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How MSM and Marketers can curry favour with bloggers

Cory Doctorow has 17 excellent tips in Information Week (via Bloggers Blog) on how to get bloggers to write about you – which could be just as useful for news sites.

Now, let me first take a moment to say that I've never understood journalists and editors complaining about parasitic bloggers and how they feed off mainstream media (MSM). To my mind, the world wide web is a conversation, or more precisely a cacophony of small and big conversations, and the day people stop talking about your newspaper that's when you should start getting really worried. Besides, blog buzz = link love = traffic, and I can't see how blog-traffic is less valuable than other traffic.

But back to Doctorow. In short, his advice adds up to "link, link and link some more":

Have a link. Have a permanent link. Have a link for everything. Use real links. Use links that go to pages. Flash sites stink (no way to link direct to specific page, no way to copy), PDFs stink (or, as Greenslade once suggested PDF = Pretty Damn Futile) etc ...Anyway, go read in full, got to run now....

Fined for flirting with Gates

Without doubt my favourite headline last week, but the story behind it was probably not a big hit in the headquarters of Fast Search and Transfer who was served a hefty fine of roughly £100,000 (NOK 1.110.220 kroner) for not informing Oslo Stock Exchange (OSE) about Microsoft's bid for the company.

According to OSE, Fast should have disclosed that it was being courted by the IT-Giant by 7 November 2007 at the latest, when the sales negotiations were formalised with a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).

However, that Microsoft was in the process of acquiring Fast, clearly price sensitive information according to OSE, was not made public until 8 January 2008. Hence the fine, and the headline – which strictly speaking I guess should have been "Fined for flirting with Ballmer." After the acquisition of Fast was completed on Friday, Microsoft's CEO paid a secret visit to Oslo on Saturday to reassure Fast's employees about their future roles in the company. He was greeted by and Anders Brenna, who recorded the visit for posterity here.

Detail from picture by Anders Brenna.

Of course, the headline isn't all that great from a SEO-point of view, but that's another matter...

What punctuation mark am I?

Hmm... no time to blog the things I'd like to blog so far today, but couldn't resist this rather silly little personality test I found over at Diary of a wordsmith:

You Are a Question Mark
You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.
And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong.

You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.
You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.

Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.
(But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)

You excel in: Higher education

You get along best with: The Comma

How many of the right readers can you offer us, dear?

"So, just how many DINKY unique visitors with a penchant for expensive jewlery do we get by employing you to blog for us?"

If this post on how "Personality pays in the pay-per-click economy of blogging" is anything to go by, this sort of sentiment may come to govern many a future job-interview in the media world.

As Philip pointed out in the comments, the post I wrote on the blogger who promised to bring in 120,000 readers for her future employer left a lot to be explored. It was just a tidbit I jotted down really, short on time and all of that. But I finally found time to make a few phone calls, which resulted in this piece. However, it doesn't answer all the questions Philip raised, so here's a bit more context:

When Swedish blogger Katrin Schulman recently made it known she was keen to move her delicately named blog, Fuck you right back, away from lifestyle site, her blog was snapped up by competing site, which hopes to gain a substantial traffic increase on the back of the deal.

The interesting story here, to me at least, is how both these sites hire high-profile bloggers to bring in specific audiences which are attractive to advertisers (both are funded by advertisement).

Alexander Erwik, editor-in-chief of the latter site told me they pay a mix of bloggers to write high-profile blogs about music, fashion and trends – all of which bring in their own niche audiences.

Likewise, Thomas Grabe, the managing editor at competing, said: "The mix of bloggers is very important to the site. To showcase a blogger or personality you can not have more than max eight blogs. There are perhaps 15 really big bloggers who get paid for blogging in Sweden, six of them originally blogged for us."

Grabe explained that it was Alex Schulman, Karin's husband, who made Stureplan the success it is, and that at one point several of the members of the Schulman family, an influential Swedish family, were writing high-profile blogs – the brother, the mother, the wife and Alex Schulman himself.

"It was a bit like Big Brother, but online. Katrin is very controversial and told people like it was, hence the name of the blog: fuck you right back. The F-word is indeed controversial, but not to the extent of which it is abroad," said Grabe.

