Can blogs save newspapers? Will syndication services like BlogBurst make it possible for mainstream online newspapers to “bulk up” with high quality editorial content at a relatively low cost?
A couple of weeks ago my Podcast Roundtable colleagues and I talked about the death of newspapers. That topic is much on the mind of “mainstream media” folks given declining newspaper circulations, dropping ad revenue, growing competition for young eyeballs, and the steady decline in the population of older readers.
One topic being debated is the relationship between this decline and the rise of blogging. Why pay for dead trees to be delivered to your doorstep (in my case, to some randomly selected location on my front lawn) when you can go online and find an infinite variety of editorial opinion that far exceeds the wisdom, wit, and charm of a warhorse such as, say, Robert Novak?
It was thus with great interest that I noted the “open for business” sign at BlogBurst. Here’s how BlogBurst describes itself:
What is BlogBurst? BlogBurst is a syndication service that places your blog content on top-tier online destinations. You get visibility, audience reach and increased traffic, while publishers get a wide range of new coverage to broaden their reach and increase page views.
How does it work? Once you’re accepted into the BlogBurst network, just keep blogging as usual. Then, each time one of our publishers picks up your content, you’ll reach a whole new audience — and your byline link will drive traffic to your blog.
BlogBurst is owned by Pluck, which describes itself as follows:
Pluck builds social media solutions that transform how everyday people and publishers discover, create and distribute information online. Providing RSS, blogging, syndication and social search software and services, Pluck helps its customers more easily consume and leverage the new open content model that has emerged as the cornerstone of Web 2.0.
I’ve read through the web site and the various press announcements. Already BlogBurst is boasting arrangements with a very impressive list of customers: SF Gate (www.sfgate.com), Washington Post (www.washingpost.com), Houston Chronicle (www.chron.com), San Antonio Express-News (www.mysanantonio.com), Austin American-Statesman (www.statesman.com), and Gannett (www.gannett.com).
Given all this, I am almost ashamed to say what popped into my head when I stared reading about BlogBurst: Editorial Outsourcing is Here.
By this I mean that it will now be possible for customers of intermediary services such as BlogBurst to generate content at a fraction of the cost of live fulltime staff members. I say that because I am repeatedly impressed with the quality of editorial content now regularly available in the blogosphere.
Let’s return to one of my favorite whipping boys, Robert Novak. He appears on the editorial pages of many newspapers, including the Washington Post. Yet it doesn’t take much search skill at all to locate editorial commentary in the blogosphere — on the Left or the Right — that far outweighs Novak’s writing in terms of creativity, intelligence, cleverness, and readability.
If I were an online editorial page editor and I was given the choice of a quality syndication source and a writer like Novak, and I compared the cost of using the two, wouldn’t I be tempted to go with the lower cost alternative given that I’m chasing after younger eyeballs?
Extend this same argument to other areas of newspaper journalism and you begin to see the threat, not only to high-profile types like Novak, but to the next tier of feature, editorial, and events writers. Why pay a local reviewer to review a movie if you can dip your net into the blogosphere and come up with a high quality movie review at a fraction of the cost of a local employee? (Disclosure: in addition to my consulting I write movie reviews and I wouldn’t mind generating a little income on the side by seeing them republished!)
Back to BlogBurst. I don’t know what their business model and pricing and payment algorithms are or will become. They’re just getting off the ground. But this type of service may be pointing the way to an interesting amalgamation of the blogosphere and mainstream newspaper publishing in a way that provides benefits to both sides — and to readers. But if I were a newspaper employee on the editorial side, I might be concerned.