Here’s an important gap to mind: the narrowing gap between the quality of information in traditional media coverage and the same information in the top tier of news blogs.
Over the last century, newspapers built themselves into the news outlets of record by placing accuracy, objectivity and ethics firmly at their core. With the arrival of the new millennium came an onslaught of online alternatives that, in some cases, have managed to amass large followings by injecting their own personal take into coverage and being quick with news, too often at the expense of initial accuracy.
But you knew all that. Something you may not have recognized yet: The top online news outlets—the Blogs of Record , as I like to call them—are starting to give established media a run for their money on accuracy, not just reporting news. This is a massively important trend of the past 12 to 18 months that few have picked up on.
Bloggers are proving over and over that many of them work under a robust, if unspoken, code that doesn’t differ greatly from a reporter at The New York Times. While being quick is still paramount at most blogs, being accurate right out of the gate has now also become a top priority.
Consider the raw emotion captured by one top tech blogger, writing about an error made on his site:
I think we all react to getting a story wrong a little differently, but in one way or another, it’s got to tear you up inside. If it doesn’t — and you’re writing news for a living — I think you’re probably in the wrong line of work. It’s sort of the journalistic equivalent of a doctor cutting off the wrong leg, a cop shooting a guy who turns out to be holding a water bottle instead of a gun, or a lip-syncing musician whose vocal track starts skipping in the middle of a concert. Totally different scales of significance and irreparability, granted, but I suspect many of the same emotions are involved.
For me, the reaction typically involves an initial string of loud curses (facilitated by the fact that I work alone, though I’m never shy to do it around my coworkers) and a few bangs of my fist on my desk, followed by a mad scramble to right the wrongs in as transparent and accurate a fashion as I possibly can. Finally, after things start to calm down, I get a little nauseated, which lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It keeps me up for a night or two. I dissect the failure over and over and over in my head.
Point is, there’s an emotional toll that comes with screwing up a published piece, and I think that’s a great thing. It’s a deterrent. It’s a reminder that you’re invested in what you do and that you’re taking it seriously.
Admittedly, not every blogger is so passionate about accuracy. Then again, neither is every reporter in the established press. The good ones from both are.
So what’s the takeaway for brand communicators? You have to pay attention to bloggers. Many companies still choose to ignore bloggers or treat them like some eccentric relative who has to be tolerated on holidays. If that’s your company, snap out of it. You need to be more discriminating. Find the blogs in your industry that are doing things right: They work at getting things right; they take the time to understand the nuance in stories; they have strong writers and critical thinkers contributing to the blog; they are scoring tough-to-get interviews. Also look to see which of the bloggers are followed by reporters of the established press.
A brand that is ignoring the Blogs of Record in its space because it hasn’t taken the time to get to know them is missing out on a huge opportunity to get closer to its customers, employees and other audiences that matter to your business. If a problem develops, existing relationships with blogs may provide a faster and more intimate route to talk directly to your community without having to go through the labyrinth of editors and producers one must get through at established media.
This is not to say that there aren’t still blogs out there trying to break through the clutter with sensationalized stories or with an ax to grind. It is to say there are fewer of them. Another important point to remember: The same pressures on bloggers to post too soon are affecting established media as well as they try to keep up with the demand for real-time content.
To pay attention and cultivate bloggers now may be a competitive edge. In the very near future, it will be mission critical.