Bloggig is about identity, not brand

A blog gives you a chance to build your own identity, which is miles better than brand. It allows for a mix of trivial, serious, thoughtful and sometimes stupid.. just like the human being behind it. That is the authenticity that companies would like to infuse their brands with. Alas, it's like with androids. Close but not quite. And often, not even close...

Afraid I don't have the direct link for this quote, but I'm sure it's something I copied down from Adriana ages ago (I can just hear her voice when I read it:-) ). I came to remember this quote just now, thinking about a question Paal Hivand asked yesterday about how long you can get away with pure marketing and sales on a blog or twitter acoount before readers get fed up. For my own part: my time/attention is precious, and I get fed up straight away if there's nothing in it for me... Just gave up on following BBC News on twitter because they don't provide direct links (in which case follwing them via my news reader would be far superior, but that's too much of a commitment)...

Baugur's exit from newspapers: much ado about everything

Or why the economic woes of "the Nordic hedge fun masquerading as a country" may not have ended Baugur's newspaper adventure.

A week ago, the executives of Nyhedsavisen, the Danish freesheet launched by Baugur-controlled Dagsbrun in 2006, rushed to denounce headlines that the Icelandic group had sold out of the freesheet that famously provoked the Danish freesheet war. It was all much ado about nothing said Svenn Dam, the CEO of 365Media Scandinavia, the Dagsbrun-controlled company that once owned Nyhedsavisen.

Even though Baugur announced in a press release they had sold their media- telecoms and financial assets to Stodir Invest and Styrkur Invest, and stressed they held no shares in the two new groups, Dam insisted it was just a "restructuring". Morten Lund, an early investor in Skype and the current majority owner in Nyhedsavisen, on the other hand, said this was a non-story as Baugur's top man, Jon Asgeir Johannesen, would be chairman of both groups. Danish journalists who were on the receiving end of Baugur's press release said if this was the case, if Lund and Dam were right, then Bagur had a major communication problem.

Complicated? Well, at least this week's news that Baugur is pulling out of its American freesheet BostonNOW, which was shut down with immediate effect on Monday, couldn't be more straightforward. The bigger question is if this spells the end of Baugur/Dagsbrun's newspaper ambitions though. Does it spell the end of the ambitions to export the 'quality freesheet' concept they've been so successful with on Iceland to the rest of the Western world? Well, I'm not so sure.

The current financial crises could of course spell the end for a company as highly geared as Baugur (though, due to its oblique company structure, we don't know exactly how highly geared), in which case freesheets would be the least of Baugur's concerns. But I have to agree with Lund on one or two crucial points, first: these guys (and gals) "have got BIG balls" (to use Lund's words).

And let's be honest: Baugur/Dagsbrun/Nyhedsavsien, at least in my experience, has been a delight to deal with. A recent poll showed Nyhedsavisen had received what perhaps could be described a disproportionally big amount coverage in Danish media since it launched, mostly negative, something Svenn Dam attributed to a media conspiracy against it.

Now me, I wonder if this wasn't due to the fact that these guys are really good for soundbites. Besides, it's been refreshing to see someone invest so much money in an industry so few seem to believe in (even if it did happen to erode the market for paid for newspapers by drastically reducing their ad revenue, another explanation for why the coverage was largely negative).

Which brings me to the second point it's hard not to agree with Lund on, namely how the newspaper game is a very expensive one. It's also a high-risk game in times of economic trouble, as media is a cyclical industry due to its heavy reliance on advertisment revenues.

I'm sorry for rambling nature of my argument here, got to run to an interview in a second, but as a media analyst I talked to yesterday said: 'we've now seen the end of a very optimistic phase where the economy's been going full steam, which means a lot of ambitions new ventures were launched, competition intensified, and we're now moving into a tougher phase which may or may not be a recession.'

This means two things: overtley ambitions new launches crumble and die; or, and I wonder if this is not the case with Baugur, the company behind those launches, finds a way to reduced its exposure to the risk, making sure they could still cash in at some future, more opportune, point in time...


