A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

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Trinity Mirror’s new local site is a blog.:

Trinity Mirror’s Buckinghamshire Advertiser has relaunched its web site.
It’s very cleanly designed. But there’s something significant that is unusual about it — it’s a blog. The front page is three recent stories presented in reverse-chronological order, with each one allowing comments. There’s a list of categories, RSS feeds, and even a tag cloud. Each new upload of a story pings Technorati.

In fact, it’s powered by Movable Type. Another piece of proof that the best blogging platforms are fundamentally lightweight, efficient content management solutions.

Image for the day: picture me stroking my (non-existent) goatee, going “veeeery interesting”.

ewanspence.jpgWhile at Blogher, I was accosted by a mad Scotsman in a kilt. This was no an entirely unfamiliar experience for me. I grew up in Scotland, and have even been known to wear a kilt myself once in a while (but not for a long while).

However, this particular Scotsman forced me to talk into a microphone.

You can find the results at the Tech Conference Show, where I appear after far more interesting people, like Elise Bauer and Vanessa Fox of Google Webmaster Central.

Last Friday was not a good day to be milling around at a conference with a badge saying “Reed Business” on it. Why? Because people kept asking me about this hard hitting post by Seth Godin. I’d advise you to go and read Seth’s post before continuing here, because it really does set the context for what I’m going to say. The short version of it is this: someone, within the wide and deep corporate structure that is Reed Elsevier, has been sending some ill-advised e-mails asking for reciprocal links.

If you want to visualise my reaction, imagine me bashing my head against a desk. Repeatedly. Got that? Good, let’s move on.

Now, Reed Business Information is a division of Reed Elsevier, and, as head of blogging for the UK branch of the organisation, you can see why people kept asking me if I was responsible. And the answer, of course, is “no”. This is not something that I would suggest to any of our bloggers and which I would actively discourage them from doing. With a stick. A big stick.

Seth characterises what happened as:

Translation: it fits our business model to be ranked highly, so we’ll go ahead and cheat to get there.

Which is, indeed, exactly how it appears. However, whichever branch of our business did this, I suspect that they have absolutely no idea at all that this is cheating. While chatting to Rachel about this at Blogher, I described it as “cargo cult” blogging – knowing the form of what blogging should look like, and attempting to recreate it without understanding how it actually works. And that’s exactly what’s happening in many businesses right now. This doesn’t in any way excuse what they did, but it does, at least, explain it.
Yes, blogging has registered on the mainstream media’s radar as something important. Yes, journalists are being forced into blogging and link-building because, in the age of Google, isolated content might as well not exist. The problem is that, all too often, both the people making the decisions and those implementing it don’t really understand what they’re doing. They haven’t been blogging long, if they have at all, and they certainly haven’t been reading blogs. Usually, they’ve been too busy on the treadmill of publishing magazines. They’re used to being big fish. Now they’re small fish in a much larger, much more dangerous and, fundamentally, much more interesting pond. And that’s hard for them – especially when, somewhere in their heads, they’re still big fish.

In a sense, I’m profoundly lucky. I’ve been blogging since 2001 (you can still see my very first, and completely rubbish, blog post on my Livejournal). I’ve taken my lumps, learnt with the community and come to love blogging and the whole experience around it. I understand that links have to be earned and arise organically out of writing stuff that other people want to interact with. I read RSS feeds from hundreds of blogs every day. I am, to be brutally honest, a blog addict. (RSS-oholics Anonymous: “Hello. My name’s Adam, and I have 679 feeds in my feed reader.” applause “Welcome, Adam.”) So, when I got sucked away from my job as features editor on Estates Gazette to head up our blogging efforts, I at least had some idea of what not to do.

I’m doing my level best to get our journalists-turned-bloggers to understand all this stuff, too. To work with the blogging communities around their subject area. To join in the conversation as an equal participant. And, so far, it’s working.

Equally, I’m also surrounded and working for and with people who have a clue: Andrew, Karl, Jim, Piers and Ciaran (who also posted about this on SEOmoz), amongst others. Some of our bloggers like Simon, Kevin and Tim (to pick a pretty random selection) are doing excellent work.

