Bloggers Are New, But Are They Media?


Bloggers Are New But Are They Media?

Bloggers Are New But Are They Media?

It was quite the schmoozefest in Vancouver this weekend.

The city was host to the Junos, The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, Vancouver Fashion Week and the Canadian National Freestyle Skiing Championships.

Head to any of the events and you’ll see entry points and lounges for media. In the past that meant print, radio, and television while some select magazines or industry journalists would qualify. Scan the ranks of the media lists in 2009 and you’ll see who qualifies as media has broadened as widely as the definition itself.

IT STARTED AT CES

I first noticed the explosion of bloggers as media at CES 5 years ago. I was there to cover the technology show for City TV where I had a segment on technology, and my syndicated radio show which airs across the country. I had a pass around my neck that said TV/Radio. However, as I walked the crowded show floor I saw person after person with “website.com” hanging around their neck.

Bloggers were everywhere.

While that leads to an explosion of blanket coverage for the conference, it also waters down the product. There are only so many spokespeople, and with legions of bloggers and media clamouring for quotes and attention, that attention gets divided down to such a point that some people are shut out.

In the “old media” past, it was easy to determine who was important. The interview went to the NYT or the Washington Post or Time or ABC. Now, in the modern era of blogs, who is savvy enough to determine that cyberbuzz is more valuable than cyberboys while WineDude‘s reach is larger than WineDad?

In a time when old media is dying and new media is exploding (with, as the headline suggests 20 000 new blogs a day), how do you determine who is legitimate and who isn’t?

BLOGGERS ARE SMART

All efficient bloggers can produce the same littanous list of content. If you’re a passionate wine drinker, Canadian music fiend, or fashionista, you can point a media assistant to your blog archives detailing hundreds of entries – but can you prove the readership?

And that’s the point of difference. Old media is worthy because it has reach, new media is worthy because it claims niche.

I don’t envy the job of the media relations director trying to get coverage for an event. It’s a world where anyone can hang a shingle and get a website and claim to be an expert. Sasha Baron Cohen had more than 30 of them to scam people into helping out with Bruno, each website little more than window dressing to legitimize a fake movie studio and place a veil between the victim and the true production house.


NOT ALL BLOGS ARE CREATED EQUAL

Don’t get me wrong, there are bloggers who are worthy and have elevated themselves beyond the term “blogger” to “journalist” .. The Huffington Post, Perez Hilton, Engadget and others have readership that has gone far beyond it’s old media competition. Perez, for example, has more readers in a day than most supermarket tabloids have in a week – combined.

Leo Laporte‘s TWiT network of podcasts reaches 100s of thousands of listeners in a week, more than some newspapers, magazines or radio stations.

But they are the exception to the rule, the cream that has risen to the top, the wheat that has separated from the chaff. And we, as internet users, have done the excepting, the rising and the separating. We have chosen who is reliable, honest and believable. We have organized ourselves into tribes to follow and read those we trust.

I BLOG, THEREFORE I AM

The problem is, without the legitimacy of audience demanded by media directors for events, they are left filling the hallways with legions of those who serve no purpose other than to legitimize themselves.

Some bloggers, notably in Vancouver, openly admit to this sort of gaming of the system. Boris Mann of Urban Vancouver has defended his site’s scraping and republishing of content by saying it was a means to help bloggers gain access to events.

“Many people benefit from the ability of UV to help generate “press” credentials, for everything from music awards to the Olympics,”
he said.

And as we head towards the Olympics, a legion of new media pioneers has banded together to petition for access to the events.

Is it really necessary? Do we need to expend security and technical resources for hundreds or thousands of other media who legitimize themselves with a simple “.com” and a printout of blog entries?

This is not to say that blogs and new media should be shut out, they have a place at the table and need to be involved in the conversation.

The question is: with the slowing of the influence of old media what criteria will be used to determine which blogs become accredited and which are just crowding the hallways, and wasting resources?

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7 Comments

  1. March 31, 2009

    Brilliant question. I don’t think bloggers are media. Unless as you pointed out, they are the cream of the crop, which means “serious” about their craft. I think a good lot of these “blogger reporters” are merely cashing in on the ability to get free access or free loot in return for their consumer opinion. That is all they offer, consumer opinion.

  2. Cassie Gill
    April 2, 2009

    Buzz – this is great! I am writing a university paper on this very topic right now, and quoting you as a source! I hope the profs don’t mind – I will argue that you are an important pillar in Vancouver culture/media LOL!

    I think some bloggers can be considered media, but many of them are simply taking it too far. If you can turn it into a profitable business in which you are marketing the product as more than a blog (in that you have contests, sponsorship, social networking etc.) then I think you can go the media route. Readership is a big one, too.

  3. April 2, 2009

    Very well put Buzz. As a full time blogger for more than three years now I would suggest that there is a certain amount of the “blogging for self” crowd. However, I want to share one example of how bloggers are stepping in where media is falling short. I sent one of my writers, a former editor at the Vancouver Sun, to a UN climate conference in Poznan, Poland. Turns out he was the only media outlet from Canada. As such he was given full media credentials by the UN – the first blogger to get such a thing. We were the only outlet reporting on Canada’s actions (or inactions) at the conference.

    As far as “reach versus niche” as we see newsrooms dropping beat reporters (i.e. Canwest Newswire dropping their enviro beat reporter), niche bloggers become more valuable because they are following the minutiae of a specific issue. When dealing with government policy for instance this attention to minor details is a huge asset to the public who do not have the time to go into such in-depth analysis.

    On your question of how you identify which bloggers are to be accredited, it is quite simple for a tech-savvy media relations person to figure out who’s who in the zoo. You can look at quick reference points like number of link backs, Google pagerank and the background of the blogger.

    This is great article Buzz and I am glad that there is attention being paid to this issue. More and more of these questions will arise as we see blog become more mainstream.

  4. April 2, 2009

    Thanks Kevin.

    My initial idea from the post came from comments I had heard about those being accredited for some of the events around Vancouver last weekend. Many were “hobbyists” as opposed to the professionally qualified examples you give.

    It’s these hobbyists that are clouding the picture and definition of who should be accredited.

    That’s another reason I don’t like the term “blogger.” It’s almost demeaning. Are you a journalist? Are you an editor? Are you a contributor? Sure, those are old media words, but “blogger” seems to have been ripped down a pegs in pecking order. I’d prefer to see journalists and professionals getting preference over hobbyists.

    Right now, the hobbyists seem to have the upper hand.

  5. […] is no mistaking that bloggers aren’t journalists. They don’t work in big towers surrounded by editors and researchers and producers. Usually, […]

  6. March 23, 2011

    Interesting post. I’m always flattered when I’m invited to something as a blogger and at the same time, when I arrive and someone asks me if I’m ‘media’ I feel awkward and self conscious when I say yes. Because I don’t think of myself as such – I don’t get a pay cheque from what I do. It’s a hobby. A fun hobby, with perks, but it’s still a hobby.

    Looking at it from another angle – many bloggers have little value in their audience but are merely beneficial to engage from an SEO standpoint. Get enough bloggers to write about you (even if nobody reads it) and suddenly your page is in the top 10 Google SERPS. SEO is something that most traditional media people just don’t think about…

  7. […] ago I noticed this trend amongst bloggers in Vancouver. They were banding together in a herd to increase traffic and page rank in the hopes of getting […]

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