Picture from Morten Lund's blog published when Nyhedsavisen became Denmark's most read newspaper (which it still is)

Journalist ought to love social media

Blogging could be the best thing that's ever happened to journalists, if we can only get our heads around it.

I apologise. If you're new to this blog and didn't check the first link of my last post, I might have misled you: I'm all for journalists blogging and can't start to count all its blessings.

However, I think it's useful to reflect on why so many media folks see social media, like blogs, as a threat and not an opportunity; and equally useful to reflect on how social media might change journalism.

See, a flair for writing, as was mentioned in the comments on my last post, is not enough to reap max benefits from blogging. You need a flair for conversation. Not for blagging, or opining or for great oration, but for dialogue.

You can be the world's most erudite writer, and of course you are free to use your blog as an outlet for blagging, opining, speechifying, it's just that if you're only in it for the opportunity to broadcast your views to the world, you miss out on half the gimmick, half the fun: you miss out on all those wonderfully distributed conversations (surely, this is why we classify blogs as social media?).

But you would think journalists would make great conversationalists, wouldn't you? That, is unless they approach blogging as op-ed writing (which too many do), or apply all their worst prejudices about blogging to their own blogging efforts and try to mimic the noisy, drunken, nonsensical pub banter they think blogging should sound like (unfortunately even more common).

Which brings me to why I think blogging is so useful for journalism: I think all journalists these day work at the intersection of mainstream and social media - because the latter is bound to change, and is changing, how we communicate and what we expect from the world – and the best way to understand social media, and how it is changing things, is by using it.

As Robin Hamman wrote recently: "The only way to "do social media" is to embrace it, not just as something that's tacked onto the back of a website, but as a method of actually doing whatever it is your business is."

You could say I'm biased of course; for my own part, I certainly did not understand social media until I started using it. I started reading about social media around 2000, but as I touch on in this interview with Siren FM (clip not working at the moment, but I'm hoping it will be back), I didn't really get it until I started blogging myself in 2005.

For years, I was too busy chasing deadlines, too busy to notice how much these very interesting things I had read about were changing the world around me. That is, until a friend of mine got fed up with all my excuses, just set up a blog for me and told me to get blogging. It was like a great white canvas: I had no idea how I wanted to use it, but about half a year into it I found myself blogging more and more about the changing media landscape, which perhaps can serve as a warning - I had no idea there was a media junkie lurking inside of me until I got blogging.

As it turned out, blogging has made me more optimistic about the future of media than ever, and taught me many invaluable skills. I touch upon how blogging supplements my journalism in my post on distributed conversations, and the web as a treasure throve for journalists here. No, I don't think that the web makes journalists redundant, quite the contrary, in fact I think it vastly improves a journalist's ability to tap into all kinds of wonderful conversations (be they semi- or near private or public)....

Journalists take to blogging like ducks to tarmac

Should journalists blog? I'm sure I've covered this before (well, actually I have) but a recent interview about teaching blogging to journalists spurred an interesting response from an editor who hated the idea but happened to be a pretty decent blogger himself, so here we go again.

First the backdrop: from time to time I try to write a piece or two for about all the media innovation happening around the world, such as this piece on Spokesman Review's "transparent newsroom", or this recent two-part interview with Adam Tinworth on how Reed Business Information (RBI) England uses blogs to supplement its journalism, and the challenges of teaching journalists how to blog (all links in this paragraph in Norwegian).

Some journalists make lousy bloggers
If you are familiar with Adam's blog, you will know that not all journalists take to blogging like ducks to water, or, to use the words of Andrew Grant-Adamson "some very good journalists make lousy bloggers," but if you're not, and Norwegian is all Greek to you, here's a few highlights:

"Most journalists have spent decades having personality beaten out of them, now they have to find their personality again.

"The biggest single mental hurdle for journalists is that they leap into the blogosphere and expect huge traffic at once due to brand name. Inevitably, they get severely disappointed as it takes time to build a blog audience. But over time they learn to love the hundreds of readers they have on their blogs much more than the hundred thousands of readers they have in print.

