive list of steps we should take.
The premise was that newspapers need to offer much more relevance to readers’ lives and behavior in content, design and how we transmit information. We’ve worked on that at the Daily well before the Readership Institute came up with all that.
Nationwise, though, for all the buzz newspaper readership continued on its long trend of declining circulation, even with the institue’s new measurement ” Reader Behavior Score ” hanging in there. Reader behavior takes in what readers read and how long they read it.
Meantime, the tides shifted a little. I’m not hearing so much about the institute, but we’vre been directed into the Web in a big way. The fad of the moment is the “continuous newsroom, ” which essentially means frequent updating of our Web site through the day.
This makes sense, actually. The idea is that we have something new each time you return to our Web site. Research suggests that this foster a virtuous cycle. The more you see new stuff on our site, the more likely you’ll return again soon.
We’re evolving, haltingly, sometimes painfully, into journalists who file not just words and still pictures, but sound, video and set up a virtual library of sorts for background information behind our stories.
We’re also becoming ever more interactive with the readers who choose to interact. They are taking more and more advantage of their ability to comment on stories through the Web site, as well as submit news and fun stuff. This is great stuff, with tons of potential for us and for our community.
The beauty of the Web is that we can “print” right away. We learned the power of this during the Kobe Bryant rape case a few years back now. Pretty much all of our scoops came from posting them right away on the Web site. Most of the daily report is on the Web site a day or evening ahead of the print version.
And we got into blogging a bit, too, over the past year or so. We need to do a lot more here, at least I think we do. Obviously, I’m doing most of the blogging these days. The crew got busy with sections, video, podcasting for awhile, and a bunch of other stuff.
Besides, we’ve been thinking the blog space should become a place for people with specific interests. Like someone into high altitude cooking sharing tips, a snowboarder filing a report each day from the hill, stuff like that.
I’m eager to develop these, but with that study suggesting such low readership, now what?
Does it mean that most folks don’t dig deep enough into our site to see all we have? Or that there’s really little interest in blog blatherings?
Maybe a bit of both. Still, I’m reminded that it took readers of the Daily a full year after we began providing a consistently local commentary section every day to catch on. When they finally did, it took off. The point is, of course, that it took a long, long time.
I have to say, though, this continuous newsroom thing holds more promise, according to the research.
Not that we won’t keep fussing with the blog, for those hardy few who make it here.