I have a very simple suggestion for mainstream media types who feel in any way threatened by bloggers: whenever you hear the word “blogger,” think: “reader.”
After all, bloggers who aren’t discussing your newspaper are irrelevant to you. And bloggers who are discussing your newspaper are simply part of your readership.
In other words, they’re your customers. And, while the customer may not always be right, the customer deserves to have his complaints heard.
The main difference between your readers who are bloggers and your other readers is that your blogging readers have a voice — one that you can’t entirely control. On an individual level, each voice is ridiculously small; for 99% of bloggers (including me), it can’t even arguably begin to compare to the power of the newspaper’s voice. Still, it’s more than we had before.
While the voices of the bloggers may tend to be more critical, they are also more engaged. For them, reading the newspaper and thinking about news are important pursuits. These are the people you should be listening to.
Once you realize that bloggers are your readers, it may help you be less dismissive of bloggers’ opinions.
Let’s play a game: pick a recent quote from a mainstream media representative that is dismissive of bloggers. (There are plenty out there, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one.) Take my suggestion and substitute the word “reader” for “blogger” and see how the quote sounds.
I’ll start by altering a recent quote from David Shaw of the L.A. Times. I am changing one word, substituting “readers” for “bloggers”:
But some readers are just self-important ranters who seem to wake up every morning convinced that the entire Free World awaits their opinions on any subject that’s popped into their heads . . .
Doesn’t that sound just a little bit jarring? Shaw probably would not have made this statement about readers. But why not? The altered quote is certainly a true statement — just as Shaw’s actual statement about bloggers was true. But either quote is also wildly unrepresentative of the group as a whole.
Print journalists: think of bloggers as your readers — because they are. They were your readers, with these same opinions, before they had blogs. Now they have a way to voice those opinions. If you’re really interested in your readers’ opinions, you should be listening.
P.S. My point has extra validity when you take into account blog commenters. For example, this is one blog, and I am one newspaper reader. But hundreds have stopped by to comment here about the Los Angeles Times. All of these people, at one time, have been readers of that newspaper (though many have cancelled their subscriptions). If David Shaw dismisses bloggers as self-important because we maintain online journals and publish our opinions every day, it is harder for him to so easily dismiss the opinions of our commenters.
As much as it pains me to say it, L.A. Times reporters and editors visiting this blog would actually do well to spend less time reading my posts, and more time cruising through my comments, listening to what their readers (and former readers!) have to say. They might learn something.
UPDATE: In the spirit of that last comment, I hope readers of the Los Angeles Times will register their opinions about the paper in the comments to this post. Bloggers, feel free to blog your reactions and send me the link — I will link your posts in that same post.
UPDATE x2: Welcome to Instapundit readers!