Observations on blog buffets apply to newspaper data centers, too
Choire Sicha said about newspaper blogs what I’ve been thinking about newspaper “data centers” for a few months now.
Nearly all newspaper websites mistakenly segregate their blogs off with the other blogs. They’re organizing by form, not by content.
With that view of newspaper blogs in mind, and with all due respect because they took an important, admirable first step on a long road toward getting useful information directly to readers, check out Asbury Park’s Data Universe. The introduction says:
If you ever wondered how much the governor is paid, how many math teachers are in your child’s school, or what prices the homes on your block sold for, look no further.
Most people probably have wondered about the answers to those questions at some point, but they likely did so in a specific context. As in, “This story says state workers’ salaries are being frozen. I wonder how much the governor is paid.” Of newspaper blog “ghettoization,” Jeff Jarvis said:
… as if we come in thinking, ‘hmmh, I feel like some blogs today — a little sports, then some gossip and maybe some politics too,’ as if we are really at a Mongolian barbecue … We still come to a newspaper and newspaper site wanting to get sports and business. But we don’t come wanting blogs.
I don’t think we go to newspaper sites so we can belly up to a database buffet and scoop a heaping helping of fire district tax rates and municipal employee salaries onto our plates, either. Which is not to say the database buffet isn’t a proven traffic generator. Setting aside the matter of how valuable that mass traffic truly is, I just don’t see how newspaper buffets — blog, database or otherwise — fit with the actual habits and fulfill the actual needs of our readers.
EDIT: I should have mentioned that I don’t actually agree with the premise of the Gawker post on newspaper blogs. Most newspapers do indeed organize blogs by content. Go to The New York Times’ soccer page, for example, and you’ll see a link to its Goal blog. I mentioned the post only because its mention of organization by form instead of content better applies to newspaper database portals.