Teaching Examples

Why people use blogs
July 30, 2006, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Anil Dash is brilliant. If you already know that, you probably have already read his post about how people get paid in currencies other than money. “People” being online contributors, in this case. You know — the people formerly known as the audience. The vital 1 percent (he says 5 percent) who do all the work that raises site value (read: traffic) to the stratosphere.

Why do online journalism people need to know this? Because otherwise, all your hyperlocal and user-generated and citizen journalism thingies are doomed to failure. Because we will see once again that the journalism organizations don’t do research, don’t know what the heck they’re doing online, and don’t understand how people function in this milieu. Or medium. Call it what you like.

People will contribute to a community if they feel it’s worth their time. Now here’s where things get tricky. Some people get mad or defensive when you point out that pontification, punditry, and politics are only a tiny part of the reason people communicate through blogs. Similarly, a lot of people have emotional reactions to the fact that contributions are made to online communities like Wikipedia, Craigslist, Flickr, or yes, Digg, for reasons other than pure monetary value.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money; that’s just not why most people use communication tools.

Via the blog Journalism Hope.

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3 Comments so far
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So are you saying that hyper local or citizen journalism will not work? Or are you saying that the current media establishment will fail because they don’t get it yet?

Comment by David Newberger

Good question, David. I’m saying that for a hyperlocal news/community site to succeed, it must attract the right people. Depending on the savvy (or lack thereof) of the people setting up the site, the right people will be attracted — or repelled. Or may never even know the site exists.

This idea of rewards is important. If you want a local person to act like an editor, and go out and drum up support in his or her community, then maybe you do need to pay that person with real money. But in many cases, people will put in a lot of time and effort (look at Wikipedia) just because they care.

If you treat them with disdain — as so many newspapers treat their subscribers and readers — those people won’t do squat for you.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

I think motivation is key here. People can sense if you are doing something just to move product, or if you really care about the community. Lex Alexander and the folks at the Greensboro News & Record have been doing this for a long time, and they are just now starting to pay some people with real money. But the key is that they have been serious about engaging their readers.

Comment by Murley

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