Friday, December 05, 2008

Why Does Newsarama Need Blogs, Anyway?

Seriously, I don't know why having a blog section is absolutely necessary for Newsarama at this point. Or necessary for Wizard, for that matter. Or necessary for any online news outlet -- unless that outlet understands what a blog is for and how you nurture it.

The first thing I learned in Social Media PR 101 is that not every company or website needs a blog. You know, I may have a client like "Regent Tea Cookies" and they will ask me if having a regular blog will help them.

Dude, who is going to go to a "Regent Tea Cookies" blog? How do you make that exciting?

And I'm like, unless you want me to do a Howard Stern routine on your Regent Tea Cookies blog, there's not a lot I can do about getting you traffic. Instead, I would advise one of two things:

1) Just keep a really simple company-based blog and post press releases, highlights, and simple personal things. "Our merchandising manager Holly just had her baby." Post a picture of the baby. It's low-key, and will not bring your blog tons of hits. But it humanizes your company, and keeps people up-to-date.

2) Have "Regent Tea Cookies" sponsor a blog on a relevant subject. For example, a blog about awesome snacks. The key there is to make sure the blog is a damn blog -- a blog people would really want to read.

Now, here is the big secret, friends: in order to get great blog content, you need to pay the bloggers. You need to pay the bloggers. You need to pay the bloggers for good content.

People make a living blogging excellent posts for clients. My friend Jessica is one such person. It is not a hobby for her, though she also maintains a "hobby" type blog for herself.

People pay Jessica to blog because she's really, really talented, and her posts are an asset to her clients.

Now, there is another way to "pay" your bloggers. It's through the currency of Publicity. This can be a very lucrative joint venture as long as each person understands what they are getting out of it. But it is not as stable as actually being paid. Especially if your blogger, who is being paid through the publicity of writing on your site, is so good that he or she receives opportunities elsewhere.

Another issue is: will the blog in question serve the needs of the site it is hosted on, or will it necessarily run counter to those needs?

I have nothing against Newsarama. But they, by their own admission, focus largely on the positive side of comics. That's fine. But as we see on the TV news every day, there is a portion of news that is not positive. Similarly, there is a portion of comics that are not good. There are things that happen in the comics industry that are not good.

That doesn't mean Newsarama should focus on the negative like the TV news does. But you can't have Paul Levitz be your "blogger" and then also have a blogger who rips DC's major event a new bung-hole. I mean, certainly you could -- but I find it unlikely.

But why does Newsarama need to put themselves in that position at all? I don't get it. Why not have the people blogging for them now just write articles and columns? By insisting on having these blogs, they are bringing this negative scrutiny and publicity upon themselves.

Newsarama, through Imaginova, is clearly trying to position itself as some sort of comic-focused but generally pop-culture-driven Entertainment Weekly thing. That's fine. I don't see why they should be attacked for that. They do a good job in terms of what function their site serves -- which is an entertainment news source.

But I think they should leave the blogging to other blogs and blog collectives. It's like, I don't read EW for their reviews and opinions. Because they're run by Time Warner, and I consider it a conflict of interest. But I still enjoy EW.

Two more quick points:

1) I don't know if the current bloggers at Newsarama are getting paid -- and if so, what type of wage. My observations regarding the need for proper payment of bloggers concern the blogging field in general, and are not meant to comment on the specific situation at Newsarama.

2) I certainly don't want to see the new bloggers at Newsarama lose their blogs. I mean, I don't know what Paul Levitz would do if he didn't have this forum for his personal self-expression. I'm only suggesting that these "blogs" get official articles and columns within the body of the general Newsarama output. By doing so, I think, the writers would get more exposure and more readers anyway. And in resumes, it still looks better to have that you were a columnist or reporter for some media outlet than a "blogger."

3) Look, I wasn't crazy with occasional posts at the old Blog@Newsarama starting some shit about something I wrote that ended up giving me tons of grief on my own site. But still -- that's what blogs are sometimes for. To piss me the hell off.


  1. Funny reading this after seeing the rerun of Ariana Huffington talking about blogging on the Daily Show yesterday from Wed.

    I have to say, it's amazing that blogging has become an occupation. My sister pulled me into blogging 'cause we barely got together and she wanted to keep up with what I'm up to on a regular basis, and because at that time she had just discovered the cathartic nature of blogging herself. (Although, she blogs a lot less than she used to and it's becoming a chore for me to keep up with the pace I established).

    But I just find it wild this phenominon it has become. But, y'know, it's not totally unbelievable when you consider message boards. Those are popular 'cause it allows one to express their opinion and have it seen around the world. A blog is basically the same thing, except nobody can troll your thread and bash your posts unless YOU allow their comments through.

    And while some blogs are enjoyable, fun reads (like OS), there are many out there that get tons of hits and you just go scratching your head...why? (like mine).

  2. The only reason I can think of they need the blogs is to keep guys like me as subscribers. If I can read it in my blog reader doo-hicky, I pretty much don't read it.

    Of course there is the whole other argument about subscriptions. Do they generate any money if the subscriber does not visit the site and therefore does not look at their adds. (I do visit your site btw Val. I like to see the images and videos that my reader occasionaly leave out.)

  3. which is funny since the BLOG is the only thing I even read at Newsarama. I just skip over the main page cause anything that is on there is also on CBR and they are so much better.

  4. I've always thought it sounded pretty silly for any kind of commercial journalism site to refer to any of its content as a "blog." Isn't news or commentary on one of these sites simply an article? Slapping the blog label on a regular column at sites like those just sounds like an attempt to cash in on a popular buzz word while publishing the same type of content that would have been published anyway.

    But, hey, I'm a sucker for the integrity of language. I still refuse to call a collection of material originally published in serial comic magazine format a "graphic novel."

  5. I'll go one further: Why does comics need Newsarama, anyway?

  6. Anonymous10:41 PM

    I enjoyed the Blog@ for many months, but it's recent staff turnover really affected the quality of the posts. I'm thinking of cancelling my feed.

  7. This was a really insightful entry, Valerie, I'm still new at this whole blogging thing and I'm learning just as I go. Not sure if I'm doing things right, but I'm having fun and I guess that's my final goal, lol.

    Oh, and I love the Google Reader thingy, too. I get lots of blogs in there to read when I get the chance.

  8. "The key there is to make sure the blog is a damn blog -- a blog people would really want to read."

    Well, it can be a lousy blog. It's a blog just by virtue of being a blog. Kinda like comics -- good or lousy, a comic is a comic.

  9. "I have to say, it's amazing that blogging has become an occupation."

    Blogging is the venue. The occupation is writing. People have been paid for writing for years.