Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Dan Farber's Experimental Blogger Army...

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 6, 2006

By Tom Foremski for Silicon Valley Watcher

05-Dec-2006
ZDNet Unveils the Next-Generation of Business Tech Publishing, Weaving Voice of Bloggers Around News, Product Reviews, Vendor and User Content

In 2003, led by ZDNet veterans Dan Farber and David Berlind, the site launched blogs and later in 2005 original podcasts, adding context and perspective to the day's news in a way that only experts and well-connected insiders could offer. Farber and Berlind quickly amassed a network of more than 30 bloggers that today includes some of the most authoritative and well-respected voices in the IT community.

I'm proud to be part of Dan Farber's blogger corp over on CNET's ZDNet IT news site where I publish IMHO (in my humble opinion). The ZDNet blogs have grown from strength to strength, largely because of Dan's leadership.

It is great to work on Dan's team because he exhibits a tireless pursuit of news. I don't think I've ever seen him without cameras and laptops attached.  I wouldn't be surprised to one day see him with a SNL Al Franken satellite upload dish on his head because that is how tenacious he is as a journalist to file a news story first.

Dan is everywhere, at many of the events that I go to. And I tend to avoid the obvious daytime news events because there are dozens of other journalists covering them. I go to the evening roundtables, the salons, because the journalists with day jobs are home with their families. That's when I get a chance to come home with exclusive content--except that Dan is often there too.

The ZDNet blog section has just had a new coat of paint, it has been relaunched with a new design-- everyone had to submit new photos of themselves. It is an experiment in media publishing that is well worth watching.

I've no idea if the venture is profitable. I and my fellow ZDNet bloggers are paid based on pageview numbers. The more pageviews the more money.

How much money? Well, I have never cleared the $500 per month base rate and I think that many of my colleagues there are in a similar pay bracket. The Apple guy has been the top performer, $4k per month and sometimes much more. It's pocket money for most  since nearly all of the ZDNet bloggers (except me)  have days jobs in well paid professional sectors (i.e not journalism!).

The money-for-traffic payments are becoming common at other publishers. Business 2.0 for example, has such a system for its recently launched staff blogger section. 

In theory, such a system of reward for content performance could encourage sensationalist headlines and posts. Or encourage  posts that goad the Apple community, which reliably responds in large numbers and with a lot of passion. (This is John Dvorak's favorite way to boost traffic on a slow day :-) But so far, that hasn't happened to any obvious degree over on ZDNet.

Although the financial performance of the ZDNet blogger group is not known, I will bet it is far more profitable than ZDNet's dwindling group of salaried journalists. And Dan's blogger elite is far faster in covering breaking news than the salaried journalists.

Look at the coverage on ZDNet on Yahoo's reorganization. The news was released late in the day, about 6pm Pacific Time, which is just about heading home time for the salaried journalists. But the ZDNet bloggers kicked up a storm of coverage, well into the night and early morning.

I like being part of ZDNet's blogging experiment and I think it is well on its way to becoming a Wikipedia section on how old media ccompanies can create a viable new media group.

My two cents on the project is that I could do with some basic support on the production side of things, such as a copy editor to look over my shoulder and correct those things that we become blind to because we have to edit ourselves.

And a production assistant would be great too. Putting in those links, adding images, pointing to other relevant and worthy content is something that adds value and richness to a post but is often difficult to do as a standalone journalist, when it is late at night and the analog world of sleep beckons.

Also, we know from the hundreds of years of producing news: great journalism is created by teams and not by individuals. Just as everything else in the world that is consistently good,  is the product of teams... IMHO.

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