Improving Boston.com: Suggestion #4 – Execute a Real Blogging Strategy


The Boston.com homepage features topic tabs running along the top of the page that contain shortcuts to Business, Sports, and Jobs. What it doesn’t have is a shortcut to the Globe’s own staff produced blogs. Keep in mind this is Boston DOT COM. The Boston Globe’s online property and yet its own blogs are mysteriously missing from the main navigation tab – and from most of the content on the homepage.

boston1In fact, as you’ll see, Boston.com’s own blogs are difficult to find. If a reader scrolls down and down, wading through the clutter of the three-column layout, on the far right hand column they reach a section called “New England Blogs.” Ah, victory!

But not quite: this is a listing for other blogs in New England. Technically it’s Boston.com’s blogroll. When you click on the link it brings you to a splash page of categories and links to regional blogs (amazingly, it fails to include Dan Kennedy’s Media Nation blog in the politics and media section – a glaring oversight).

If you return to the homepage – a reader needs to continue to the very bottom of the page and another navigation bar (this one with photographs). There, on the far right, is a small list of links with one called blogs. Is it any wonder that the blogs are inconsistently read? Who can find them?

But it gets worse. The blogs themselves are incompatible, and vary in quality and in philosophy. Take the sports blogs as an example (and these are the most read if you take into consideration comments as an indicator of readers).

The best sports blog on Boston.com is written by Tony Massarotti. His blog, Mazz, is informative and provocative. He has his photograph front and center (with a tagline on what he’s thinking. When I explored the page it was “doesn’t understand the fascination with Kate Winslet”).

Tony engages – pulling out his reader’s comments into its own section of highlights (thereby encouraging participation). That’s why one of his posts has 394 comments. He has a fun feature on the best trades in Red Sox history, which also a great way to engage with readers. And above all, Tony updates regularly with more than a dozen posts in January already (sometimes twice in one day).

Overall, his is the gold standard of blogging at Boston.com.

But then there is Bob Ryan’s blog. No comments allowed. It features a scratchy reproduction of his column drawing, rather than an updated photograph. And there is only a feeble attempt to add photos, videos or any dynamic content. There’s a feeling that it has been abandoned. And maybe it has: Ryan has written three posts in 2009.

Why would anyone come here?

Blogging should be one of the primary activities at Boston.com. It should be the thriving heart of the site. Yet, the blogging philosophy seems to be directed by the individual bloggers – rather than by Boston.com. They also seem to require that “staff” reporters and editors write the blogs. Aren’t they busy writing, reporting, editing and producing the news content (maybe Bob Ryan doesn’t want to blog and is being forced to. Who know?). Shouldn’t Boston.com hire bloggers? Bloggers are different from news writers and blogging is different than producing news copy. Newspapers still haven’t figured that out yet.

Boston.com needs to overhaulits blogging policy, but here are a few quick ways to immediately improve the blogs:
• Bloggers should post 3-4 times a week
• Comments should be allowed on all the blogs
• Let the bloggers customize the look and feel of the blog
• Blog posts should be connected to actual news stories whenever possible — and other blogs
• Add widgets and features for: most popular posts, most email posts, etc.
• Bloggers should respond to commenters. It should be an active conversation (more on this later)
• Link the blogs to other social media being used by the bloggers (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, personal web page, links to books, etc.)
• Use more images and dynamic content (video, photos, and audio)
• Use polls

Next up: Engaging with readers – really.

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