Journalists equate blogs with opinion pieces
"If reporters leave blog comments very long for moderation, we know they don't follow comments well. They need to be taught blogging is not only about writing. The shocking thing is that you see a lot of journalists don't care about their readers, but I don' think these journalists will survive. Readers will come to expect interaction."

Or, to use a recent line from Kevin Anderson, The Guardian's blog editor. (via Adam): "one of the things that many journalists don't do enough of when they blog: Listen". Now, as I mentioned at the start of the post, this interview provoked a phone call from a Norwegian editor, namely the managing editor of RBI Norway, who was very keen to stress that his titles were not getting into the blogging business anytime soon.

And I'm very glad this editor got in touch with us and told me what he thought about all this, because I know a lot of journalists share his views and fears. In fact, as the news site of the trade publication for Norwegian journalists this is exactly the kind of debate we want to put on the agenda (and our comment section is wide open):

Blogging is second-hand journalism
"I find it strange that journalists blog next to their reporting. Why can't you keep the readers informed through a good news service with sources? A reporter's stories should be published in proper articles, not rushed out as blog posts," this editor said.

However, he also told me that he wrote a blog in his spare time that had "nothing to do with work". And I promised I wouldn't link to his blog in my article as he felt it wouldn't interest anybody, but I will mention it here because it's more than interesting enough for me to start subscribing to it. See, it turns out this guy is Norway's only internationally accredited cross-country court builder and blogs about cross-country competitions because, it gives him "an opportunity to highlight results that rarely get mentioned in the daily press" .

A potentially star-quality blogger
Now at this point I should mention that I used to be really into equestrian sports. Perhaps I'm a bit of a ninny, but, whereas I'd trust my skills as a rider to re-school problem horses or break in young ones (or used to, now those skills are very rusty), I never found much joy in cross-country jumps myself as there are too many factors beyond my control (permanent/solid fences lead to nasty accidents).

So I couldn't agree more with Anton in his most recent post which deals with how there's been too many fatal accidents during competitions as of late, but I used to know a lot of people in the equestrian scene, so still find it very interesting. In fact, if I was editing an equestrian magazine, this is exactly the kind of blog I'd like to link up or get on board (though I'd like to know even more about the challenges of building cross-country courts).

Blurring the lines
His posts (infrequent as the sport is seasonal) are great reporting mixed with informed opinion, the opinion of a professional who knows the sport inside out, which brings me to the last argument Anton had against mixing blogging and journalism: "Blogs are more of a genre for commentary. If journalists start blogging too much, I fear the lines between news and commentary will become blurred."

I'm sure many editors and journalist share those fears, and having written this, I'm starting to wonder if I haven't come to see journalism more like a conversation, or perhaps that should be: if I haven't started blurring the lines between blogging, which I see as conversation, and journalism. If so, is that the first sign of corruption?


Blogging can be too big a hurdle for some journalists
(picture from Wikipedia)

Is this the media future?

After eight months at, blogger Karin Schulman made it known she was keen to take her blog, called "Fuck you right back", somewhere else. Dagens Media asked her how much they'd have to pay for her: "I only work on commission. 4 pence per unique visitor per month," was her reply. And how many unique visitors can you deliver? "120,000", she said. Adds up to a pretty decent monthly salary.

Obviously someone thought it was a fair bargain: according to Dagens Media, Schulman will be moving her blog to, Stureplan's worst competitor, tomorrow. Schulman on the other hand, is already branding her former employer as "ungrateful".

Danish campaign for more love in the media

A former advertising man has chosen a spectacular way to encourage Danish journalists to focus on good news.

He has gone to the drastic step of mortgaging his flat in order to pay for a supplement in this week's Journalisten, the trade journal for Danish journalists, where he asks Danish hacks to write a positive story every time they write a negative one.

Jan Thygesen Poulsen told he took out a mortgage on his flat so he could pay £13,000 to produce, print and distribute a 12-page supplement entitled "Journalism with heart" to the 13,500 members of the Danish Journalist Union.

"I have done this because I hope to create the kind of world I want to live in. And if it succeeds, I will fulfill my dream: to meet people heart to heart," he writes on his website, adding that he was tired of negativism and a pessimistic view of life.