But, just as journalists often characterise bloggers as one amorphous mass, bloggers have a habit of characterising businesses as one big mass of like-thinking drones. And really, we’re not. Levels of understanding, enthusiasm and cluefulness vary wildly even in the same building, let alone across the corporate division divide. And to dismiss the efforts of a large organisation on the basis of mistakes made by a few isn’t fair.

Yes, mistakes have been made, and will continue to be made. That doesn’t mean that those people who are employed full time to research and understand certain subjects (which is what most professional journalists fundamentally are) don’t have something to add to the conversation.

Oh, missed this yesterday:

After Six Apart, what should I do ? : Loic Le Meur Blog:

“Six Apart just announced my partner for more than 10 years, Olivier Creiche, got my role as head of Europe at Six Apart. Congratulations, Olivier, and thanks for being such an amazing partner for so many years. “

I’ve been dealing with Olivier for the last nine months, since we’ve been using Movable Type Enterprise at RBI, and have found him a pleasure to deal with. Indeed, I’m sharing a stage with him next week…

Given the recent controversy around Loïc and his involvement with the Sarkozy campaign this feels like the right decision, and Six Apart’s Europe office looks to be in very capable hands.

Stacy MorrisonFinally, here’s my write-up of the closing Blogher keynote. I’ve had this one on the back-burner, because it’s very much in my field — online publishing — and I wanted to mull over the issues it raised, but also because jet lag really, really gave me a kicking on the trip back from New York. (And now I’m writing this while I wait for a flight to Dublin. Ah, the jet-setting blogger lifestyle.)

This is by no means a complete write-up. You can find one of those on Licence to Roam.

The panel were four women from the major media in various stripes: Debi Fine, iVillage president; Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Poducts and User Experience at Google; Redbook Magazine editor in chief Stacy Morrison; and WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive CEO Caroline Little.

So, what do they think is needed for a media company to survive in the Web 2.0 world? Google has a fluid structure because analysts suggested that “organisations tend to mirror the process they’re putting into place,” Marissa Mayer. You have a hierarchical process, you’ll end up with a hierarchical company – and an inability to move quickly in a web world.

Caroline Little suggested that you have to be flexible and try different things. Interestingly, the firm had created a “skunk works” group filled with rather extreme programmers who are young and very creative, and thus able to get new things live very quickly.

Mayer suggested that Google’s “free day” policy – giving employees 20% of their time to work on personal projects – lead to 50% of the firm’s new launches. The message coming out of this loud and clear was that you need to free people up from the mundane routine of the day-to-day to create something special.

But what is that “something special”. Stacy Morrison of Redbook (nicely profiled on Six Log) described it as creating delight – “That’s what makes people come back”. That sounds a lot like one of my pet theories; that it’s magazines which strike an emotional relationship with their readers rather than a purely utilitarian one that create real relationships.

Marissa Mayer

She also suggested that we’re beginning to see the end of the major destination site. I’m still not 100% sure what she meant by that, as there are clearly a group of websites that are major destinations in their own right – MySpace is the obvious answer. But is the point that visitors don’t go to “MySpace Central”, but to their own page within MySpace? That’s certainly a very different concept from the old portal idea.

Fine suggested that a portfolio approach works – see what sticks. And that seems like a very good idea. The incremental cost of launching a new blog is tiny compared to a paper or even a conventional online product.

Caroline Little

A member of the audience suggested that sometimes the best new media writers are not people who are traditional authors or journalists, which in my experience is often true. Little Morrison suggested the controversial and contrary idea that people who are trained at journalism schools are the best: they can be coached through new methods. (My experience is that this is often as much a process of re-education as it is of education, but that’s meat for another post.)

However, she suggested that there are three groups of journalists, with different strengths (my interpretations in brackets):

1. Journalists who just want the facts, and who shape them into narrative structures. These are your classic news reporters and features writers.

  1. Those who can talk about their lives off the cuff – people who were ideal opinion columnists in the past, and who make perfect bloggers now.
  2. Those who produce “copy”; quick, sexy sell, sizzle copy – think product and fashion pages in consumer mags

“The customer has always ruled,” said Fine. “The customer now rules with a tighter, firmer hand.”

Because, of course, the customer can now easily become your competitor…