Getting Your Blog Post Into The Newspapers
My my – what an exciting week it was in the Bronco office. By the time Wednesday rolled around, Fiona Bruce was trying to squeeze past the door to get an exclusive interview with James, and we were all like: enough press already!
OK. I might be exaggerating a bit, but we did make the Guardian and The Times and for a couple of days were at the epicentre of the Twitterverse or the Blogoscope or wherever it is that you people spend your time when you’re not drinking coffee and writing self-referential blog posts with your ridiculous “5 ways to ruin your sex life” tips (coming soon!)
Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah…
You’ll often hear about how the blogosphere only functions off the back of the mainstream media, but here’s the story of how it can work in reverse. On the Monday, James found a security problem with Twitter that would make it possible to commit all kinds of evil deeds to the minds and bodies of users of the popular microblogging siteTM. We were in hysterics in the office as we brainstormed the funniest things we could do with the exploit.
Now obviously we decided that we weren’t going to do anything atrocious because we’re a legitimate company – not just a fly-by-night crew of spammers or scammers. Nonetheless, we wanted to use the story to gain a little bit of equity for ourselves. So we pulled together a blog post outlining the find which we published after contacting Twitter themselves so that they could fix the problem before it became known.
Obviously Dave is a well known face on the internet marketing scene, so we knew that the post would gain traction through the number of people who follow his blog and, ironically, his Twitter account so we were pretty sure that people would reblog the story and namecheck us.
Now the online world is full of crowd-powered news aggregators. Sites like Tweetmeme compile a running total of tweets, while sites like TechCrunch and Mashable take a story like this add a bit of commentary and push it out to their readership. What was interesting sitting on the inside of the story was watching it go and seeing in general where it would end up.
1. From the blog to Twitter
The first thing that happened was Dave’s Twitter story getting writted up and stuck on one of them there blogs. Dave’s one of those industry guys that other industry guys follow, and he’s got a stack of acolytes who like to see what he’s doing next. Saints preserve us – they’re probably buying campervans as we speak.
2. From Twitter to the Twitterverse
Once Dave had tweeted (and man how I hate that word) the story leapt through Twitter. Naturally, we all tweeted it, and then Dave’s acolytes were tweeting it and then people we’d never heard of were tweeting it and suddenly it was like some kind of crazy dawn chorus.
3. From the Twitterverse to the Aggregators
At some point, thanks to the volume of Twitters, the story started to appear on the likes of Tweetmeme. Tweetmeme scrapes all the links coming out of Twitter and aggregates them – kind of like a proper grown-up version of the ‘trending topics’ nonsense that constantly appears on Twitter (which is always Miley Cyrus and Iranelections, so far as I can tell). This means that the kind of people who spend their days watching the aggregators can see a trend unfold even before the people who are adding to the trend realise that they are adding to a trend.
4. From the Aggregators to the Online Journalists
So at some point someone noticed the story on Tweetmeme and then rushed to republish it with their own commentary. This turned it from a blog post on DaveN’s site into a blog post on TechCrunch and Mashable etc, where it received even more retweets thanks to their large readerships.
5. From the Online Journalists to the Big Hairy Real World Journalists
People who write tech columns for actual newspapers read Tech Crunch and Mashable in between surfing for porn like the rest of us. This is the point at which the story got picked up. “Tech” is a specialist field in the first place and when you get past all the reputations, we’re all working in niches within that that very rarely poke their head above the parapet in the traditional newspapers. The writers are rarely specialists – as journalists get rotated between assignments (one week you can be education correspondant, the next week you’re in charge of censoring pictures of Britney getting out of a taxi) so they look for sources of authoritative information that they can digest and republish to fit their needs.
The story was thus republished 3 or 4 times by writers of various levels of understanding by the time it reached anyone’s breakfast table, complete with Chinese whispers style errors.
What’s the moral of the story with all this?
- Firstly - newspaper readerships for specialist areas of interest are pretty small. We got some poxy number of visitors from The Guardian for the Twitter story, even though the Guardian ranks top 10 for Twitter, and our story was the top headline on there for a couple of days. By comparison, Mashable etc pumped through visitors by the thousand.
- Secondly, despite trad journos reckoning on that the online world only exists on crumbs that fall from their table stories can and do go the other way.
- Thirdly, to achieve this level of interest you need connections. No offence to James, but even less people read his blog than read mine. If he’d have posted it, no-one would have noticed.
- Fourthly, “proper” journos apparently don’t factcheck very well. The Times reported that the problem would only affect anyone if a third party app like TweetDeck went bad. Which was just so much nonsense. Someone else reported Dave’s name as “Dave Taylor.” Abject.
- Fifthly, for all the brouhaha about the power of online media, just 35,000 people eventually came to the source of the story over a couple of days before it died a death. Given that something like Big Brother is being cancelled because it can “only” attract 2 million viewers every single night it should rather put into perspective the actual outside-the-industry interest in a subject like Twitter. And bear in mind that this exploit could have been used against every single Twitter user (all 67 billion of them, according to Twitter’s publicity).
The way I see it, if you want to break out of the blogosphere into the mainstream media you’re going to have a big exclusive ahead of the game. Look for a topic that is generating column inches and poke it at from every angle until it breaks. Even then unless you have reach and influential connections it’s unlikely to get outside the usual readership you have – so when you’re thinking about where to break your story, look for individuals or sites with a pre-existing reputation and audience. And even then, if its in a narrow specialist field of interest don’t assume you’ll see much return on your efforts in terms of visits.