This post sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
At most news organizations, sports and entertainment blogs rule the roost, but at The Sacramento Bee, Jon Ortiz has been able to take a blog about state workers and their issues to the top.
After spending several months at the top, Orti’z beatblog The State Worker, is currently the third most popular blog at the Bee. With football season ramping back up, the Bee’s 49ers blog rose to number one. The Bee’s crime blog rose to number two on the strength of a permanent link from Yahoo!
It’s impressive and rare to see a serious blog like The State Worker consistently one of the top blogs at a major metro newspaper in terms of page views and unique visitors. Ortiz said the 16-month-old blog has resonated with users because engaging users has become a cornerstone of how Ortiz approaches his job.
Many journalists have started blogging, with varying degrees of success. Many of these journalists are approaching blogging like writing newspaper stories. Ortiz said this approach won’t yield much success.
“I think there is a whole generation of journalists struggling with that,” he said. “They want blogs to be moment-to-moment versions of print, and they’re just not.”
Other journalists have taken to adding opinions to their blog posts and writing in a more informal style. But that’s not the key to being a good blogger either. Good blogging is about building community, and engaging users is one of the best ways to do that.
Ortiz said any good blogger has to make himself read his users comments. In the comments, bloggers can find tips, corrections, story ideas and more, all of which can make a journalists job much easier. Ortiz has a regular feature dubbed “blog backs,” where he takes corrections, suggestions and criticims from users and posts them.
“You just really get into the mind of your most arudent users,” Ortiz said about reading comments. “The percentage of commenters to users is less than one percent. Commenters are probably your most passionate users — often the most knowledgeable.”
Ortiz said reading and responding to commenters is a great way to tap into the expertise of your most knowledgeable readers. These most knowledgeable users are the ones who can become future sources for stories and are the people who are pushing bloggers to become better. Ortiz also finds future sources through e-mail and said that responding to user e-mail is an important way to build a blog.
Ortiz has found that people who e-mail him, rather than post comments on his blog, are more likely to use their real names and be willing to go on the record for stories and blog posts (Ortiz writes for both print and the Web). If Ortiz ignored e-mails, he would have lost out on a lot of valuable, on the record sources.
But Ortiz takes e-mails a step further. He often gets thoughtful comments and stories of how new government policies are affecting state workers from users that he shares with his readers. Ortiz said these blog posts that originate as e-mails from users are some of his most popular posts.
Originally Ortiz would ask users if he could use their e-mails on his blog, but now many people e-mail him asking if he’ll consider posting their e-mails. Many of these e-mails share personal stories that help add a lot of color to Ortiz’s blog. This blog post, for instance, contains two e-mails from state workers discussing how furloughs have impacted their lives and abilities to pay their bills.
Users are now even CCing Ortiz on e-mails they send to politicians and government offices. Not only do these e-mails tell stories that Ortiz may not have been able to get otherwise, but they also provide a lot of traffic to his blog without a lot of work. All Ortiz had to do was engage his users, and they began responding back.
Between Ortiz’s beatblog, column and print stories, he reaches quite a few state workers in California. He estimates his beatblog alone reaches a third of state workers. With all those knowledgeable readers, Ortiz would be a fool to ignore their expertise.
“It’s me and nearly half of a million of them,” he said. “I would be a fool to think that I could ever surpass the knowledge of that collective audience. It’s just not going to happen. I can either embrace that realization and try to leverage my points of contact or I can just try to continue telling people what they generally already know, that’s not very helpful.”
If Ortiz’s users are so knowledgeable, why do they even need him or his blog? Because The State Worker has such a big reach with state workers, Ortiz can get the governor and government to answer questions, whereas most of Ortiz’s readers can’t. And because Ortiz gets those answers, he has built a very loyal following.
When Ortiz pitched the idea for this blog to editors, he said he wanted to change how the Bee covered state workers. Instead of just writing down what the governor said at a press conference or doing a write up of a new law or policy, Ortiz would report on new laws, for instance, while also sharing the stories of how these laws and polices affect state workers. The only way to really do that well was to actively engage with state workers, and that’s what Ortiz has done.
