I point to TechCrunch all the time — both in this blog and in my public presentations — as an example of a journalistic blog.
It is a blog that breaks news, real news, important news. It is also a blog that is full of opinion. It is also a blog that is winning in the marketplace of readers and revenue.
TechCrunch represents both the present and the future of online journalism, of a reinvented journalism.
Today, Erick Schonfeld, a respected and serious journalist who joined TechCrunch six months ago after his previous employer, the magazine Business 2.0, went out of business, blogs about blogging for TechCrunch.
Working at TechCrunch is a completely different experience. For one thing, I no longer write long-form, narrative journalism. There is not much time for story-telling (except for weekend posts like this one). It is mostly breaking news, reporting facts and providing analysis. At TechCrunch, I am completely focused on blogging, 24/7. With a few exceptions, no single post is very difficult to write (unlike an in-depth magazine article that can require 50 interviews and weeks of travel, for instance). But taken as a whole, blogging is actually harder. That is because the blogging never stops. Just ask my wife and kids, who now mock me by repeating back my new mantra: “I’m almost done, just one more post.”
TechCrunch succeeds because its bloggers do very good journalism — gathering lots of stories, getting them online quickly (if not first), and because its bloggers know what the hell they’re talking about, their commentary is respected.
There is always something else to write about, and not enough time to cover it. But we live or die by how fast we can post after a story breaks, if we can’t break it ourselves. We hardly have time to proofread our posts, as anyone who’s come across one of the frequent typos in TechCrunch knows. Luckily, our readers love to point out our mistakes in comments. They are our copy editors and fact checkers. (We love you guys). Our philosophy is that it is better to get 70 percent of a story up fast and get the basic facts right than to wait another hour (or a day) to get the remaining 30 percent. We can always update the post or do another one as new information comes in. More often than not, putting up partial information is what leads us to the truth—a source contacts us with more details or adds them directly into comments.
Every traditional journalist who reads this post just cringed. I expect angry comments. But this is why traditional journalism is failing — declining readership, declining revenue, declining trust — and blogs are succeeding.
Here’s something from Mindy McAdams:
What some newsrooms (e.g., The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) have done is turn the workflow around — in a way that makes sense when the number of subscribers to the print product is decreasing and the number of online visitors is increasing: Make “Web first” the rule, in all cases. Produce for online, write for online, shoot for online, design for online.
If you’re going to produce for online first, start by thinking and acting like a blogger. If you don’t know how to do that, start following TechCrunch. You’ll learn.