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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning


"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

Times Union Blogs

Good Idea, Poor execution: So far, the month-old Times Union experiment with blogs has - how should I put this - been a disappointment lacked energy not lived up to its potential. I don't have any knowledge of how many hits the blogs are getting, but I can't imagine they are getting very many. Here's why:

1) The blogs have zero personality: This is the TU's fault. The writer's seem to have no power to spruce up their blog's physical appearance. All of the blogs are bulit from the same basic template, and it's not a very good one at that. You feel like you're "stuck" inside the TU website. Every blog looks exactly the same, right down to the font, which also doesn't seem to be alterable - no one uses blockquotes for instance, even when quoting a TU article. That's not blogging. And while all writers hate to admit it, presentation counts when you are trying to build readership.

THE FIX: Allow the bloggers to modify their sites and get some individuality going. Train them in some basic web development if necessary.

2a) The blogs have tended toward journal-blogging: By and large, the kids writing the high school sports blogs are decent writers. I've been mildly impressed. But almost all of them have taken the route of writing basic diaries of their experiences, from a very closed perspective - we hear about what they did, how they felt, and so on, but we don't get a sense of the teams they play for at all . That's fine, but as I pointed out a while back, it's really hard to do that in a compelling manner. Outside readers (like me) have trouble caring if they don't know the team personally.

2b)The blogs lack focus: This follows from the above criticism. Many of the blogs often stray from their intended material. Sometimes they talk about their sports team, but sometimes they talk about whatever they feel like.

THE FIX: The TU should encourage the bloggers to find an interesting "angle" for their blog, and they should encourage them to stick to it.

3) The blogs are being strangely promoted : The TU is pushing the blogs, for sure. If you go on the website or open the sports section of the print edition, you'll see little advertisements directing you toward the blogs. But that's not good enough. If I were the TU, I'd challenge the bloogers to come up with quality pieces surrounding TU-suggested topics, and then print the best one's in the regular section of the paper, both online and in print. Right now, the blogs are being treated as a separate kiddie-pool to the real paper. Getting some integration would both enhance the readership and compel the bloggers to write better material. I mean, if the point of the blogs is to get a viewpoint that doesn't exist in the regualr paper, then it only makes sense that said viewpoint should occasionaly appear in the regualr paper, no?

THE FIX: The TU should notify the bloggers that quality and timely pieces of writing may be picked up for the regular paper. And then they should follow through.

The Times Union took a pretty bold step in heading toward blogs. But they seem hesitant to take the steps that would really make their blog experiment a part of the newspaper. Obviously, this is a first run for them. Hopefully, they will head in the direction of better, more integrated blogs.
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