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Monday, October 30, 2006

Blogs Are Reviving Entrepreneurial Journalism, So Where are the News Tycoons of the Right?

Excellent interview today in the Online Journalism Review with Debbie Galant, the former reporter for The New York Times who is the chief force behind Barista of Bloomfield Avenue, one of the more successful illustrations of how blogs can be platforms for what is often called "hyperlocal journalism."

Galant has gone from a one-woman operation two years ago to now having a couple of paid staffers, as well as a growing readership, regular advertisers and an increasing need for band-width. During the OJR interview, she provides a bunch of interesting insights into how to build a mere blog into a genuine news site.

Along the way, I think Galant points to one of the key aspects of the Blogosphere as it develops New Media forms and processes. Essentially, the blog encourages a revival of an independent, entrepreneurial form of journalism to rival the dominant corporate model of the old media.

And that raises a question of particular relevance to the Right side of the Blogosphere: Where are the news tycoons of the Right who recognize that "hyperlocal" can mean covering a neighborhood, or it can just as easily mean covering Congress, the White House, the political scene, or carefully defined parts thereof?

That the independence is especially evident on the editorial side comes as no surprise to veteran bloggers. Even so, it's interesting to see a former MSMer like Galant so positively acknowledge the independence in the OJR interview:

"I'd say I'm also much more courageous now. I remember one of the first posts I wrote was about a fundraiser in 2004 for Kerry in the backyard of some very wealthy liberal. I wrote a teasing post and I remember really struggling over it, afraid people would be mad at me.

"And they were but that's the kind of thing I can do now in an instant. I'm much more likely to just press the button and be decisive and not worry about who's going to like this and who isn't going to like this."

The entrepreneurial spirit is seen in the recognition that it's not enough just to be able to write well and stir up controversy. To grow a viable economic tool, Galant notes, the people with a blog-based publication have to learn some business skills as well:

"It was like claiming the territory of being almost like a newspaper single-handedly. It's not very glamorous from the viewpoint of new media as a business and nobody talks about that. But it's absolutely important for Liz and I to rationalize it as a business and to make it work as an organism, so that we have procedures, we are allowed to have vacations and go out of town.

"So that when somebody has agreed to be an advertiser, somebody is making sure that the bill is sent, and the money is collected and all those things. Writing is natural since that's what we have done professionally, but it's a whole different set of skills that has to be learned to run a business."

Now, here's question I want to pose for those on the Right side of the Blogosphere: Why aren't more of us moving to develop economically viable blog-based news sites? Yes, some of our blogs are generating sufficient advertising income to become attractive economic propositions, but the editorial model remains essentially opinion-based. And there are efforts among us - notably Wizbang, Powerline and a few others - to incorporate news functions into established opinion blogs.

But why is nobody on the Right side of the Blogosphere building news-focused blogs? We've complained for decades about how the Left-dominated MSM slants the news, but now we have the ideal tool for creating and growing a whole new crop of news sites to replace the MSM, yet how many such sites are there?

Robert Cox, president and founder of the Media Bloggers Association, published an oped in The Washington Examiner earlier this month that comes at these issues from a related perspective. I strongly encourage you to read the Cox piece and the OJR interview, then come back here and let the rest of us know your thoughts via the comments.

UPDATE: Latest daily circ figures show more declines

Only the moderately populist/conservative New York Post shows significant circulation gains, while rest of the nation's top dozen dailies continue to lose readers. Go here for Editor & Publisher's story.