Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Results of my 30-day project to grow bloggers

My 30-day project of training newsroom staffers to recruit and serve as contacts for new community bloggers on reached its deadline with just over half of the number of new blogs that I had originally hoped to attract in that time period. However, all of the staffers involved learned new skills through this project and believe that they will do well in their recruitment efforts going forward.

By using the resources already compiled by fellow ideaLab members Kaitlyn Yeager and Karen Workman, I was able to pass along easy-to-understand instructions and tips to both our staff members and the bloggers they recruited from our readership without trying to recreate the wheel, so-to-speak, and do it all on my own.

Kaitlyn’s “Blogging 101” presentation, which she had shared previously with me after using it in several of The Register Citizen’s blogging classes, was a great resource for me to have on hand. I used it to go over the basics with staff members on setting up a WordPress blog from scratch and encouraged each of them to send the document out to their recruits as well.

I ended up approaching 12 Record staffers to participate in this project over the last month – each of our seven reporters between news and sports and a few of our newsroom editors as well. As I had originally planned, I approached each employee in either a small group or one-on-one to make sure that I could engage each of them as I outlined the project and address any initial concerns they may have had.

Several of the employees involved had some ideas of potential bloggers ready to go from Day 1 and were quickly able to secure the interest of their recruits and help me get blogs added to within a week or two.

Others took a few days to brainstorm the idea, as I encouraged, and came back with bloggers a bit later in the month.

Thankfully, none of the employees flat out rejected the idea of making the extra effort to help improve The Record’s available content through its community blogger network. While some had not yet recruited any blogs by the initial 30-day deadline, several of them have bloggers lined up that they have begun working with. Others were heavily involved with two ongoing murder trials every day (our court reporter), working around vacations and a skeleton staff in addition to other special projects at the time (our sports reporters). Still, each staffer involved has made some effort towards making this goal a reality going forward, which I consider a success and will depend on as we continue to try and grow our blogger numbers throughout the year.

Additionally, after a suggestion from Jon Cooper, Journal Register Company’s VP of Content, to reach out to fellow JRC staffers who were among the leaders in the company for community blog recruitment, I was able to arrange a very-helpful call with Karen Workman. As a fellow ideaLab member and reporter for The Oakland Press who has been very involved in attracting new bloggers for her publication, Karen was able to provide me with great insights into what she and her fellow staff members had found to work best from their own experiences with blogger recruitment.

One of Karen’s tips was to make sure potential community bloggers, as well as existing ones, know that they can monetize their blogs – even if only through the use of Google Ads to start – and how being linked with a professional news organization will help drive a lot of web traffic towards that goal. This is something that we have previously not discussed very much with our bloggers and is something I’m in the process of discussing with our newsroom staffers to pass along to the great bloggers they have helped bring on board.

The whole notion of educating bloggers on ways to make money from their work, even when we currently cannot pay them directly, makes perfect sense, as any incentive we can offer to these citizen journalists will encourage them to produce quality content and strengthen our brand.

Karen also suggested that I review a presentation on Search Engine Optimization compiled by her colleague - yet another ideaLab member, Marissa Raymo, and distribute the information to each of our bloggers so that they can understand the best practices that will help get them more web-traffic and have their blogs appear on the precious first pages of results for several major online search engines.

I’m currently in the process of distributing this data to our blogging community and believe it will be very beneficial for everyone going forward.

Looking back, I am glad I selected this project at the end of March to have the chance to focus on educating our staff and teaching them this new skill. This project will continue to go on well past the 30-day deadline at The Record as I hope to eventually educate all the staffers in this building on the subject and have each of them tasked with attracting two blogs every month going forward.

This is also a model that can be used at any news property, both inside JRC and beyond, and I am excited to see how it will spread across the news industry as others try to survive using digital first model that JRC is now known for.

New blogs added throughout the month included:

Rules of (Community) Engagement

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Blogger Steve Shoe said...

Congrats, Tom and The Record! This is a great achievement regardless of whether you hit your exact goal.

As we talked about in the comments under an earlier post on this topic, I think maintaining a bird's-eye-view of all the possible story leads these blogs will be funneling to you will be the greatest challenge as you add more and more bloggers (two per month per staffer? That's ambitious! Props for setting the bar so high).

As you move forward with this, I'll be interested to see if the processes you've envisioned work out well, and what tweaks or revamps you make to manage all that information.

To me, THAT'S the greatest challenge of our digital infoculture. Content management systems are only tools, and still require a deft human touch. I've found though, that the more people involved in the process, the more muddy things can get. So I'm definitely interested in processes and best-practices, as I don't think anyone's really figured that out.

April 28, 2011 at 12:36 PM 
Blogger Tom Caprood said...

Thanks, Steve. It certainly will be ambitious to have everyone do two per month going forward, but, much like man-on-the-street interviews (or 5 Questions as we at The Record call them), I think that as long as they keep an open mind that nearly anyone could start a blog or already have one worth linking to, I think we'll be in good shape.

Absolutely - combing through the growing number will continue to be a challenge, but my hope is that each of the staff members we train to set up blogs and answer questions from bloggers will get in the habit of doing that for the ones they oversee.

Should be an interesting year. I'll keep you posted on how it turns out.

April 28, 2011 at 3:11 PM 

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