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Blog Traffic At Top U.S. Newspapers Explodes As Mainstream Media-Blogosphere Convergence Continues Breakneck-Like

People are reading them blogs. More than ever before, many probably don't even realize it.

Unique visitors to the blogs published by the top ten U.S. newspapers have more than tripled year-over-year (1.2 million in December '05, 3.8 in December '06), according to Nielsen/NetRatings, accounting for 13% of traffic to these sites.

Five years ago, very few people had heard the word blog. Today, it's a household term but many misconceptions still surround it (it's all dreary ramblings about lovelorn teens, or political hack rants, etc.). The flexibility and morph-ability of blogs is proven out by their steady integration into online mainstream media properties. "Professional-level" blogging means high quality writing, interesting stories, personal observations, unique coverage, and a friendly, engaging, and interactive style that was until recently sorely lacking in the mainstream media.

Taken historically, audiences have been bleeding away from the staid and stodgy network television broadcasts to the more colorful cable news stations for many years. For some time, print publications simply republishing online was good enough. But no more: there's simply too many ways to access a teeming galaxy of observations, opinions, spins, alleys, crannies, and nooks for traditional media companies to stand pat.

Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion notes that Dave Winer predicted some time back that The New York Times would one day become "one big blog." This somewhat echoes my own observation that the future of mainstream media websites lies in embracing what I call hybrid social media platforms, a mixture of user-submitted content, editor-selected content from all over the Internet, and "original coverage" that encompasses straight news and news plus alike (more on this below).

This transformation is already happening, and that's a good thing for traditional media and the blogosphere both. "Straight news" reporting is essential and always will be, but the hunger is out there for what I call "news plus," which equates to all the vibrant, funky, diverse, and kaleidoscopic offerings that the blogosphere brings to the online table.

The biggest winners of all are news readers and consumers, who more than ever before are dictating the kinds of media they want and are getting it.

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  • http://bacalar.blogspot.com Howard Dratch

    Interesting article, fascinating change in both the Media and the blogosphere — the question of the future looms large.

    So, does this mean it is time for us little bloggers to disappear and leave the field to the New York Times, David Pogue and the shady network of super-conservative bloggers who get so many hits?

    Or, is BC the wave of the future? Or MSNBC which means “The Media” has taken over where it began but in a more modern mode? Or are we waiting for something even newer?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Thanks Howard! I actually think that this is good news for the whole of the blogosphere, including and especially BC because it means that high quality and engaging sources of content will be successful.

  • http://www.dcblogs.com kob

    A sharply written, clear analysis. I think you are right about the hybrid social media concept but I wonder how far it can go. For instance, many publications now allow readers to directly comment on news stories. This effectively treats stories like blog posts. I do worry that lobbyist, public relations pros and other special interest professionals will use these formats to interject inaccurate facts and spin in an effort to undermine a story’s accuracy. Will posts from others, more neutral, balance this out?

    Will hybrid models undermine the craft of journalism? Will it skew more newspapers to focus on opinion over news? I don’t know. And how valuable are comments? It’s overwhelming. I find slashdot threads daunting, almost impossible to get through and wonder how many people actually suffer through them.

    I do think self-publishing is empowering and overall a healthy trend but I also worry that it may dismantle some of things we shouldn’t lose.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Thanks very much kob!

    I think all of your questions are absolutely valid and will be hashed over and experimented with and tweaked over the coming years.

    One of the great things about comments is that they can test the integrity and argument and facts stated by the author(s) or publication. Commenters themselves must prove their own credibility at the same time. The great and sometimes frightening things about the Internet is that we all only have our words to back us up. So whether its hard news or opinions, credibility is enormously important.