Blinq, Don't Blinq
"We need local papers to help us connect with each other in our hometowns. And nothing says "connecting" like online." Bennett Zucker
The Philadelphia Inquirer's most excellent blog, Blinq is yet another casualty of the paper's new management strategy ... whatever that is. At least blogmeister extraordinaire Dan Rubin has been reassigned to a write a real live column in the real live paper.
But Blinq's online fans--including moi--are dazed and confused at this abrupt wrinkle. It seems so ... well ... counterintuitive.
Like most local papers around the country the Inquirer's subscriber and readership base has been shrinking as more and more folks turn to the Internet for news, information and entertainment. Layoffs abound on the ground as the paper strives to cut costs.
For almost two years the Blinq blog has steadily grown an audience, a fan base, a viral community online. Dan's told us about the 3/4 million page views, I'd like to know about the clickthroughs.
Advertising-wise, IMHO, Blinq could and should be generating ad revenues. It's become an unqualified success in the online venue. And it's local as hell. Which is seriously Philly. Seriously.
So why pull the plug now?
My guess is management thinks if Dan can do that in the blogosphere, as a local columnist he can bring readers over to the actual paper. A legitimate tribute to Dan's drawing power. But shortsighted in the long run.
Market research is proving more and more that local papers' online sites are thriving. Because the concept of 'local connectivity' is hot.
At the Newspaper Association of America's marketing conference in Las Vegas last month, the buzz was all about online and local. Media Marketing guru Bennett Zucker, quoted above, also has this to say:
Newspaper companies must learn to use more wisely the trust their readers still have in them, their brands and their values. They need to rebuild relationships torn away from them by online opportunists. They'll do this by showing the true value of the communities they already have built where people want to communicate among themselves about common concerns. News publishers, it's time to stop whining and start winning.Attention, Bill Marimow, et al are you listening?
Here's what else you should do: put together a blog ring (a la the Huffington Post) featuring the paper's columnists (including the emeritus group) and guest columns from the paper's editors and reporters ... and soliciting contributor columns from local politics, government, schools, sports, religions, arts, entertainment, neighborhoods and community groups.
The core content comes from the Inquirer staffers. The rest is free. It's called user generated content. And it's the most viral, cross-media way to a robust bottom line.
Otherwise, the Inquirer could be gone in a Blinq.