The bloggification of the Cincinnati Enquirer

Let me start this week’s op-ed column off by saying I love print media. I love newspapers and magazines. Some might even call me a news junkie, but I have long been disappointed with the Cincinnati Enquirer – the region’s last surviving daily print newspaper.

Early on it was the Enquirer’s pro-suburban/anti-urban coverage that got me bent out of shape. The move was justified by Enquirer leadership that saw the region’s growth becoming increasingly suburban, and they seemed to aspire to steal market share from the Dayton Daily News as the two markets begin to merge.

Over time this situation has leveled off, but then the paper shifted its attention to the web. This was a seemingly smart move in an increasingly digital world, but I felt that taking professional journalists and writers off of their beats and giving them blogger duty did not do the staff or newspaper any justice.

The Enquirer is not going to beat the bloggers, nor should it try. What bloggers have proven is their ability to cover hyper local news extremely well. What bloggers have not been able to do is cover substantive stories or conduct investigative reports. This is where, I believe, the Enquirer needs to focus its attention. UrbanCincy will continue to cover on-street bike corrals and small business openings, while the Enquirer should dive into stories that pose public concern and act as a public watchdog. Deal? Deal.

Unfortunately, it appears that leadership at the Enquirer finds it more beneficial to go after the exact opposite. The Enquirer has put forth an aggressive push to gobble up as many local blogs under their mighty Cincinnati.com network. (UrbanCincy remains independent by the way)

Then you have their newly debuted website which includes a lot of new things – more ads, larger font type and many more visuals. One thing has decreased on the new website though. There are noticeably fewer of those pesky news stories.

If you look to the Enquirer’s print edition it is not much better. The print newspaper is often filled with stories picked up from the Associated Press, other nearby newspapers or syndicated columnists. The bottom line is that the last remaining daily newspaper in Cincinnati is getting thinner and weaker, and the leadership there appears content with going after what they probably see as low hanging fruit.

This was recently highlighted by the debut of the Enquirer’s new blog aggregator. CincyBlogs.com has taken blogs from all over the region and used their RSS feeds to set up a one-stop shop for blog content. This is a great tool and one that many had hoped Cinplify would debut first.

The problem is that those resources may have been better spent empowering the Enquirer’s professional journalists that are capable of doing so much better work than what they are currently being assigned. To Enquirer leadership: your professional staff, Cincinnatians, and your readers deserve better.

Enquirer Building photograph by UrbanCincy contributor Thadd Fiala.

  • classicgrrl

    Gotta agree with you Randy. I don’t read a newspaper for blogging. Gannett doesn’t get it…again.

  • One interesting aspect of this new blog aggregator hosted by Enquirer media, while they are anti-city anti-streetcar, the biggest and best of the blogs they’ve selected are all heavy city promoters.
    I wonder if they had a struggle choosing between some craptastic suburban blogs or biting the bullet and grabbing the really good ones that run counter to their mission.

  • I don’t think they care 5chw4r7z. I honestly don’t think the new aggregator website they have will drive much traffic to any blog. I think the intended purpose is to drive up pageviews on their family of sites and thus drive up advertising rates.

  • See, I think CincyBlogs is filler. I also feel like it’s problematic in the sense that they’re using blogs without asking them first. But if you think it’s great, then maybe it is.

  • Trust me Jason, I have the very same issues with the CincyBlogs site as you and appreciated your comments about it yesterday. I have been debating how to proceed for now, but will take action in the near future. Permission, notification, something would be expected in my opinion.

  • Looks like they’re trying to exploit another revenue source, while at the same time generating local content that they honestly don’t have the capacity to produce themselves anymore. I too have a big issue with them taking others’ content without permission or notification. To be a devil’s advocate, though, we do the same thing when we use mass media content without permission (even if attribution is present).

    When I will be REALLY concerned is when/if they try to display blog content without linking to blog itself, or even after the jump, if they show the Enquirer banner on the top (ala Google Pictures).

  • I asked for an apology, too. To my surprise, I haven’t heard back.

  • Find myself agreeing with you right down the line Randy. Not so much a blogger as a consumer, I have observed this as well. Both serve different needs…

  • Randy,I’m also doubtful it will will drive any traffic, don’t know how long its been up but I don’t see any click through from it. I guess it comes down to how will they market this thing? Still undecided if its any different from my blog roll besides the fact they have a paragraph of my content and could grab some google traffic. But to what end?

