Friday, February 16, 2007

No love lost

My post is a little late for Valentine's Day. But a pissing match between the British papers Guardian and Telegraph caught my eye. The fight is about when is a blog not really a blog. I saw it mentioned on Sacred Facts and followed the links to see what the fuss was all about.

The Telegraph says the Guardian's site (new from 2006), called Comment is free, is NOT A BLOG, dammit!

The Guardian, in the voice of its Web leader Neil McIntosh writing on his personal Web site Complete Tosh, suggests that CiF is too a blog, a group blog. Whatever you wanna call it, it is much better than the dead blogs over at the Telegraph, maintains the Guardian. (A dead blog is one in which the blogger isn't contributing much, and neither are commentators. How many of THOSE have you seen out there on the Web.)

Aside from enjoying them go at each other, I think the Guardian has an idea that would be useful for any newspaper to consider. I like a site that is a "place" for readers to weigh in on lots of stuff, including issues they choose to initiate, not just one blogger's perspective. It has a "marketplace of ideas" feel to it.

Here is how CiF describes itself:

It is a collective group blog, bringing together regular columnists from the Guardian and Observer newspapers with other writers and commentators representing a wide range of experience and interests. The aim is to host an open-ended space for debate, dispute, argument and agreement and to invite users to comment on everything they read.

Here is Neil McIntosh, head of Guardian Unlimited (the Guardian's Web site) describing how they got to this working model:

The key difference was we took the focus off individuals and redistributed attention between authors, commenters, and the aggregate discussion. Breaking views and strong user debate are the key influences on CiF's front page, not the article of faith that is the newest-post-first traditional blog form. We think it improves the user experience.

It was a format based on years of blog experimentation, and frustration, at Guardian Unlimited. In particular, the massively group nature of the blog was deliberate; we built in acceptance of the reality that many interesting people simply don't have time to contribute very regularly. It's a reality the Telegraph and pretty much every other blogging newspaper continues to ignore.

Other features of the site: a political cartoon, a photo-blog by a Guardian photog, and an editors' blog, where Guardian editors talk about that day's newspaper and putting it together.

You can search A-Z through CiF's contributor list and through CiF's subject matter. And you can even see number of posts per subject matter item.

This is an upgrade to the traditional blogging site because it expands who gets to talk. Makes me think of Bruno Guissani's argument that news Web sites need to become places people go to discuss and debate. I think it makes the single-speaker blog site look primitive, or more kindly, like a columnist with limited feedback opportunity.

It could allow the site to invite high-profile bloggers for limited commentary.

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