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Paywalling Blogs is Good News, Sort Of

June 12, 2010

Blogs Are Becoming More Mainstream

I love blogs. I really do. I spend a great deal of my time reading them, on subjects from television to intellectual property law to food to my friends’ miscellaneous travelogues/music reviews/rambling blogs. I read a lot more blogs than I do newspapers or magazines. So why does it make me happy that the Financial Times (FT) is putting one of its blogs behind a paywall? It will help make blogs more of an integral part of newspapers and less of an optional addendum.

Some of the paper is stuck behind a paywall

Paywalls for blogs is a good sign

Many online news sources, from the FT to Reuters, have blogs. But these blogs are usually detached from the main site, as though they were an afterthought. Someone at the newspaper saw how many people like blogs and thought: “My newspaper should have a blog.” This separation can be as simple as the URL.

To go back to the FT as an example, one of their blogs that I read, Dear Economist, is hosted at blogs.ft.com/undercover rather than ft.com/undercover. This might seem superficial to you, but it’s representative of the way newspapers treat blogs. They’re not quite part of the newspaper, they’re often written differently (sometimes, the amount of links used in a blog  is out of the ordinary, too) and sometimes the opinion of the blogger is not the same as the opinion of the employer:

Felix Salmon is a Reuters blogger. Any views expressed may or may not be his own, but in any case are very unlikely to be those of his employer.

This quote is meant as a joke (I think) but to me it signifies even more that blogs are somehow less than newspaper columnists. When was the last time you picked up a newspaper and saw a disclaimer like this under the name of your favourite TV critic columnist? I’ve never seen anything like it in print.

Columnist and bloggers: what’s the difference?

Online-only news sources I read, which are basically blogs (here’s a food-related example), often have multiple contributing authors who write on specific subjects. The difference between the way Serious Eats organizes their posts and the way the FT does is that all of the posts are part of Serious Eats. They’re not separate entities like the FT bloggers.

So I am looking on the bright side of the paywall extension to blogs and hoping that the blogs might one day get more recognition in print. As people start to read regular print columnists on internet-enabled devices (iPads, smartphones, etc.) the integration of blogs becomes more important. I want the FT to ask themselves what the difference between a blogger and a columnist is, and start to realize that maybe there’s merit to merging the two, perhaps hosting them at columnists.ft.com.


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