At Web sites run by traditional media companies, one of the most striking developments in the past couple of years is their wholesale embrace of blogging
. The Houston Chronicle, for instance, now has 64 different blogs
. Some of them are quite good -- as are some blogs at many papers.
But I also see quite a few blogs on traditional media sites that aren't so good -- they're updated too infrequently, or the writers don't really understand how to write for a blog and what makes a blog different from a column. A very common problem is blogs that don't link out enough to other sites, especially to other blogs. Building links across the Internet is, I believe, the core function of blogs
. Without links, you have an online journal -- not a blog.
This term at Medill, I am in the process of reinventing our introductory new media journalism course -- and I've made topical blogging the key ongoing assignment for the students. They have to choose a topic and publish at least five posts per week over a 10-week period. In the process of discussing this, I discovered that while my students all read blogs, they don't necessarily have models for how to do it well. I concluded that I ought to try to categorize and describe different kinds of posts that can be effective on journalistic blogs.
I read a number of academic journal articles about blogs and learned a couple of things. First, that about 7 in 10 blogs really are just personal journals, intended for small audiences (friends and family). I also came across a term I kind of like: the "filter blog
." These are the kinds of blogs that are particularly appropriate for journalists to produce: they are a guide to relevant information on a particular topic (filtering the flow of information and linking to the best stuff).
I also shared with my students Howard Owens' great post, "Twelve things journalists can do to save journalism
." I particularly liked his first item:
Become a blogger. By this, I don’t necessarily mean "start a blog," but that is never a bad idea. More importantly, become an avid blog reader. Blogs should be a daily routine for every dedicated journalist. They should read every blog related to their beats. They should read blogs about their own interests and hobbies. They should read blogs about their profession. To get blogging is to get how things have changed.
So, here's my first effort at categorizing and describing different types of blog posts for my students. Am I missing any important ones?The news referral:
This kind of post is probably the most common type among "filter"-type blogs. In creating these posts, a blogger links to news that's been reported elsewhere. The blogger's primary role is to aggregate interesting information from elsewhere on the Web for his or her users. Often the blogger adds comments or interpretation. Examples: Romenesko
(a master at concise posts, effective use of links and headline writing) and Ars Technica
.The news report
: This kind of post contains originally reported news. It might be coverage of a speech, or a summary of a report that was recently released by a government agency, organization or advocacy group. It's the most journalistic of blog post types, but few blogs have the staff or time needed to do much original reporting. Examples: TechCrunch.com
The word "blockquote" actually comes from the HTML tag of the same name. An HTML blockquote is an indented paragraph. It is the commonly accepted way, on a blog, to mark off a section of what someone else has written. Examples: Buzzmachine.com
) and BoingBoing.net
This kind of post is typically fairly long and lays out an evidence-based argument, usually with many links. Examples: PressThink
) and Rough Type
). The best of these posts often are followed by a long string of comments and discussion, which Rosen calls "After Matter
."The list post
: Perhaps inspired by David Letterman or magazine covers (5 Steps to a Flatter Stomach), this kind of post assembles information into a list, which can be numbered or bulleted. Examples: Northxeast.com
) and InfoTangle
(this post is also an essay; it includes three separate lists).The speedlink (or link list)
: The blogger lists multiple links worth reading, usually with some kind of summary of the content. Examples: Contentious.com
) and ProBlogger.net
: This type of blog post will work only if a blog has regular visitors who are comfortable commenting on the blog. As Collis Ta'eed puts it
, "By posing an on-topic, interesting and conversation generating question you let the comments be the source of interest, not your post." Example: Huckleberries Online
( Dave Oliveria
). The embed
: Here the blogger embeds a video, photo or cartoon, often with little additional comment. Typically these are amusing, though they don't have to be. These kinds of posts have become much more popular since YouTube popularized video embedding. Examples: TMZ.com
: In this type of post, the blogger is typically telling people about a new development in his or her life, or something new about the blog or site itself. Example: PaidContent.org
: This kind of post provides instructions for accomplishing some kind of goal or task. Examples: LifeHacker
and Virtual Marketing Blog
(this one is also a list post
: This post summarizes (or provides a transcript of) what an interesting person has to say. Examples: Moconews.net
and Guy Kawasaki's blog
: A common format that can be very helpful to a blog's readers. Examples: ResearchQuest
) and Read/Write Web
.Sources I consulted about different types of blogs and blog posts
Brad Rourke, "A Taxonomy of Blogs
Robin Hamman, 3 types of blog: closed, conduit and participant in the conversation
iLibrarian, 18 different kinds of blog posts
Collis Ta'eed , The 9 essential posts that every blogger should know
By Rich Gordon (firstname.lastname@example.org
Rich Gordon is Associate Professor and Director of Digital Technology in Education at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.