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#pimpmyblog: We’re online publishers now

November 23, 2010

#pimpmyblog at City University

There was a certain amount of evangelising going on during the #pimpmyblog session tonight at City University (filmed by the BBC College of Journalism). At least, that’s how it seemed initially. All I heard was a great deal of “WordPress is brill.”

Which, it is. As it happens. I feel at home with WordPress. I feel loved by WordPress too. They have a cracking user support system. And their technical gnomes are always busying themselves with all sorts of developments. Only today, for example, they’ve announced a new development to help bloggers identify who it is who ‘likes’ their posts. That means helping to understand your audience. It’s audience feedback without the commenting. And it’s an illustration of how WordPress understands its audiences – bloggers and journalists – anticipating their needs and communicating their response in an engaging way. Here endeth the WordPress lesson.

Pimpmyblog at City University wasn’t a WordPress sponsored event. And WordPress hosted blogs (like this one) weren’t necessarily the preferred route either. There was a subtle difference of opinion amongst pannellists Tim Glanfield (Beehive City), Karl Schneider (RBI), Patrick Smith (Media Briefing) and Martin Stabe (FT) about to what extent WordPress hosted blogs really was the poor relation to self-hosted, the occasional references to Movable Type seemed anecdotal in comparison.

Beehive City – self-hosted WordPress – was the opening case-study during the session which widened eyes and caused at least one individual to salivate. What began as one man in one room musing on the media at the beginning of the year has in only a short space of time turned into something for which the cliche ‘overnight success’ was made for.

How? Tim Glanfield makes out Beehive’s transformation from background blog to big-time media commentary competitor was achieved simply by getting aggregated on Google News.

But if as Karl Schneider and Patrick Smith later emphasised good blogs are first and foremost about quality, engaging and well-written content, I’m still not absolutely sure how the quality and consistency of the editorial is maintained across a multi-author environment – Glanfield invited City Journalism students the opportunity to write for the site. Someone’s doing some editing. A key skill. A vital skill.

Maybe Beehive’s success at consistently acquiring engaging content is as Glanfield points out down to one overriding factor. Every goal-driven journo should have it: the desire to establish and maintain a significant reputation in pursuit of paid work.

Blogging is the starting point. That was the key underlying message in tonight’s session. That’s why practical advice was being dished out. Martin Stabe (FT) re-emphasised the original meaning of the blog – a log of internet reading – as well as stressing that the importance of consuming as much material as possible to get an edge over competitors. In that way the plausibility of the blogging as a starting point was further given credence, possibly even evangelised. Blogging as an acceptable way of establishing that reputation wasn’t just a ‘nice to have’ for training journalists. It was basic requirement for anyone who wanted to be taken seriously in the future industry.

And in that respect, today’s training journalists are being inducted into a very different world than that which the mainstream and network news – broadcasting – outlets exist in. Those established mechanisms are adapting to accommodate the new world. But there is a new generation of journalists who will work in an entirely different way. And they’ll expect to continue work in a completely different way. And the first thing they’ll almost certainly rail against is the length of time it takes to get stuff published. Such is the cost of establishing your reputation first in a self-publishing environment.

The image of tomorrow’s journalist – today’s infact – is first and foremost one who is self-sufficient. One who doesn’t necessarily generate revenue from his or her primary stream of content creation, but instead uses that stream to create opportunities elsewhere in the industry.

But if there was one key line which rang out from the evening, it was from Patrick Smith – tackling the stigma bloggers face all the time: ‘think of yourselves not as bloggers, but as online publishers’. Yes, that works. Blogging isn’t shameful.

It is as though journalism as a career has re-acquired the status of ‘vocation’. Live breathe and sleep journalism. Do it for free first. Make the money where you can. Be ruthless about how you demonstrate your skills. Do so as though you’re being paid.

#pimpmyblog at City University

Do something and don’t get paid for it? Tough words – perhaps even ridiculous ones – for wizened old hacks to comprehend. That’s why the bloggers get short shrift from the old-timers. But that’s changing as evidence during tonight’s session. The next generation doesn’t need evangelising to. Some are already doing it. And some of those are loving doing it. Good job.

And good job too that what I saw was a room full of eager attendees, not just scribbling away in their notebooks, but hanging around after the sessions were over to grab interviews with the panellists.

I saw something I recognised at the Oakden Theatre, City University tonight. And that, is reassuring.

The message is getting through.

:: Patrick Smith offers tailored curated media news at The Media Briefing
:: Tim Glanfield talked about Beehive City:: All the videos are available on the BBC College of Journalism website

From → Media

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