Jon Ortiz’s The State Worker blog is proving that serious news can get serious pageviews.
It’s not sports, nor gossip, nor opinion garnering the most pageviews at The Sacramento Bee, but the rather it’s Ortiz’s excellent beatblog on state workers in California. Ortiz picked the perfect time to start the blog — right as the budget impasse in California was beginning a year ago — and has provided incredible coverage ever since. The budget still isn’t fixed in California, workers have faced furloughs, IOUs are being issued instead of payment and, in general, the state is in upheveal.
Ortiz picked the perfect time to provide his unique brand of dogged coverage and community building and engagement. His blog is a great source for original news, curation and a strong community of state workers. Ortiz estimates that the blog is reaching one-third to half of all state workers in California.
Ortiz is showing that people are interested in serious news on the Web, especially if it A) impacts their lives, B) is timely and C) provides a great community.
Below you’ll find the top five blogs at the SacBee. Each had at least 250,000 pageviews last month, with The State Worker more than doubling that:
- The State Worker
- Sacto 9-1-1 (has a link on Yahoo! news)
- The Frame (a photo blog that The Bee is aggressively marketing)
- Capitol Alert (The State Worker’s sister political insider blog)
- 49ers Blog Q&A
Also keep in mind that The State Worker is a little more than a year old. It didn’t take long for this blog to really take off.
We’re sad to see another outstanding beatblogger leaving the industry.
It’s been a rough for years for journalism, and many of the top beatbloggers we have been following have left the industry. People like Kent Fischer and Ed Silverman helped pioneer the practice of beatblogging, but now they have moved on to new, non-journalism careers. Our first leaderboard member this week, Dave Levinthal, was inspired by Kent Fischer and modeled his beatblog after his.
But Levinthal like his inspiration has left journalism.
Dave Levinthal | The Dallas Morning News
- Another great beatblogger, political reporter Dave Levinthal, is leaving newspapers. Thankfully Levinthal will remain in a role as a government watchdog. He is moving on to OpenSecrets.Org as their new communications director.
- From the press release of Levinthal’s hiring, “Through its award-winning, publicly accessible Web site, www.OpenSecrets.org, CRP examines the influence of money on elections and public policy, especially in the U.S. Congress. Levinthal will oversee the center’s original journalism and blogging, and serve as its spokesman to the news media and other organizations that rely on CRP’s research and analysis.”
- I can’t think of anyone else that I would want overseeing online journalism and blogging at a politically-oriented organization than Levinthal. He is one of the best modern political reporters. He combines strong journalism skills with new media skills and should fit in well at OpenSecrets.Org. We’ll have more later this week on Levinthal’s new gig.
- Our previous content on Levinthal: 1) Podcast: Levinthal on starting a beat blog to meet users’ needs, 2) Levinthal shows how link journalism is done, 3) Levinthal makes leaderboard for his innovative coverage of a local election and 4) Levinthal made the leaderboard for hoisting comments.
Jon Ortiz | Sacramento Bee
- Ortiz is taking his link journalism to the next level by incorporating Publish2 into his work flow. This will allow his users to submit their own links to interesting content from around the Web. Together, their link journalism should be very good.
- Ortiz started a Publish2 group for news from around the Web related to state workers. The beauty of a Publish2 group is that Ortiz can allow users of his blog, state workers and other knowledgeable people into his group. Publish2 has a verification process that keeps marketers and spammers out, and that’s a big reason why we like Publis2 for link journalism, as opposed to sites like Delicious. Ortiz can hand select who he wants to let into his Publish2 group, which should help him get the most out of his link journalism efforts.
- One of the things that Ortiz is doing with his link journalism is linking to state worker-related news that isn’t just about Californian state workers. This will allow Ortiz to showcase state workers issue from around the country and compare those to issues facing state workers in California. Ortiz is one of the best reporters on state government in California, but the only way he could tell the larger story of state employees across the country is by linking to the best.
