Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Quote of the Day: Jake Dobkin

"I don't think a paper that loses millions of dollars a year and funds itself by taking extortionary loans from plutocratic Mexican billionaires can be said to be competing in anything, Metro or otherwise. My feeling is you only get to congratulate yourself if you produce a great product and make money doing it— you don't get any points for doing just the first half. And that doesn't just go for you guys— I don't think any magazine or newspaper that supports itself by sucking on the teat of some old rich guy (or his heirs!) should be giving anyone else advice.

"Specifically in local, I don't think the Times has had an original idea in years. It's got a metro staff of what, 60 reporters, and look at all this innovation: Cityroom, which is a fairly lazy and sleep-inducing ripoff of Gothamist, and The Local, a recently closed ripoff of Brownstoner. Five years ago The Times could have bought the best local blogs in New York for a song— instead, they decided they could do it better in-house, and completely surrendered the 20-40 year old demographic to sites like ours."
That extended quote is from Jake Dobkin, the co-founder and publisher of the New York City blog It's part of his answer to a question the New York Times's David Carr sent him in advance of his appearance for a panel discussion on local news.

The biggest problem with Dobkin's insistance that the Times needs to start acting more like Gothamist in order to survive -- in his words, "doing less original reporting and more editorial curation" -- is that Dobkin's blog can't exist in its current form without bigger media sources publishing free content created by large staffs of reporters.

But Dobkin addresses that next:
"I've been asked a bunch of times whether I'm worried Gothamist won't have anything left to curate once the Times goes out of business. But I'm not— first of all, new billionaires seem to roll up every year with their vanity media products, dumping tons of new content at our doorstep. Rupert's new retread of the New York Sun has got to be worth a couple of dozen stories a day at least. Between those billionaire rubes, the dozens of mainstream media outlets that survive (radio, tv, local papers), and the hundreds of hyperlocal neighborhood blogs that spring up like mushrooms every year, I don't think we'll ever run out of local content to pass through our curation machine."
This is essentially what blogs like mine and his do: we cut and paste parts of original content from the web and either comment on it or just post it, congratulating ourselves for spotting it, acting as if we're providing a service.

Blogs at their worst are either parasitic aggregators of the stuff other people got paid to create or vanity projects that are little better than teenagers' diaries.

The best blogs either produce a lot of original content (nothing beats real research and reporting, even if it's phone calls or e-mails) or do such a good job amassing outside content that they become, like Gothamist, a valuable clearing house for local information and news. (When I want to know, for example, if there are any new details about a suicide on the subway tracks, Gothamist is far superior to the Times, or even local radio.) The other key to great blogging? Frequent posts. Yeah, I know.


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