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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Media: blogs and instinct

It is not enough to say the pumpkin is big. You have to weigh it to know how many pies you can bake from it.

The business of blogging, in Geneva

I start teaching a course on media research today. It took me a while to work out what the course is about. As a journalist, I think of research as something I do to get the information I need to prepare articles. This course covers the research that business people in the media need to do to keep their businesses going. I suddenly realized that as a weblog writer who wants to start a newspaper, I need this course. Good thing I get to teach it.

Where the web was born and blogging has a future

And yesterday I signed up to attend Lift06, a conference in Geneva (where the web was born, by the way) for bloggers, in early February. Since blogging, at least for me, lets me write in peace, I wouldn't normally be tempted out into the winter cold to meet other people who do the same. This is different: the program offers a lot about the present and future of blogging and some of the business aspects of it, like privacy and the law, and using new technologies in creative ways.

Measuring how to turn a blog into a newspaper

The class and the conference come together for me because I am working with other journalists to set up an online newspaper. At our first meeting it was clear the three journalists had three different approaches to what it should be, based on our individual knowledge of potential readership. Like most journalists, we are each sure we are well informed and therefore right.

Lesson one in my course is why we do research, and the starting point is very simple: when you want to create a new media outlet and you have three opinions about why, and who will read it, you need to move from opinion to research. Who are those people out there and what do they say they want to read? How and how often?

Will blogs still be fun if we measure our readers?

Blogs are great fun because we can follow our instincts, and learn from them. I think someone will want to read about celery and I think more people will want to read about chocolate. My instinct is right: when I wrote about celery one person loved it. A very small fan club. When I wrote about chocolate, a lot of mysterious bloggers suddenly visited my site. Bigger fan club. But if I want to know if I should write about chocolate every day I should do a survey.

Sadly, I don't think I can keep a chocolate lovers' newspaper alive, so we'll be asking what else people want to read about.


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