Stimulus Spot Check | ProPublica
- ProPublic was nominated by Ryan Sholin, who said this about the Stimulus Spot Check project, “I’m moderately fascinated by ProPublica’s crowdsourcing process (and platform) for listing, assigning, and gathering information on local stimulus projects.”
- The stimulus is a massive bill with billions of dollars being spent all over the country. Crowdsourcing is the most logical way to track how stimulus spending is going. ProPublica’s Stimulus Spot Check is an interesting case study into how effective crowdsourcing can be. Perhaps more importantly, this project is a great case study into how to build and manage large-scale crowdsourcing efforts.
- ProPublica is looking for users to “help us figure out the status of these projects — whether the project has been started or has been completed, what company got the contract, and how many jobs the company says it retained or created for its stimulus contract. Everyone who contributes will be credited in our story.”
- The project is very young and there aren’t many results yet, but this is a massive crowdsourcing project worth keeping an eye on. As resources continue to be cut at traditional news organizations, harnessing the wisdom and time of the crowd will continue to be more and more important.
This article isn’t meant to be groundbreaking. In fact, its simplicity may annoy you. And yet, so many beatbloggers could benefit from the following words of advice.
Please, please, please be transparent.
A successful beatblog requires a way through which readers can contact the author. It sounds dumb to be even mentioning this to a group of professional journalists who “know this already,” but I can’t tell you how frustrating it has been to try to contact some beat bloggers.
A beatblog has to be sure to keep an open dialogue with readers. It’s the nature of the beast. Today, the blogs that interact most with their audience are the ones that become both economically viable, and help the author/s of the blog stay engaged and interested.
There are a lot of examples of blogs that follow the dialogue norms, but a problem arises time and time again. While commenting may be straight forward for the average user, sometimes private messages are important for all sorts of reasons. Many blogs do not have a straight forward way for people to email or message them privately.
Take for example Glenn Greenwald. An avid blogger and journalist for Salon.com, Glenn is world renowned for writing some of the most in-depth political articles out of there. When Glenn writes a post, if you blink, the post might be updated two or three or four times after the comments that readers leave, whether it be a typo or some news Glenn may have overlooked. But his Web site doesn’t make it straightforward on how to contact Glenn privately. Where’s his e-mail? In small text half way down the page.
Take a look at SciGuy, Eric Berger. He runs a fantastic science blog over at the Houston Chronicle. But scroll through the Web site or Google his name and I can assure it won’t be easy to find his e-mail. Same goes for Gene Sloan, Cruise beatblogger at USA Today.
Even Monica Guzman over at the Seattle PI doesn’t make it entirely straight-forward for readers to follow The Big Blog, with contact info buried between articles and cluttered content.
On the other hand, Brian Krebs, author of Security Fix at The Washington Post clearly posts his contact information at the top of his blog. Likewise, St. Petersburg Times’ Bay Buzz does a good job of stating what the blog is about and how to get in contact with Times editor, Heather Urquides.
I could go on and on.
You get the idea: There has to be a move to promote a private dialogue as much as a public one. And if you have a Twitter account that you use for work, make it prominent on your beatblog. It’s another easy way for people to interact with journalism.
If you’re a beatblogger and you’re not publicly allowing your readers — your audience — to get a hold of you, you’re missing out. Big time.
Beatbloggers, it’s time you start focusing as much on transparency as you do on content.
Jon Ortiz’s beatblog, The State Worker, and his users helped force Gov. Schwarzenegger’s hand in making a furlough policy change.
State workers in California have to take two furlough days each month as part of an effort to save money. The governor’s office occilated between two different furlough policies and was unable to come to a decision. One policy had two Fridays of every month being furlough days, which would have forced the closing of state agencies on those days.
The other policy was self-directed furloughs that gave individual departments leeway over when to have furloughs. The lack of a concrete plan caused Ortiz to write a column that said the whole situation was a mess and that state workers deserved better:
The state’s furlough message has switched from shutting down again on March 20 to going with “self-directed” furloughs after Friday that would let state workers pick their days off with management’s OK. Offices could stay open under the second plan.
So which is it?
