Monday, October 10, 2005


The Paper of Record ... But Not in the Blogosphere

It's been a couple of weeks now since TimesReject came online, and I have an observation: it has been a huge boon for the Washington Post. While the Times has restricted its most read online content and restricted other internet-only content to its subscribers, the WaPo has gone the other direction. They've given print space to bloggers, covered bloggers in their media coverage, created their own blogs, and most alluring (to bloggers), they now have a little box on each page powered by Technorati that searches the net for blogs linking to the page.

I know my own behavior has shifted pretty dramatically. Back when I was writing Notes, the Times tended to be my go-to paper. Because about half the content in any given paper will be found in most other papers, bloggers have one or two they depend on to capture the big news (like say if DeLay gets indicted). Most of the liberals went to the Times because they have a massive news department and cover more news than any other single paper. (The conservatives went there too, but they resented having to.)

No more. The WaPo has made several moves that make it the bloggers' fave. Most newspapers still offer a fairly static online presence, updating only major breaking news; they usually have a section that picks stuff of the AP wire as well. The WaPo, though, has gotten more bloggy and created more interaction. (Actually, whether it is the bloggers' fave is, I suppose, an open question. I haven't done a statistical analysis of even dubious measure, so I'm flying on observation and what I see at Memeorandum, an automated site that tracks the most-linked stories.)

In addition to the blogs, they have a thing called the "Post Politics Hour," where readers can pose questions to political journalists. Unlike the Times, which posts all its regular print content sometime around midnight eastern time, the WaPo posts columns throughout the day (Kurtz at ten am, Froomkin at noon, etc.). This gives them time to respond to the news of the day and gives readers a reason to check in. It feels far more interactive. The Times, perpetually stuck on a once-a-day reporting cycle, gets stale by midafternoon--and worse, they never have the chance for interactive reportage. It's strictly old-school, voice-of-God didactism.

Of course, both have made their calculations with the bottom line in mind. The Post thinks driving traffic to its site will give advertisers a reason to pay a premium, while the Times has decided to try to get readers to pay for popular content. Hard to say which approach will have the better effect on the balance sheet. But for bloggers, the choice seems clear: WaPo is the far more useful internet source.

[Update: Kevin Drum reports that he hasn't made the WaPo switch: he still links to the Times--the other Times--more often (readers of his blog already know that). He urges someone to do an actual statistical study, which I heartily second. Someone other than me.]


Susan said...

I agree. WashPo at least takes a stab at covering the White House.

Anonymous said...

The WaPo blogs are good in general...but some are kind of blah. Lots of news roundups, which is ok for some things. For politics, The Debate blog actually has analysis and attitude (not too muh attitude but then again this is a very serious newspaper I guess) and it covers a lot of ground. But why - WHY???? - did the ny times start charging? I don't think it's going to work for them because as you say, they're losing all the bloggers. (Just found your blog, by the way - love it!) ---Tina A.

Jeff Alworth said...

Over at Washington Monthly, where Kevin posed the question, I noticed in the comments (he gets about 50 times more than I do) that bloggers tended to favor the WaPo while readers were nonplussed. From the WaPo's standpoint, this isn't good news--bloggers form such a small fraction of the reading public.

(And Tina, thanks--drop by anytime.)