Sunday, June 28, 2009

Talking And Not Listening

Last Friday, Urbanreporter kindly invited me to yet another 'journalists discussing how do we do new media' bull session.

Gathered in the studios of Public Broadcasting of Atlanta were the usual suspects.

I've been asked a couple of times if there would be a recap. My instincts were to write "sad and infuriating" and nothing more.

Sad to hear such talented writers talk of leaving their industry to survive. Infuriating for reasons which will shortly become clear.

But a few more words are needed. There were a few points which I believe crystalize the problem.

After 20 minutes of the same laments heard over and over for the past year, a new voice piped up. The one poor, lone ad man to attend any of these meetings, spoke. One of the journalists cried "this is the guy we should be listening to!"

In the room were a successful entrepeneur, one of the guys behind CNN's wildly successful iReport and a certain gentleman with 9 years in the IT business who has been writing online for over three years.

Yet, the ad guy was who they believed could provide them with the key to their dreams.

One other new thing emerged.

A casual comment from a few days before made me aware of "Like The Dew". Haven't heard of it? I can't imagine why.

Like The Dew was described as a labor of love. Well, it better be a labor of love if nobody knows about it.

There are many things we could discuss about that web site, but I'd like you to focus on just one. Look at their "Southern Links" section. Now look at my "Georgia Voices" section to your left. Compare and contrast.

We are past the "they're just not getting it" stage. We are into willful ignorance.

And one more thing. When that entrepeneur started listing off resources which could help the journalists understand this online world (i.e. Social Media Club), they desperately inquired how do they find such wonders.

People who spent decades tracking down corrupt scoundrels, poring over mind-numbing public records and digging through dozens of leads were stumped when it came to signing up on twitter and finding and following smcatl.

How do you help that?


chamblee54 said...

LikeTheDew is another blog by former newspaper folk which tries to look like a newspaper. It has the columns and stories, with a link to the rest of the story.
DTTG and chamblee54 are blogs that look like blogs.

griftdrift said...

Which reminds me. I had a problem with your link in the past and I meant to revisit it at some point. Just plain forgot. Will fix this oversight momentarily.

Doug said...

I think the problem is that people have forgot the meaning of the word simplicity.

When I go to a site, I want it to be like google or Peach Pundit. No resource hogging "cool" features, just content. Overproduced nonsense with 100 links on a page and snippets of everything the paper has to offer clutter things to the point of making it a chore to read.

Screens do not cost money like paper does. There is no reason to cram every last bit of real estate with something clickable. And don't get me started on video. There is nothing I love more than having to watch a 30 second ad prepended to a 4 minute video that I could have read in 10-20 seconds.

Until big media learns what I think most people are after, it is going to be a long list of failures.

Anonymous said...

I think what is missing is the understanding of community. As important as content is (and it is essential) links are nearly as important. Not just as a way of increasing/expanding content, but also as a way of becoming part of the community. Links also help visitors develop a sense of a sites "personality". I sometimes find myself thinking something like: "hmmm, curious that they link to Tondee's but not BfD or GriftDrift." or gee, for a Georgia site they sure don't link to Georgia sites.

It's like a party at a new friends home. Links are the friends and family to whom you are introduced when you arrive. Sometimes you know some of them already which puts you at ease. Without introductions, you walk into a party knowing nothing and no one. How likely are you to go back to a party there?

I've used the "party analogy" before. And I do think it holds up. When we publish a blog it's as if we have provided an open invitation to anyone to join our conversation. Like any conversation, there are common courtesies expected from both sides. The host is expected to provide a environment in which people will feel comfortable and stimulated to participate and to be polite and welcoming (within reason). Participants are expected to behave to some standard that should be quite obvious by a brief scan of the site.

I can only surmise that the folks of whom you speak don't really want to be part of a community. To that I can just say "it's their loss".

griftdrift said...

Absolutely 100% correct.

Another anecdote I didn't mention is that one of the participant's mentioned there needs to be something to bring it all together, "a co-op or something". It was at this point that I finally broke into the discussion and told them "you already have it. Atlanta has one of the most vibrant, organic online communities in the country and you don't know it's there so they don't know you're there".

Having talked to several journalists, I'm coming to realize this may be the biggest transition to make. By their nature, they hold everything close to the vest. They are used to working in silos. What I call the two C's of online writing, Community and Collaboration, seem completely foreign to them.

But as you say,if they can't get it, it's their loss.

DM said...

Was also invited to this meeting, but at the very last moment, so I couldn't attend. Recently I've attended a handful of other mtgs where bloggers and journalists get together to talk about saving journalism in various forms.

And I have come to much of the same conclusion as Anonymous. The new world of social media adds to the value of "reporting", be it crap or investigative. If you manage it correctly, your comments can be as or more valuable than your posts. From what I've heard from old school journalists, they have little interest in interacting with their audience. Their loss is our gain.

"Transparency" and "community" are the new "integrity."

griftdrift said...

DM, both your spot and Dave's was mentioned by me, of course.

Mostly blank stares.

The lack of ANY knowledge of the Atlanta community is rather shocking.

Amber Rhea said...

Bull session indeed. *yawn* Kudos to you for being there, anyway. I'm more over it at this point than I can even convey.

Btw - you must've put in crazy bottom margin on your posts! Lotsa spacing going on.

griftdrift said...

I'm playing with AdSense again. But somethings not quite right.

MelGX said...

I agree with everything that's been said. I'll just add that one of the things these "new" sites from "old" journalists seem to have in common is their complete failure to check stats for incoming links.

For example, we've linked to Like the Dew about six times in the last couple of months. The site is on our blogroll and included on our "About the Authors" page.