The shifting messages have ticked off state workers already dealing with a 10 percent furlough pay cut.
“But they don’t care about our lives or about the work we do,” state worker Stacy Garrett said in an e-mail.
The furlough message mess makes it hard to argue otherwise.
The same day the column was published, the governor’s office finally settled the furlough situation, after being prodded by The State Worker beatblog and its users. The really cool part of this story is how Ortiz’s users helped him to cover this situation. They fed him copies of departmental memos that had conflicting information and they pointed him to other discrepancies that were coming out of the governor’s office.
Ortiz took this information and fact checked it to make sure it was accurate. He said he had “hundreds of agents” helping him uncover information. Ortiz is able to get this kind of help because his beatblog is surrounded by a network of knowledgeable users, many of which work for the state of California.
“I had this network of user reporters, pointing out to me things I would have never known had they not be feeding me information,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz said the ability of his users to give him concrete examples of how the governor’s office was sending mixed signals about the furlough policy changed the quality of his reporting.
“You can tell people things or you can show people thing,” he said. “The users were allowing me to show very concrete examples of how this was out of control.”
This week’s Leaderboard is all about two-way communication by interacting with users.
The best beat bloggers have established networks around their beats with knowledgeable sources and users. Many of these users add significant value to the beat blogs they comment on. They link to additional resources and Web site, cite studies, forward the debate along and fact check a beat blogger’s work.
Beat bloggers may not always agree with these users, but they can’t imagine their blogs without them either. Beat blogs that are surrounded by an active and knowledgeable community offer so much more for people. These blogs feature great content from beat bloggers and from users.
Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle
- Look at how Berger interacts with his users in the comments after his posts. They go back and forth, help each other out, publish links and more. Berger published the results of a new study that says that being overweight is as bad for a person as smoking. Berger’s users had much to point out and questioned whether the study is that definitive (Berger hinted that he was skeptical too).
- Berger’s users brought up several strong points: This study only looked at young males. Many suggested that it would be difficult to apply these findings to women, and they provided sources and links backing up their thoughts. Also, Berger’s users pointed out that there is a difference between becoming overweight/obese later in life than being overweight/obese from a young age.
- All of this back forth made for a lively discussion and the real value of this post become apparent after his users had a chance to weigh in. All Berger did was provide a succinct summary of the study and his users ran with it.
- Berger’s post was interesting, but the comments really take this to a new level. Plus, Berger’s users helped correct some mistakes in his original post.
Brian Krebs | The Washington Post
- Yet again, Krebs is providing a public service to his users. This post didn’t take long to write, but it will certainly help keep his users safer. For a beat like computer security, it’s important to give users real value. Krebs does that every week by helping his users navigate the rough waters of computer security.
- In this post, Krebs is explaining what to do if users receive unsolicited IM messages on GMAIL from “ViddyHo.” This is a phishing scam aimed at gaining access to GMAIL users’ credentials.
- Krebs also explains why this phishing attack can be particular bad for people; GMAIL accounts often use the same logins as valuable Google Adsense and Google Checkout accounts. Access to either of those could leave a person financial vulnerable.
- What makes this post truly Leaderboard worthy is how his users fill in additional information about the phishing attack and the ways that it can harm users.
Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee
- This is just an all-around great example of beat blogging. State workers have been greatly affected during the financial crisis, and the financial crisis’s affect on state workers been a big part of Ortiz’s blog — The State Worker — the past few months. In California and other states, one of the major ways politicians have proposed covering huge budget shortfalls is by furloughing state workers, cutting their pay and benefits and even laying them off.
- Ortiz found issues affecting state workers in other states and linked to stories and blog posts highlighting how the financial crisis is affecting those state workers. He also wanted his users to check out the comments that state workers were leaving, because they mirrored the comments that Ortiz had been getting for months on his blog.
- This post is, at its heart, link journalism. It’s just very focused link journalism. The idea of finding a specific topic that is more niche than the beat itself and finding interesting links is an idea that more beat bloggers should explore. This bit of link of journalism got Ortiz’s users talking.
Good beat reporters have something that most people don’t — access.
