Monday, February 27, 2006

Meta-blogging and Media-blogging

There's an article about the Buffalo Prefecture of Blogistan in today's Buffalo News. It's a pretty good article about the basics of what blogging is. I was contacted by the writer about potentially being interviewed for the piece, but as it happened, he ended up with enough quotes from others that he actually had to leave stuff out. At least Byzantium's Shores got mentioned in the sidebar of Buffalo Blogs, though; that's something, even if so far today it hasn't translated to any more traffic than I normally get. Oh well.

A few thoughts, though:

:: The sidebar that lists other Buffalo Blogs just gives the blog names and the URLs. No author names, no informational blurbs about what the blogs cover, no nothing. I realize that space is a big concern in newspaper publishing, but just handing out lists of URLs with no contextual comment whatsoever isn't muhc of a help to prospective readers, is it? I swear to God I'm going to put this on a T-shirt: The Internet is made of people. There's a live person behind every blog out there, folks.

:: Shouldn't the article also give the URLs of the blogs belonging to the folks actually quoted in the article? Jennifer and Erin are both quoted, with Erin actually pictured in the accompanying photo -- and their URLs are nowhere to be found. So someone who reads this article and wants to read Jen's and Erin's blogs is sent off to Google for information the News should have provided up front. (CORRECTION: Jen's URL actually does appear in the sidebar. An 'oops' on my part -- but Erin's ain't there, which is still a bigger 'oops' on the News's part.)

:: OK. Blogging has been around for, what, seven or eight years now? I didn't hear of blogging until four years ago, and the real growth of Blogistan didn't start to transpire until a short while after that. But shouldn't the concept of what a blog is be, well, almost old hat by now? Is it really necessary, in 2006, to still have the occasional article like this, in which the word "blog" is defined and the blogger interviews consist of the same things you always read in articles like this? Shouldn't we have moved beyond "Hey, there's these things called 'blogs' and here's what they are and here's why they exist" to actual coverage of Blogistan's Buffalo Prefecture? I hope that this is the beginning of some regular coverage of the Buffalo bloggers -- not just a precis of what we're all posting about, but maybe some mention occasionally of issues that are raised and the like.

:: I've written before about the general mediocrity of the News's web presence, and this article does nothing to dispel that notion. Here's the News still having to explain what blogs are in the first place, while the Syracuse Post-Standard's website actually uses blogs. There's one that focuses exclusively on developments surrounding Destiny USA, and there's another one called Store Front that covers the ins-and-outs of the Syracuse retail scene*, there's one that covers Syracuse Orange basketball, as well as a bunch of others.

:: And look at the Web presentation of today's Buffalo Blogs article. The article reproduces the sidebar with the URLs of Buffalo blogs not mentioned outright in the article, but as is almost always the case with Buffalo News articles on their website that mention stuff on the web, there are no clickable links. Want to read one of the blogs mentioned in the sidebar? You can't click anything -- instead, you have to type the URL into your browser. And adding insult to injury there, you can't even cut-and-paste the URL into your browser, because the sidebar is rendered as a jpeg file!

Come on, guys. You quote bloggers in the article and don't give their URLs, and then in the Web version of the article, you make it impossible to click through to any of the blogs for which you do give the URLs. That's just incompetent Web work. And since the News is paying some other company to do its Website, I end up imagining what the News could do if they took the money they're funneling to some outside company for crappy work and instead employed an in-house Web designer or team thereof.

UPDATE: Looking again at that sidebar, it further strikes my eye that some of the URLs are given using the 'http://' prefix, while others are not. This, again, bespeaks a major lack of familiarity with the Web and how things are done there on the part of the News.

* OK, come to think of it: the Syracuse paper actually has a reporter, Bob Niedt, assigned to covering Syracuse's retail business climate. This guy's main job is to post about retail stores and restaurants that are opening or closing, what businesses are moving into the area or out, what's being developed at Syracuse area shopping malls, and so on. If a new Applebee's opens, or a McDonald's closes, or some little boutique moves to a new location, Bob Niedt writes about it in his column. His column runs three days a week, and now he has a blog on the Post-Standard website. If Syracuse's paper, in a city which is half the size of Buffalo, can accomodate a reporter for this job, why can't Buffalo's paper do the same? Don't they think that consumers and business owners alike would appreciate such news coverage? Word of mouth is good and all, but we're talking about the major metropolitan newspaper here. That alone could help a lot of businesses in a city where businesses tend to need quite a lot of nurturing.

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