Yet, their recently updated "Southern Links" section includes about 30 blogs, but somehow we don't rate?

Nice. I may just get fussy and delink them completely. It's not worth trying to remediate them.

griftdrift said...

Another basic construct of the culture they just don't get.

MelGX said...

Grift, how much you want to bet they never even discover this thread? And I know you're a betting man.

griftdrift said...

I will not take that bet.

They are too busy being seduced by snake oil salesmen who brag about bags of money that will be used to "figure it out".

Unknown said...

WADR, has only been around a few months. We are still in the “just not getting it” state - our ignorance is not yet willful.

The fact you hadn’t heard of the site is a shame, but not surprising. Many of the LikeTheDew writer/contributors had never blogged before and are not involved in other internet communities. Our ambitions were a little over the top for breadth of content covered (we will do some research and are always seeking feedback to limit “the nonsense”) and geography (the South, not just Georgia). With all volunteers and no capital, this caused little attention to be paid to marketing - organic or otherwise. We’re doing better, but need to listen.

We only have 60 followers on Twitter and 230 on Facebook, but now have a volunteer who is going to focus on social media for us. We send out a daily email newsletter of new content that is subscribed to by about 900. We got about 125,000 page views last month, but that was from a pretty small number of unique visitor - they just come often and read multiple pages.

I regret that you judged us by our blogroll alone (yours is lovely) - we simply added some sites to our list as we came across them and spent too little energy on it (we did publish every legitimate request for a link). Our problem with it, was that room did not allow for a list complete enough. So, and the jury’s still on whether it is a good idea (love to listen to your opinion), we have been developing (work in process - only up about a week) a site within our site to promote and portal other news and regional blog sites (commercial free, all links go directly to the sties) as an alternative to our blogroll (should you go back to the site, it is in the top navigation).

Our plans are to work on improving our site - keep the content quality high, attracting additional (we have had 340 posts from 68 different writers) and more diverse writer/contributors (we skew a little too old, too pink, too ex-AJC and too metro Atlanta) and making the experience for our readers better - before concentrating too much on building our audience. That’s may be a mistake, and I’d love to listen to feedback.

Using excerpts and requiring a click to read the rest is problem for some who love the purity of a blog site (sorry, Doug) - we just have too much original content, much of it long, to feature the most recent post and require our readers to scroll forever (the page is too big already). And, like most new sites, we are guilty of experimenting with too many bells, whistles, widgets and snippets that interfere with the read. But we are learning.

LikeTheDew is a labor of love. We aren’t a news site and most of our writer/contributors are not professional journalists. We are trying to create a community (we’ve had about 1,400 comments), and, like you, encourage voices to be heard. We invite all to contribute their voice - including you and your readers. I hope you will.

PS: you should have taken the bet. - Lee

griftdrift said...

Lee, I'm always willing to lose a bet if it leads to good conversation.

125k page views a month is impressive no matter who you are. That's an incredible base on which to build.

But if I may impart some free advice. You just had the second largest political blog in Georgia tell you that they may delink you because they were knocking on your door and you never answered (they linked and you didn't return the favor).

This is very much like you being the new people in the neighborhood and when someone knocks on your door with a pound cake, you hide in the closet. Pretty soon they'll just take their pound cake home.

I know this is all very new and I know that I keep pounding things over and over again.

It is about community. But it's not just about building a community, it's about being a part of a community. You know what a community is that has no roads going in or out? A cult!

There are vibrant communities in Georgia (and around the southeast), but you must seek them out and you must engage them.

Now here endeth the free advice. As I said - no more free consulting.

(But I'm willing to take payment in beer)

P.S. What is your twitter id? LikeTheDew? You might get more followers if you drop that in every now and then.

griftdrift said...

And one other thing.

To see an example of building a community (and in mindboggling time!) click on DM's name just above to hop over to DecaturMetro.

I'm going to keep bleating about the Decatur hyperlocals until I'm blue in the face.

But there's a reason.

Unknown said...

May I call you Grift? Any time on the beer. Now is good. Seriously, write me offline at and we can schedule payment for the advice.
I know better than than to not link. Just been pulling too many long hours. An excuse, but wrong. To be a friend, you have to be a friend. Got it. It is also about paying attention and mine is too often in deficit.
Sorry now, that I missed the Friday meeting. I was invited, just felt like an interloper and Keith (head dewer) was out of town.
Our twitter id is LikeTheDew. I left it out and hyperlinks as I feared the rath of comment spam filter.

Terri Evans said...

griftdrift and melGX:
I'm a LikeTheDew contributor, and the "so-called" publicist (who rarely has enough time to do the aforementioned and my-necessary - paying job), so I'm compelled to reply. I primarily write about food, as I have done for many years. I loved and appreciated your pound cake analogy. I make a pretty good pound cake. Email me at and send your snail address. I'll mail a delicious pound cake to both of you just to prove we mean to be good neighbors.

Unknown said...

Nice showing, LikeTheDew folks. I'll try to keep my co-publisher, MelGX, off the eject button for a while.

Take Grift up on his offer - he's got great ideas. Just a FYI though - he can drink some beer!

Unknown said...

Catherine - thanks for the encouragement, but the proof will be in our follow up.
Regarding the advice, I'm just waiting to find out if it will be George's or Manuel's - Lee

Anonymous said...

The pound cake offer goes to you as well.

Sara said...

Lee, read the blog here for awhile. Grift's favorite bar is neither Manuel's nor George's, but can be found pretty easily with a little looksee around these parts. Hint: start with Saturday Stupids.

griftdrift said...

I'm flexible.

Manuel's would do.

Lee, I'll be in touch.

Juliana said...

Well that was a very productive exchange all around. You can really learn sum'n around here!