Thygesen Poulsen has a long track record of working to spread his gospel of joy. In 1999 he started the Laughter club (Latterklubben) and a year after he instituted the Global day of laughter (7 May).

Now me, I'm telling you all this in order to compensate for my very negative post yesterday, when everything was just doom and gloom (nothing worked: the 'crucial' things in life, such as online connection, trains, money, weather – all conspired against me).

Having said that, I don't throw tantrums, and very rarely loose my temper (I'm more of a "if looks or words could kill" kind of person"), which means I'm now looking forward to penning the scathing termination note I'll write to my current online provider when I'm finally able to switch to my new provider. Adriana links to an interesting video on this kind of metamorphis here

I give up

My internet connection is sending me headlong into a major depression here. And, you know, I find it very hard to blog when I'm in a bad mood: I'm definintly a good mood blogger.

My internet connection is so painfully slow and erratic that I have to phone my bank to check my balance (yeay, £60, let's go wild), and on such occasions my Yahoo-account behaves like a hungry little brat, screaming: 'Lost connection, LOST CONNECTION, HTML ERROR, error, heellloo? FEED ME' constantly, thereby interrupting my writing again and again (I hate it when it does that).

Yes, I decided to sign up with a new internet provider, only seven days until I can get that up and running, only seven more days in hell. But for now I give up working from home: better head to the office, and stop by the gym for a dose of endorphines on the way so I don't arrive the office looking like a storm cloud (not that it matters that much: we have separate offices. Can you imagine? A news site/magazine where all the journalists have separate offices? Yeah, I know it's 2008, but we're on the Northern frontier here you see, the future is often slow to reach this faraway corner of the world). Okay, enough complaining: gym. Perhaps the blogging mood will catch up with me later in the day...


Incidentally, this storm cloud is from Brighton,
where they have great storms:-) (lived there 96-97)

Thoughts on Twitter-Journalism

Was this the first time Norwegian mainstream media used Twitter to cover a conference? I think it might have been, but happy to be corrected if it's not. In either case, Anders Brenna has some interesting thoughts on the experience.

Among other things, he says: "Twitter is both the perfect journalist tool for being first with breaking news, and the best relief from the tyranny of breaking news," do check out his full post on the issue.

Montgomery introduces page three girls

Yesterday was a very eventful media day in my part of the world (so eventful I'm still recovering, hence my cramped blogging style).

We woke up to news that Mecom had acquired Dagbladet, the Norwegian equivalent of The Mirror. It was rumoured Mecom-boss David Montgomery had ordered the struggling paper to introduce page three girls and replaced its staunch feminist editor with the editor of gossip rag Se og Hör, but Mecom refused to comment the news stating that the information was price sensitive. Needless to say, employees were up in arms.

Meanwhile, Trond Giske, Norway's culture minister who've kept threatening Montgomery with non-threats ever since he sat foot in this country, announced he was running for Archbishop. Norway's defense minister on the other hand, unveiled a new law proposal that would see all women who are still single and childless after turning 30 serve a year in the army. And a science mag even found a bunch of aliens somewhere in outer space.

Yes, it was April Fool's day, but also a busy news day. Among the serious news: the Norwegian equivalent of the House of Lords (Odelstinget) vetoed Giske's famed law on editorial freedom, meaning that Norway will soon (could be as early as 1 July) get a law that will protect editors against political and commercial pressures from their owners (at least on paper, some doubt how effective the law will be in reality). More importantly perhaps, the country was on the brink of a national labour strike (avoided in the last hour in the wee hours today).

I must admit I was quite grateful for that compromise as it allowed me a few hours more sleep, as was probably those editors who'd wowed to hand out the papers themselves today if the paper boys were on strike, but, as always, the question of who foots the bill is an interesting one. In this case I wonder if it won't be taxpayers and mortgage-holders, but hey, I don't blog about the economy, and that's good (much too depressing, besides I need some sleep now to improve my blogging form for tomorrow).

Oh, and the story on Mecom and Dagbladet was written by Martin H. Jensen whom I worked for at Propaganda last year, and who is joining us at in a few weeks.