Journalists have access to politicians, sports stars, scientists and other experts. What if journalists created more content that harnessed their ability to gain access? Is there even a business model to be created around access?
That last point will be left for others to debate and discover, but this week our first Leaderboard member shows the power of access.
Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle
- Every month Berger has a chat with experts on a different science topic. Users are free to submit questions and the best ones are put forth to the experts. This month Berger brought in two experts on climate change to answer his users’ questions.
- Berger uses a popular live blogging technology, CoveritLive for his chats. CoveritLive allows Berger to screen questions as they come in and then broadcast the best ones for his experts to answer.
- These chats are popular when they happen live, but they also make great content once they are over. Each chat is automatically archived, allowing users to read over the questions and answers at anytime.
- These chats can also be provide fertile ground for potential blog posts and stories for Berger. His users may pose questions that Berger may not have thought of before. He can then look into those topics more indepth.
Brian Krebs | The Washington Post
- Krebs is consistently rewarded for building such a strong community around his beat. Again, Security Fix users are helping each other out by providing information on computer security. Krebs made a post about the Conflicker Worm that has been rapidly infecting Windows users, and Security Fix users provided each other with tips on how to keep their machines safe.
- He has developed a great beat blog that has useful information on a daily basis. But what really makes his blog shine is the kind of users he has gathered around it and the comments they leave. Users can learn an awful lot from the comments left after posts. They are a treasure trove of knowledge.
- Krebs shows us why building a community is so important. Many of his blog users are very knowledgeable about computer security and many work in the IT field. Krebs has actively cultivated a community of knowledgeable users, and because he is so active in the comments section, users leave more thoughtful and civilized comments. Krebs has not allowed a comment ghetto to form.
- The community has made Security Fix into a better blog. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine Security Fix without the community that has formed around it.
Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee
- This post is an excellent all-around example of beat blogging. Ortiz was alerted to the blogger he mentions in this post by one of his users. Then his users provide excellent information and insight in the comments after his post. Ortiz has a network of California state workers around his blog that can provide great insight.
- One of his readers told Ortiz to check out a post by a blogger analyzing a report by the California CIO. The blogger raised questions and interesting points about the report. Berger took the best points the blogger made and asked the government of California to respond. He then posted the unedited e-mail to his blog.
- This post is an excellent example of what happens when a beat reporters builds a network around this beat. Ortiz has a niche blog that focuses on issues surrounding state workers. Because of this, Ortiz has been able to build a much larger network of state worker sources than before he had the blog.
- Both Ortiz and Krebs also demonstrate the power of having a niche beat blog. A blog about the state of California or about the government in general would probably attract a lot of non-government workers. The State Worker, on the other hand, mostly appeals to state employees — exactly the kinds of people Ortiz wants to add to his growing network of sources.
This week’s Leaderboard focuses on crowdsourcing and interacting with readers.
A beat blog is a great way to find out what people are thinking, and unlike the print edition that may run a few thoughts from readers, a beat blog can allow anyone to comment. Plus, users can interact with each other, share links and debate topics.
A beat blog is also a great way to ask readers what they would like you to cover. Want to know what your readers think? Ask them.
Jon Ortiz | Sacramento Bee
- Ortiz is using his blog to crowd source opinions on what it’s like to be back after a day of being furloughed. Due to the budget crisis in California, it’s mandatory for state workers to take several furlough days. Ortiz wants to know what morale is like now that furloughs have officially begun.
- This blog post has been a sounding board for state workers who were furloughed. The post itself is interesting because of all the comments that users have left. It doesn’t take a lot of effort for Ortiz to ask a simple question about morale, but this post has yielded a lot of good information.
- The post will also help Ortiz create more content. He can take the best comments and make a new blog post or print story with them. He can also ask in a few weeks how morale is after employees receive their first reduced paychecks. He can then compare and contrast comments left this week with comments left after employees receive their smaller paychecks.
- A beat blog makes it much easier for a reporter to write stories like these. Before the Web, Ortiz could have contacted a few state workers and used their opinions for stories. After the story was published, additional state workers could write in. But with Ortiz’s beat blog, anyone can comment, and this post has led to a wide swatch of state workers form different departments commenting on how morale is.
