News organizations, can we all do ourselves a favor? We should stop calling things “blogs.” I know, that probably stings a little, but let me try and explain why.
A little history first: In the early days of News Organizations On The Internet, your content went into a content management system. It was probably clunky (probably still is), hard to customize and maybe even harder to rebrand different sections. Your stories went into this CMS, sometimes through a pagination system, then you added a photo, maybe a video. You clicked a button and poof, story on the internet. But what if you wanted to set up a special corner, call it “Mary the Margarita Maven” and have someone review the town’s margaritas? Not so easy to do with your current setup.
Enter blogs. They were their own content management systems: Moveable Type, TypePad, WordPress, whatever they were called, they made it easy for news organization to quickly throw up different content that maybe didn’t fit the traditional “news” role. Maybe it was opinionated, maybe it was about inside decision-making processes, maybe it was cute cat photos. Or margarita reviews, whatever. These content management systems were, on the whole, like the ones your news organizations used originally, just programmed with different backends and usually easier-to-use. And sometimes this content didn’t go into the newspaper/broadcast — it was “online-only” and meant to entice people to your web product.
Sadly, blogs brought along a stigma that people still use – which is wrong — that they’re done by people in their pajamas in a basement somewhere. Blogs are not the same as regular news content, some media folks thought, because they weren’t in your “main” CMS. They had a wall between them and they are different. They may even be branded differently, with a different header and logo. They weren’t the same as regular content because they were in a different system! Right?
It’s time to stop bifurcating your content as blogs and news because they run on separate systems. It is all content, so why not call it that? Even if you have outside people writing posts on your website that are unmoderated by your staff — that’s still content that’s part of your media outlet’s website. I don’t have any research proving this, but in my short journalism career many media outlets just slapped the name “blog” on something because it lived in a different CMS. We should stop this. Please.
You have a crime blog? A doggy blog? Maybe a sports blog? Wonderful! I bet you gave it a cool name, like Crime Watch, Fido’s Place and Sports Gal. All you have to do is stop calling it the Crime Watch blog. And the Fido’s Place blog. And the Sports Gal blog. Just say “Check out Crime Watch for more crime coverage.” Or whatever.
If it’s opinion content, call it that. If it’s news content, great! That’s what it is. Start thinking of it all as content as opposed to “this is a blog post” and “this is a news story.” If you copied a news story and pasted it into a blog post, DOES IT SOMEHOW CHANGE? No. It does not.
I know calling things “blogs” has some cultural cachet, as if a blog is somehow more up-to-date than your normal news content. But again, that’s probably because your main content management system is clunky and slow and the new “blog” is super duper fast. That’s a silly reason to distinguish between the content. Did you credit photos taken with digital cameras instead of film in a different way? Of course you didn’t (I hope). You can change people’s thinking on this — why distinguish one part of your content as fast and the other as slow? Stop it.
Let’s work on making our systems more integrated and faster. Help your readers come to realize that all of your content is fast and awesome. It’ll take some rebranding work, sure, but I bet our industry is capable of it.
So embrace your content, people. Give it a hug and a pat on the head and maybe a slice of pizza. Welcome it into your news community. I apologize for any rebranding you may have to do, but trust me, it’s going to be worth it in the long run.
UPDATE: Hey new visitors! Feel free to yell at me on Twitter (@andymboyle) or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.