The small, light, fill-in blog

By Felix Salmon
October 21, 2011
Overheard, the new blog from the WSJ's Heard on the Street team; and Occupy Wall Street: The Wealth Debate, from Bloomberg Businessweek.

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I’ve been saying for a while that blogs are dead — certainly the one-person, one-voice blog, and also the big splashy expensive blog launched by a new or old-media company. Both I think had their heyday a few years ago. But as bloggish tendencies get incorporated into the broader news business, and as the sharing-and-linking part of the blogosphere moves to social media, something quite encouraging is happening: media organizations are finding it easy to set up small, light blogs which they’re not particularly invested in.

On the basis of 2=trend, I present to you: Overheard, the new blog from the WSJ’s Heard on the Street team; and Occupy Wall Street: The Wealth Debate, from Bloomberg Businessweek. Both are places where shorter-form quick hits can get published without laborious editing; neither are particularly important strategically; but both fill an empty niche in terms of their organization’s coverage in a cheap and effective manner.

This is a lot easier than having to re-architect the broader news outlet to make it more amenable to such materials. All websites have some kind of blog content, so if you need something fast, adding a new blog should be pretty easy. And it doesn’t involve lots of unreliable technology from outside vendors, either, which is always an advantage.

Well done, then, to the WSJ and Businessweek for seeing how blog technology is a good way of powering things which don’t need to last forever, or get lots of traffic — they’re just another part of the big package which the newsroom provides.

I doubt many people will bookmark either of these blogs, but that’s fine — individual posts will get shared socially and placed on the home page, the news will get covered effectively, and that’s all that’s needed. These aren’t throwaway microsites — they’re important to the broader function of the newsroom. But they’re also small enough to experiment and push the envelope with respect to voice and content type. And if certain ideas work well on these blogs, they can always percolate up to the rest of the site over time.

9 comments

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“I’ve been saying for a while that blogs are dead — certainly the one-person, one-voice blog, and also the big splashy expensive blog launched by a new or old-media company.”

I have no idea what the hell you’re taking about. I get more information from blogs (mostly the one-person one voice, but occasionally reuters.com-clones as well) than virtually any source.

Maybe if what you care about is making money from blogs, but if you just care about reading interesting stuff, I find new blogs that are good all the time.

Posted by ss4johnny | Report as abusive

Relevant to this article is a comment I made on an earlier article

link here
http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/20 11/10/17/link-phobia-and-plagiarism/comm ent-page-1/#comment-32190

Additional comment includes that blogs are not dead but are dieing, I will elaborate as time allows.

Posted by diegoSi | Report as abusive

I still haven’t figured out how to extract information using social media. Maybe I need to take a course or something. Twitter streams are like watching the messages on my microwave oven display, though less informative and entertaining. Facebook seems to be a thin gruel of occasional updates, usually pointless, accompanied by a cloud of gibberish responses that make blog comments look like Shakespeare and Darwin rolled into one.

Exactly how has this killed blogs?

Blogs provide a combination of diary and essay collection, both forms of which have been around for centuries and have proven durable. My guess is that the traditional media are spreading this “blogs are dead” thing the way they spread the Obama is a muslim and there is no housing bubble.

Posted by Kaleberg | Report as abusive

You might try taking a gulp of the air the rest of us breath every once in a while ..

Posted by Woltmann | Report as abusive

You have to be kidding, social media replacing essay format? Not in the next 100 years. “Blogs” as defined by the main stream media for a while are sort of dead. Meaning that the single person screed is something that has stopped as more people have turned to social media for that kind of drivel (I don’t think there are many people who want to read someone regularly getting over a broken romance but that’s person’s close friends). But something else is happening…

The definition between “blog” and “newspapaer/magazine” is now completely blurred. Take a look at Krugman’s blog as part of the NYT constellation, or yours, or Huffpost, or Calculated Risk, or The Big Picture. Are they “blogs” or are they “oneline magazines”? Hard to say for certain, isn’t it?

The MEGA important difference here, IMHO, is that with a blog I KNOW I’m getting opinion mixed with my news, very unlike FOX that screams “fair and balanced” when it is anything but a right-wing sensationalist propaganda operation. I think most thinking people like to be up-front about knowing when the opinion/fact line is blurred and “blogs” represent that. That’s the future Felix, not some social media drivel. I work in the industry and I’ll tell you that everyone is still searching for a reason Twitter exists because, frankly, no one I know really does anything with it except the marketing people who swear it does something but can’t really tell you what. Then read the stats and see who actually creates content on Twitter and who just passes it along to be “popular”. It’s very instructive as to what’s going on there and it isn’t information by a long shot.

Posted by skyman123 | Report as abusive

skyman123, I would say completely the opposite. Newspapers don’t bother fact checking any more. If you read something that is factually correct in a newspaper it is an accident.

Blogs can be written by people who have actual expertise in the field and as such far far more valuable than any “news” outlet. Also not sure why FOX comes in for such a canning. Never actually watched it or read one of their articles but it would be hard pressed to be worse than the NYT or Reuters for sheer dishonesty, fabrication and incompetence. I have never ever read an NYT article on a subject that I have a passing acquaintance with that was not factually incorrect.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

I think that if you are really engaged with social media then blogs come off seeming a bit clunky. Felix lives in an interrupt-driven world where fast and informative updates and insights come from a variety of sources. I think the Toyota Venza commercials (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpeoRIvn xfk, and others) capture this culture exactly. In Felix’s defense, that’s what everyone around him does, too.

I blog, and tweet once every couple of days, and it serves my larger purpose, but I don’t have anywhere near the level of engagement that Felix does. In his world, blogs aren’t cutting edge, and are slow, and he’s ready to move on. Direct feeds into the brain, perhaps?

Posted by Curmudgeon | Report as abusive

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