- People are much more willing to share their stories when we make it easy for them. It’s much easier to leave a comment after a blog post than it is to find a newspaper’s number, call the newspaper and try to get a hold of an individual reporter.
John A. Bryne | BusinessWeek
- “What’s Your Story Idea?” gives BusinessWeek.com readers the chance to have a direct impact on the publication’s coverage. Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne reviews reader comments and then assigns them to journalists. When the story goes live, the reader gets the credit.
- Each week at least one story pitched by a reader is assigned to a BusinessWeek staffer.
- Bryne also provides feedback to stories pitched by users, “As Editor-in-Chief of BusinessWeek.com, I’ll respond to your suggestions just as I do to my own reporters. ‘Tom, that’s a brilliant and original idea with importance significance to our readers.’ Or, ‘Frank, I’ve read that story a hundred times. What can you possibly add that’s new?'”
- This feature is not only good for unearthing new and interesting story assignments, but it’s also a good way to get user feedback on existing content. Is BusinessWeek covering the stories that its readers are interested in? Why not just ask?
- This sums up what BusinessWeek and Bryne are trying to accomplish: “User engagement. That’s what we believe in.” User engagement is a must to succeed on the Web.
Gene Sloan | USA Today
- Sloan is live blogging all week from the Carnival Fantasy cruise. His live blogging is cool enough, but Sloan is also engaging users in the comments section after his posts and answering questions.
- Sloan is living blogging this week so he can report on, “What’s it like to sail on one of the refurbished Fantasy Class ships? I’ll be on board the Fantasy for the next five days as it cruises to Mexico, posting my impressions and answering your questions (leave them in the comment area below).”
- As he leaves impressions throughout the day, users have been leaving comments and asking questions. Sloan has been responding to their questions and trying out some of their suggestions (which activities to try, what to eat, etc).
- Before the Web and live blogging, Sloan could have ridden a cruise ship for a week and written a story about his experiences. Now he can post updates and photos throughout the course of his trip and interact with users along the way. The ability for users to leave comments and suggestions makes this form of journalism much more interactive and engaging for users.
We thought we’d end this year with some of this year’s pace setters in the world of beat blogging.
These are some of best beat bloggers out there, and these people are constantly trying new ways to innovate. We do try to present a diversity of beat reporters on this blog, but on any given week, any one of these beat bloggers could be on the Leaderboard. Every week they are pushing the practice.
If you’re a journalist and you want to learn how to harness social media and other Web tools better, I strongly recommend you follow these beat bloggers every week.
DISD blog | The Dallas Morning News
- This award goes to both Kent Fischer and Tawnell Hobbs. They have produced one of the best beat blogs around.
- Who said that people don’t want to read about topics like education? The DISD blog is on track for more than 1,500,000 page views in its first year. That easily surpassed expectations. Just think of the page views that this blog could get if Fischer is able to build that blog on steroids that he is planning.
- Keep in mind that both Fischer and Hobbs also write for the print edition. This is a pretty impressive start for these two reporters, especially since their beat isn’t the easiest to get page views with.
- Perhaps the greatest success of the DISD blog is how active the community is around it. It has really spurred conversation and given people almost a public town hall where they can discuss the Dallas school district.
- You know how you surpass expectations? You provide in-depth coverage, including live blogging big events. You also provide a fantastic place for people to express themselves. And finally, you provide a community where people want to help you out.
- When you do that, your community can help you uncover big stories. They can also act as a truth squad by fact checking what public figures say.
- People will be more likely to be active in your community if you acknowledge when they write something smart. That’s why Fischer started hoisting comments.
Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle
- The SciGuy is one of the most innovative beat reporters around. Some of the things he does aren’t exactly social media or Web related per se, but they rock nonetheless. He is the master at building a community.
- No, technically conducting random drawings for science books does not count as beat blogging, but it is one hell of a way to build a community and build user loyalty.
