Hi, I’m Art Buchwald, and I Died

Another landmark online media move today by the New York Times – they’ve posted their first online video Obituary, for former columnist Art Buchwald, that includes an interview with the deceased about his life (and death).

This is one of the areas where newspapers have the upper hand – they’ve got the talent to produce and the access to the players to do something more with an obit, or any story.  Bloggers may beat them to the punch but they can afford to wait if they *do it right*. 

You can read more about the project, which is called “The Last Word” in Editor and Publisher here.

Newspaper Blogs Pickup – Three Fold

The NY Times, WSJ, Washington Post, and most of the big boys are now committing to blogging.  The NY Times has just implemented WordPress MU, which is interesting, as it’s an open source product. 

Now word comes from MediaPost (and tons of other sources) that major metro papers websites have increased views on blog pages three fold.

Now, however, there’s some objective support showing that online newspaper readers have taken to the publications’ blogs. Data released this morning by media measurement company Nielsen//NetRatings shows that blog pages within the top 10 online newspapers drew around 3.8 million unique visitors last month–more than triple December 2005’s 1.2 million.

That’s a lot of eyeballs, and the interesting thing is that many of the bloggers aren’t the papers front line journalists, they’re freelancers, or even just fans.

The discussion in the industry on the subject of blogs often distills down to the difference between the wild west of Blogistan, and the rigid, fact checked, journalistic ethics straight jacket of the newspapers.  I still hear it argued that blogs have no place, but honestly, a three fold increase in traffic since *last month* will put that argument to bed forever.  In an industry that’s losing readers, we’re going to take our readers whereever we can find them. So what if the new readers are tuning into the “Boston Mommy Blog” (Meredith O’Brien on being a mother in the city) or the “The Pour” (the NY Times wine critic, Eric Asimov on all things wine).

David Churbuck’s got another source on the story here…

Snap Preview?

Okay, it seemed like a good idea the first time I saw it.  Snap preview is that bubble pop up when you hover over a link here.  But it’s starting to seem like those “intellitext” ads now.  I throw the question out to you: is Snap preview increasing the value of your Vario reading experience, or is it just another disruption?  Comment or email me to let me know what you think.

I’ve also added avatars so that it’s easy to tell Jill Cole’s posts from mine.  We’ve got a couple special blog projects underway right now, so you can expect some interesting posts over the next couple weeks.  I’m finally resurfacing after a very long, very involved project (more on that soon) and will be doing some housekeeping around the site over the coming week or two. 

Building and Managing Your Online Office

Mary Schmidt does it again – another must read, this time on the subject of “Building and Managing Your Online Office.”  Read her “When Bad Creativity Happens to Good People: post here, then read her full article here

In my consulting work, I often have to review really bad web sites, from all sizes and types of companies and organizations. Some of the largest and most expensive sites are often the most broken (lots of style, very little substance with no consideration given to customer service). And, small businesses often make the “penny wise, pound foolish” mistake of going with a web hobbyist. But, how do you know whether you’re working with a hobbyist or a pro?

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Snatching Mediocrity from the Jaws of Innovation

I was reading an interesting bit in MediaPost today – entitled “Best Practices are Not a Crutch” and was struck by the truth of David Baker’s closing line:

While many folks make a living off copying other programs and tactics and re-applying them in a different context, the best marketing programs don’t rely on best practices alone. They rely on a mix of discipline, business rules, creativity, and timely intervention to reinvigorate the programs and teams.

I remember a friend who was a jazz musician telling me once that you had to learn the rules in order that you might break them properly.  While best practices are good to know, I think we’re better served by our instincts; that Seth Godin was right when he stated “Compromise in marketing is almost always a bad idea.”

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The Future of Search

I’ve been thinking about search lately.  Mainly the thoughts have centered on how poorly machine developed search actually works.  Think about it, when you search, be it on Google, MS Live Search or anything, how relevant are the results?  How many of the top results are simply gamed results from SEO tactics?

The problem is this: while an algorithm can do a good job, I think we really need a team approach – a Digg-like rating system that allows us to put some real human value into the mix.  Of course those of you familiar with Digg will immediately say: “right, then the SEOs will just game that as well”, and you’d probably be right.

Think about this though: why not  place weight on the ratings offered?  Surely the opinion of an expert in a field is of a higher value than you’re Aunt Edna (unless she is that expert…)?

So it seems like it might be impossible…take a quick go through the now infamous Indentity 2.0 presentation Dick Hardt of Sxip did as OScon last year.  If we had a ubiquitous means of identifying people on the web, then we’d be able to apply some value to their ratings.  And we might even be able to do that one the fly, so that, say I might value the rating of my friend David more than my nephew who’s kind of weird…

My suspicion is that the next step for search is that we’re going to need to re-interject a human side to it.  That’s why the web 2.0 stuff like Digg, del.icio.us etc. has become so popular – the human side.

We’ve seen the machine side, and frankly, it can only go so far.  Bring on the meat sacks!

Yelvington – Throw the Bums Out

Steve Yelvington has a great post on Forum/Comment management in the big media environment entitled “Throw the Bums Out.

Those of us that have managed online communities for years know that you’ve got to have a good sherriff around or things get completely out of hand.  Think roving bands of digi-thugs corrupting what would otherwise be worthwhile conversations.  I’ve seen it enough, with spammers, commercial agendas, tinfoil hatted clowns and their ilk, and I’ll admit over time I became very quick on the draw.  I do not regret now, nor have I ever, a single banning.  My only regrets are the folks that I gave the benefit of the doubt and had to remove from the community later. 

Yelvington writes:

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