Journalists should pay attention to successful blogs to understand web journalism

Michael Arrington started TechCrunch in June, 2005. It’s now the second most popular blog in the world. According to, it is read by at least 900,ooo people per month, but that wouldn’t include the reported 500,000 RSS feed subscribers.

As TechCrunch has risen, Business 2.0 has gone out of business, while CNet and Ziff-Davis have hit financial hard times.

Arrington, when asked about blogs taking page views away from traditional news media, had this to say on Charlie Rose the other night:

It’s a very raw, very quick form of journalism. It’s not editing, it’s not balanced, it’s opinionated. A lot of people really want that.

I read TechCrunch everyday. The blog, now a group blog, breaks a lot of tech news. But every news worthy item contains what some might call opinion. I call it informed insight. Arrington and his team know what the hell they’re talking about and I value and trust their point of view.

TechCrunch has become popular because it is credible. It’s credible to its readers because over time they’ve learned that TechCrunch gets right more than it gets wrong, and it’s never proven itself untruthful, and when they’ve made mistakes, they’ve corrected them quickly. TechCrunch readers don’t look for fair and balanced. They look for relevance and understanding.

Before TechCrunch became a go-to blog for tech news, it had no brand. Arrington, who was pretty much an unknown outside of small circle of Silicon Valley insiders before starting the blog, made it credible; he made it a brand.

The next time some journalist talks about how important their newspaper brand is, think about TechCrunch, which demonstrates that brand isn’t about what you’ve done over the past 100 years — it’s about what you’re doing today.

While talking about journalism and blogging, I need to quote this Romenesko post, because it’s lingered in my mind for several days:

Many bloggers see Josh Marshall‘s Polk Award as vindication of their enterprise, writes Noam Cohen — “that anyone can assume the mantle of reporting on the pressing issues affecting the nation and the world, with the imprimatur of a mainstream media outlet or not.” Marshall says of bloggers: “I think of us as journalists; the medium we work in is blogging. We have kind of broken free of the model of discrete articles that have a beginning and end. Instead, there are an ongoing series of dispatches.”

Many times I’ve written about the need for journalists to blog because I think journalists need to get away from — at least online — from just repurposing what they do in print into the new kind of web journalism.

Web journalism is more raw, more conversational and makes immediacy and relevance more important than crafting the perfect, complete package.

Previously: Video can’t win on production quality alone (because of Chris Anderson’s quote about relevance vs. quality).

4 thoughts on “Journalists should pay attention to successful blogs to understand web journalism

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more Howard. A couple of years ago, Arrington was on ONA Conference’s superpanel. He went off on how he is doing real journalism and it stirred up a lot of ill feelings in the room. On that day, I was a little uncomfortable with all the tension in the room, but I look back at that moment as a time when it should have clicked for a lot of people who attended. Blogs matter. Engage them or die. I like what you say about Arrington making Techcrunch a brand. This is where I think reporters and news orgs can really capitalize, almost running their own mini-news outlets. Focus on a particular beat, then run the news desk for it through a blog. Nice post Howard.

  2. I think TechCrunch is popular more because it’s a soap opera and Arrington is a drama queen. It’s like following Paris Hilton news. It’s gossip punctuated by occasional Arrington meltdowns and nervous breakdowns.

    That gets traffic and can make money, but is that the route that newspapers want to go?

  3. This essay is dead on. Web content provision, not just through blogs, should be written, videographed and taped (ah, that old word) in style that fits the medium and the audience demands. All media platforms take different approaches — the common denominator should be audience demand.

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