New trick: Hosting a blogger on your news site

January 20th, 2009

An often-overlooked way to get quality user-contributed material on your site is to invite readers to blog about specific events on your news site using your software. It’s an excellent way to bring a new voice to your site, and perhaps even cover an event you would not have been able to attend otherwise. At the Statesman, we’ve had reader bloggers, through our Pluck reader blogger software, post from political conventions, a climate change summit in Bali and at Netroots Nation. During the political convention, one of our veteran reporters told me the reader blogger had a fresh point-of-view that made for some good coverage. High praise, indeed.

Here’s how:

1. Identify your blogger. Reporters can usually identify, and even contact, some likely candidates. Generally, seek out someone who has a stake in the event. For example, you could find someone who is going to the South by Southwest Festival. Contact this person and explain that you’d like to have him or her blog and explain in detail what that will entail. If you can pay the blogger, great. Often, though, people will blog for free for the thrill of getting the online play. It’s OK if the person has never blogged before – as long as he or she is interesting and willing to share their thoughts, it will be good.

2. Call the person on the phone after he or she has agreed to go over what you expect, what might be fun, how often you think the person should post, etc. It helps sometimes to offer up some blog topic ideas. Be sure to listen to his or her concerns, and address them if possible.

3. Set up the blog for your reader blogger ahead of the event. If your blogger is a true novice, have him or her send in a picture and set it up, along with a nice header and “about” page.

4. Send your blogger detailed instructions on how to access the blog, how to post links, photos and videos, etc.

5. Once your blogger starts posting, give that thing some great play. If you did find a SXSW blogger, put the updates as a link side-by-side with your other festival coverage. Be sure to clearly label the material as a reader blog.

6. When the event is over, call your blogger and share page view statistics and what you enjoyed about the work. Be sure to say “thank you.”

Of course, you could find bloggers who are already posting on their own software and just link to them. You should do that when you find bloggers who are providing relevant information to your readers. What’s good about hosting someone new on your own site, though, is you bring people into the process who wouldn’t otherwise be involved. You can find some great new voices — people who are likely to want to stay involved.

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Entry Filed under: New Tricks

  • Anna Tarkov

    Everything sounds very nice other than the part where you advise the journalist that many bloggers will blog for free just for “the thrill of online play.” Maybe that describes some kids who are 18-25 years old or have trust funds, but I need a job. I love what I do, but I would also like to make some money and it's a thankless, soul-crushing grind sometimes to do it for free. And that's me doing it on my own, self-directed. So if a paid journalist whose column or blog I read asked me to blog for them for free, my response would not be suitable for printing here :)

  • Robert Quigley

    Thanks Anna, point taken.

  • Gina Chen

    Letting reader guest blog is a great idea.

    I like your idea of doing it for a particular topic or event. Haven't tried that. We have a public blog where people can post whenever they want … we have regular citizen bloggers, some of whom have become quite popular.

    The worry in the newsroom, of course, it that if we let people blog for free does that devalue journalist blogs. I don't think it does. I think a citizen guest blog is very different than a beat blog by a staffer, but I do see the other commenter's point about wanting to be paid. (Don't blame you. I like to be paid for my work, too.)

    However, there are many people out there who are interested in being heard more than being paid. So letting them blog on a newspaper Web site gives them an audience they might not get at their own personal blog unless they are quite SEO-savvy.

    I guess what I'm saying is I think there is room for all types of bloggers: journalists and not; paid and not.

    I think another apprehension journalists have about letting citizens blog is that the quality won't be good. I think that is a needless worry. Sometimes citizen blogs lack polish (and often they don't) but that's part of the medium. It's an ongoing dialogue, so a run-on sentence or two is just conversational.

  • Robert Quigley

    Thanks for the comment, Gina. I've found that the content quality of the reader blogs are good when I've sought them out. I think choosing your blogger wisely is the key. Look for someone who you already think will do a good job and then coach them a little. I've been pleased with the results.

  • dan bloom

    . Have you heard of what i am doing or trying to do? I am calling for a new word for reading on screens,,,and i call it, natch, screening…

    see the blogo talk here

    i want to know what you think, your POV, on my new word coined
    about reading online, i call it ''SCREENING'', to differentiate it from
    READING on paper…..what is your reax?

  • chiropractic coaches

    You really a helpful list.. this will produce a great number of traffic to your site.. I guess It is really important to choose the right blogger for you..


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