  • Sounds like what the Chicago Tribune did about a year and a half ago with their Chicago Now site: http://www.chicagonow.com/ They hoovered up a large percentage of local blogs with the promise of exposure and enough minor compensation to justify someone saying they were a “professional” blogger. I actually think it’s a shrewd business move.

  • Aaron – The Enquirer has already had their Local on Living blog network for well over a year – scooping up local bloggers and paying them a pittance to be promoted on Cincinnati.com. This is a bit of a different venture.

    Wonder what they thought when they saw this screenshot this morning…

    http://twitpic.com/460n8r

  • I think that Cincyblogs.com is kind of neat actually. It’s like a one-stop shop for some of the best blogs around the city. Nevermind, who’s behind it, what their intentions are or anything as such. At it’s core, it’s just a really great collection of local blogs.

    Personally, I think it’s brilliant that I pretty much have that whole little photography section all to myself. I’m flattered my blog was included on Cincyblogs.com, and very pleased that they categorized it where they did.

  • I agree that the functionality of CincyBlogs.com is cool, but they are a major for-profit news entity. They need to carry themselves a bit differently than some dude running a site like that out of his living room.

    Unless of course they would like to be treated like the dude running a site out of his living room. Pick one Enquirer.

  • Dale Brown

    Yeah, if you can’t find something to do some investigative reporting about in this city then you aren’t trying hard enough; and the Enquirer’s reporters might as well be bloggers with the poor spelling and grammar.

    Let’s be honest, they’ll play to both sides of the streetcar because that drives traffic and discussion. Its more of an incite the mob mentality (on both sides) than it is actual reporting.

  • i was hoping kevin lemaster would weigh in on this – i’m glad the enquirer is giving him something for his efforts, but for all the very high quality and informative work he’s been doing, they should have hired him on as a full reporter on development.

  • Casey

    Blogs from West Chester and Mason have been at the top of their Blogroll every time I have checked. So it’s not all downtown. It’s a pretty lame maneuver all in all. Bloggers by and large seek like the attention and adlation, so it gives them an ego-stroke while getting cheap content. What I have more of a problem with is the lack of discernible journalistic standards in many of their “stories,” yet the Enquirer has no problem doing a headline link to them on their home page. WMDM is often used this way, and you click expecting a story and it’s simply unverified second-hand rumors with sourcing along the lines of “No explanation on their facebook page. I left a message on their answering machine but haven’t heard back.”.

  • Jeff:

    I agree, it would be nice to hear from Kevin on this topic. The problem with that is the Enquirer probably should have offered him a job with the quality of his work. But why would they pay someone a full salary, benefits and so on when they can exploit the work the person is already doing at a mere fraction of any of that?

  • Julie

    Casey,

    I don’t control when the Enquirer promotes my stories. However, using social media ourlets as a source is perfectly acceptable. I often follow up after the initial post, as many writers follow up on stories. “Waiting for comment” is also acceptable. It’s not like it’s written in stone for a morning deadline.
    I’ve enjoyed my relationship with the enquirer– I’ve connected with more readers and started some good conversations. I too would have an issue if they were posting without linking, which they don’t appear to be doing. I think it can expose a lot of good bloggers to those outside the somewhat insular blogosphere. That’s a good thing. However, if the blogger doesn’t want to be included, I’d be disappointed if they didn’t honor a request for removal.

    I think most of us are still learning– bloggers to be responsible, print media how to leverage online media and stay relevant. I know I am. That’ why blogging is appealing to those of us who blog- – we have to learn and change as the market changes around us.

  • How do you even get to cincyblogs.com from the news.cincinnati.com site?
    When you do go to an external blog from the Wrap, it takes you right there. They could easily put the external blogs in a frame to maintain their brand, host advertising, etc. cincyblogs.com has no ads. They offer an “add my blog” and a “remove my blog” at the bottom of the page. One thing that’s better about Cinplify is that you can submit specific stories. A lot of my posts would be of no interest to the average Enquirer reader. I do believe the most powerful supercomputer in the U.S. Military being installed at WPAFB is of, at least, regional interest, tho.
    It doesn’t really bother me that they link to blogs. That’s what the internet is supposed to do. Dunno how this translates to the print edition. Wanting permission to be linked to is pretty old school & was pretty much dismissed years ago & like I said, they have a “remove my blog” form right there.
    All in all, I find this a lot more palatable (and ethical) than the TV stations rebroadcasting YouTube videos. Those guys are clearly making money off other people’s work and I doubt they are asking for any permission.