Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Do You Want To Be A Blogger Or Do You Want To Be A News Site?

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From my Inbox:

Hi Robin,

I've been a big fan of your site and your newsletter for some time.
Thanks for the great resource.

I am the publisher of


Fastmachines is a weblog focused on auto racing (seeing as how you live in Italy perhaps your are one of the legions of Ferrari Tifosi?).

I was wondering what your thoughts are on the future of blogs like FastMachines that, rather than being a "personal diary," instead focus on an industry or specific topic.

Any thoughts you may have on how I can improve my site would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again for providing the world with an excellent resource!

Dear Josh,

thank you for nice compliments and for allowing me opportunity to touch on this highly relevant topic while helping the many other independent publishers seeking advice out there.

I not only support your direction toward a "blog" that is focused on a very specific topic, but I truly think this to be one of the best opportunities available to would-be writers, journalists, reporters, experts, trainers and knowledge investigators of all kinds.

While very few are truly interested in the random superificial thoughts of the many thousands "bloggers" out there, nobody has dictated that the technologies behind those blogs need to be used ONLY to replicate that kind of personal diary format.

Blogs as personal diaries are just but ONE form of personal expression facilitated by the adoption of the many available and easy-to-use content management systems like Blogger, Radio Userland, Movable Type, and many other ones.

A blog is not a blog, it is what you make of it.

You could perfectly a fine institutional Web site with world news, articles and archives powered by Movable Type, Drupal, Plone, or ExpressionEngine or just about any other blog engine appropriately dressed for the use.

So, the first realization and emancipatory step is to take yourself out from the blog circle.

You are not a blogger.

At least not in the traditional sense of this word.

You really are a news site, focussing on a specific topic. Just like you describe it to be.

You are an independent reporter selecting news and relevant content for a very specific audience.

You are like an all-talk radio station covering one very specific topic.

Differently than other radio stations, you have a world audience, very little transmission and hardware infrastructure costs, and all of the content that you publish remains easily accessible to your readers for ever.

You need not to interrupt your programming to insert advertisements but can skilfully and intelligently match relevant services and products to complement your articles and report essays.

Your ability to select relevant news and not just everything that comes down from the wire is as an important asset as the timber and rhythm-paced sound of a radio DJ voice.

Your "nose" in picking what is relevant from the millions press-releases is as worthwhile as a DJ ability to keep selecting cutting-edge grooves rather than the medicore stuff paddled by the majors.

Think about it.

Your selection of news is essential, and your ability to pick and choose what really fits the interest of your readers makes total difference to those reading you.

Adding your own commentary to news items can also be strategically valuable. Your comment can't be easily replicated and your point of view (if you have a strong personal one) is a unique branding trait of your offering, one that may actually determine why people like to read your news and not the ones of any other site.

If you can, don't just repost news as they are. Add your own slant in the title and rework the summary to have the story match your style and focus consistently.

Don't pretend to me CNN the next day you are up. Show authority by aggregating and selecting content from many, diverse, credible and well referenced resources.

Become an intelligent filter not a "cloaca" maxima.

Specialize more. Even in your case, "car racing" is way too broad as a topic for an independent publisher. Leave that gigantic space to someone who has the shoulders and numbers to do that.

Select a much more defined topic within that space. Even your categories, as such are still too broad. They are already covered by many official sites with which you will have a very hard time competing.

Identify therefore one niche topic on which you can do a reporting job nobody else is offering yet. Look at Nascar Pilots only, focus on their personalities and lives. Dive into F1 pilot gear and raceware. X-ray the universe of race-tires. There is a million options available to you.

Of course the better you know or are familiar with the field, the better.

Remember that one great difference between traditional journalists and these emerging highly-focussed independent news publishers is the fact that journalists would get assigned to stories in any kind of field and would need to be flexible enough as writers to be able to cover just about any topic.

These second-generation bloggers, the independent news publishers I am referring to and to whose category you clearly belong, are driven by a personal passion and interest in the field that allows them to contribue valuable commentary, opinion and insight just normally not within the reach of standard "generic" newspaper reporters.

By tightening your topic interest and adding a sufficient amount of personal commentary, you can gradually grow oneself into a specialist opinion-leader, an analyst of the sector and possibly a valuable forecaster of the trends and issues affecting it.

This does not mean that you should limit your vast interests across multiple categories to one only, but rather that the focus of each news resource you publish should be very strong and separated from others you may cover.

Better multiple mini news sites than a broader, multiple category site like you presently have (unless you have the "muscle" to support in depth).

Search, filter, aggregate and syndicate best news stories from as many diverse sources as possible on your news site home page.

Offer multiple "dossiers" or report areas devoted to cover a particular topic, issue or technology by bringing into that area the best of what is available everywhere else in a professionally designed and editorially-rich format. For example, assemble a report on the what you consider the very best car racing resources on the Internet, sub-divided by categories and create a business product/viral marketing tool with it. This can provide a tremendous boost to your popularity, credibility, exposure and traffic, guaranteeing a long-term return in loyal readers for as long as you will keep the specialty resource up-to-date.

Involve your readers. Invite readers to participate, contribute, provide insider information and tips that could be otherwise hard to find. Provide a sponsored "expert" area of your site providing access to multiple recognized experts to respond directly to questions from your readers.

Offer your news and articles for syndication on other sites.

Be transparent, credible. Offer clear dates and times of publication for each news item. Update and revision dates for each page. Author's name, copyright, etc.

Provide multiple distribution channels for your news. Consider email newsletters, RSS, XML news syndication, news-alerts and even a printed edition if you serve a very targeted and geographically restrained audience.

Some valuable related articles:

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posted by Robin Good on Saturday, July 24 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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