- Berger is sent many science books over the course of a year for review purposes. He thought it would be a good idea to conduct a random drawing for the five best books he received this year.
- Want to enter the drawing? All you have to do is leave a comment on his post about the book. So, not only is Berger finding a good way to recycle these books, but he also managed to get people talking about science topics. Check out all the wonderful comments left on that post.
- Plus, these posts might be a way to get people who have never commented before to start commenting. Why not do something like this?
- Berger does other innovative things, like asking his readers to be his assignment editor.
- Berger also understands that his users know more than he does.
Monica Guzman | Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- Want to know how to get a conversation started? Just follow what Guzman does. Her job is centered around getting people talking.
- One of Guzman’s core jobs is to analyze posts to cultivate conservations. She reads what her colleagues write and tries to find interesting jumping off points for discussion.
- For Guzman, cultivating conversations is a great way to build a community. Ultimately, building a community is at the core of beat blogging.
- We often call beat blogging a sort of Rolodex 2.0. It greatly expands the number of available sources that a beat reporter has access to. But the only way to meaningfully expand that network of sources is to cultivate a community.
- Guzman is also one of the most active beat bloggers on Twitter.
Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee
- Ortiz has only been beat blogging for about six months, but he has easily been one of the most innovative and adventurous around. Perhaps because he is new to blogging he is more willing to take risks and try new things.
- Whatever the reason, The State Worker blog is a most follow. He has developed several distinct features that help break up the flow of his blog.
- His “Blog back” feature is something every beat blogger should copy.
- Ortiz has launched another new feature recently. This one he calls “From the notebook.” This feature is extra tidbits of information that don’t make it into columns or stories that Ortiz writes.
- This is another one of those features that Ortiz created that doesn’t take a lot of time, but it provides his users with something of value.
- Ortiz launched his blog early so he could cover the budget crisis in California as it broke. It turned out to be a momentous decision for Ortiz. Timing can have a big impact on the success of a blog.
Our users know more than we do.
In aggregate, the knowledge of our users far outstrips our own. This is a valuable asset for beat reporters. An asset, until the advent of the Web, that was hardly tapped into.
This week’s Leaderboard is all about beat bloggers who are willing to admit that their users know more than they do. They’re willing to ask their readers for help.
Gene Sloan | USA Today
- Sloan was nominated for his post, “Who has a question for Holland America CEO Stein Kruse?”
- Sloan is giving his readers the opportunity to chat with industry CEOs in his “Chat with the Chief” feature. This is a great little feature that builds user loyalty, generates traffic and gets your users to ask a lot of interesting questions for you. Plus, this doesn’t take a ton of time to produce.
- The feature is pretty simple. Sloan finds industry people that his users would be interested in interacting with and invites them to come to his blog and answer questions from his users. His user post comments at the end of Sloan’s post, and the person that Sloan selects answers users’ questions in the comments section.
- This feature is open for three days and generates a lot of questions. It is also an interesting feature for people to read if they don’t have a question to ask. Plus, Sloan’s readers are knowledgeable people and ask interesting questions.
Jon Ortiz | The Sacramento Bee
- This is the kind of short, little post that works perfect on the Web, but would make no sense in print.
- First, the post is linking to a colleagues story and generating more traffic for that content. His colleague wrote a story about how a California state legislator shifted campaign cash to a legal defense fund. Ortiz used that story as a springboard to his post asking for user opinions.
- Ortiz, however, primarily made this post to solicit user opinion and to get people talking. Starting conversations can be a good way to build a community. Also, Ortiz could use the comments he gets as the seeds for a new post.
Eric Berger | The Houston Chronicle
- Berger is asking, “What would you ask … France’s chief climate negotiator?” Berger has the opportunity to interview France’s Brice Lalonde, and he wants his users to help him out.
- This is an excellent way for Berger to get his readers involved. Plus, Berger’s readers are very knowledgeable and many of them are scientists. They can provide him with some great questions to ask. Win-win.
- This is a great way for Berger to use the collective intelligence of his readers to think of great questions. At Beat Blogging, we use Twitter all the time to harness the wisdom of our users.