Seattle PI Heralds the Dawn of the Blogpaper

Not quite a newspaper, not quite a blog

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One year ago, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer moved from 146 years of print to become an online-only publication. James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times assesses the newspaper's transition, and finds some hope for old-media institutions to weather the online storm. While the PI is not yet profitable, the paper has succeeded in maintaining its Web traffic since the print edition folded.

Yet this success comes in spite of the fact that, according to Rainey, the PI's content has suffered. In his telling, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's one-year anniversary gives a cautionary tale for newspapers: the transition to the Internet entails a migration from traditional reporting to the amalgamated mash-up of blogs. What else does the Post-Intelligencer's evolution show?
  • Online, Newspapers Are Less Focused, More Lowbrow   Rainey points ambivalently to the incorporation of blogs into the paper. He says of its transformation, "The new PI can't afford to be comprehensive. It doesn't really try to be authoritative. It no longer offers routine coverage of county government, for example, but highlights felines in the cutesy LOLcats feature and misses no turn in the saga of Amanda Knox, the University of Washington student tried for murder in Italy."
The most novel part of the operation is its incorporation of citizen journalism... They teach the amateurs how to choose a topic, write a headline, "optimize" a blog post for Internet search. The community bloggers produce useful items -- like school curriculum debates and local crime trends. They also offer plenty that is leaden or narrow -- a bride's musings on her wedding or a homeowner's ponderous diary on a visit by a film crew."
  • While Blogs Are Becoming More Like Newspapers  Gawker's Ravi Somaiya argues that the increased competition between blogs is in fact forcing bloggers to adopt the techniques of newspapers. The role of bloggers is no longer "quickly repackaging content and adding a penis joke," writes Somaiya, but also to "write tight, concise headlines, choose decent pictures or art, and provide readers with more evidence of journalism (pics, or documents, or it didn't happen).... Opinion pieces and rants cannot rely on raw snark — the ones that get read will hold together, under immediate comment scrutiny, like a traditional op-ed." The reason behind this, Somaiya concludes, is the pressure to be faster and clearer than anyone else: "Because more people now pluck most of their news from their social networks, blog time is measured in minutes not hours — you're either first or definitive or funniest or most provocative or someone else will have the link that gets tweeted and posted on walls. If you are first (and it doesn't have to be Watergate) a vague headline will not work as it once might have. Because whimsy does not retweet well."
  • So What's the Difference? David Burn of Adpulp explains why the distinction between newspapers and blogs shouldn't matter:
There are blogs and then there are blogs. It seems to me some of the bigger blogs have transcended the very term "blog". I don't know what they ought to be called, but they more closely resemble mainstream media properties than they do a Blogger site on picking wild mushrooms. Then there's the fact that many topics don't appear in newspapers at all. Neighborhood news isn't in the paper (the papers can't afford the coverage) and ad industry news isn't in the paper (because there's very little hard news to cover).
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.