News Bloggers Can Only Thrive At News Portals

(Liu Xingzheng blog  News Bloggers Can Only Thrive At News  Portals.  August 12, 2006.

News can be exchanged for money.  More and more people know that, but not many people have the ability to effect that.  Therein lies the problem.

Only when news is disseminated will it have power and value.  Without being disseminated, it is just ordinary words, pictures and videos with a value of zero.

Why are the excellent journalists willing to go to work at the more influential media?  That is because those media are more powerful and valuable for his news.

A while ago at a public interest event, I was talking to the organization about how to establish and maintain a blog.

A member of the organization raised a hand to ask: "Why do we have to start a blog?  Is it alright if we don't?"

I was taken aback and I did not reply directly.  I said stiffly, "The organizers proposed the need and I am only responsible for explaining the technical issues."

In retrospect, I am really sorry and I should have told them that the significance of a blog is ten thousand times more important than the how-to's of blogging.

What I actually want to tell him is: "If you do good things, you are just one person doing good things.  If ten people do good things silently, that is just ten people doing good things.  It is more noble and valuable if you can get other people to do good things along with you.  How do you achieve that?  Communication!"

That was a digression and now we go on to the main subject.  

There is a saying overseas that the blogs will gradually take over news and the blogs will gradually become mainstream media.  This is because the bloggers (I hate Fang Xingdong's shitty translation, because the Chinese word 博客 can mean either a website (blog) or an essay (blog)) are more likely to be present at the scene and therefore they are better at getting to the details than professional reporters can.

As an example, in the London subway bombings, the most widely disseminated photograph came from a blogger's camera phone.  Another example is a certain politician writing a blog that affected the election.

I have always thought that this was rubbish.

The reason is simple.  The world does not lack experts or eyewitnesses.  The world lacks attentiveness.

Think about it: if the London subway blogger only posted the photograph on his personal blog without the news agencies coming in, how many people in the world would have see it?

Think about it: How many experts in the world know how to express themselves using the public's language?

Today, I did a couple of things related to blogs.

First: There is a problem with the frozen earth along the Qinghai-Tibet railroad.  A friend of mine is a construction engineer and I asked him to write an analytical piece for his blog.  I kept telling him online about how to write in a clear and purposeful way, and he was getting annoyed.  I said, "Don't get annoyed.  Do you know how hard it is for an expert to write for the general public?  But for you, it is such a valuable thing.  So many people are researching the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but why is only Yi Zhongtian making money?  Is this because he is smarter?  No, it is because he knows how to talk to the public.  He has the ability to present his viewpoints in a way that ordinary people like to hear.  That is value.  You are practically standing on a piece of virgin territory.  In the next twenty years, how many major engineering projects will come under public scrutiny?  If you can address the public's doubts, then how valuable can that be?"

I am not kidding him and he knows that I am not kidding him.  At the last earthquake in Indonesia, his blog post got almost 30,000 hits.  If he can analyze each engineering event from the expert's angle in a way that readers like, someone is going to pay for his essays.  Actually, we are paying him.

But I also know very well that even if he were an expert who knows how to write brilliantly for the public, he is still just an ordinary blogger if he does not have a strong communication platform.  How many people will know that there is such a terrific blogger?  How many people know where to find the most valuable blog whenever there is a problem with a construction project?

Just like Yi Zhongtian with CCTV, my friend would be lucky to have 20 visitors a day without the powerful platform of the portal, and he would have absolutely no chance of changing things.

Yesterday, there was typhoon Saomai.  I used Google to search the blogs and I found a blog by a worker with the Marine Department in Wenzhou.  He has very newsworthy content, but his visitor count was nearly zero.  I persuaded him to start a blog at a portal and then I recommended it.  Within four hours, his visitor count went from zero to 10,000.  For this website, there was value and we were willing to turn his content into money.

Second thing: This is finally related to changing things.

Yesterday afternoon, the Shanghai maglev train caught fire.  I was called back from a training session and informed about the news.  At the time, there was no news in the traditional media on the Internet.  An eyewitness contacted our website and said that he saw the whole thing and he had photographs and videos.  He asked us if we are willing to buy it from him.

Why not?

When I heard his asking price, I said: "Your price is absurd."

So I gave him an offer, which is one-tenth of his asking price.  When he heard that, he said, "Forget it."

I said, "Forget it, then."

Two minutes later, he called again.

Obviously, he knew that the contents in his hands were valuable.  But if they remain only on his hands, it will quickly become worthless.

According to him, if he leaves it on his website, he can draw 20,000 to 30,000 visitors.

But any item on the news page of a portal can easily reach 20,000.  Besides, I am doubtful about the possibility that this news item can bring 20,000 to 30,000 visitors to his website.  Furthermore, what is the meaning of the 20,000 to 30,000 visitors to a website that is unrelated to news?  This will only cause burden for the server.

Of course, the reason why I took at "take-it-or-leave-it" approach was not because I feel that I have a powerful broadcasting platform behind me.  I did not feel that this was optional, because a news worker had better be able to tell the value of this story or else he ought to quit.  Rather, I knew that this was a hot potato because no other media organization was reporting this story at the time.  If we took it, it would be appropriate to say that we were "playing with fire."  If we paid the guy and then we were ordered to shut down the story, we would have been losers.

After a dragged-out negotiation (both sides knew that if this negotiation goes on for a few more hours, then everything becomes meaningless as time elapses.  On his side, his treasure could become worthless and so his negotiating power was deteriorating.  On my side, I only wanted to keep this away from the competition.  So it was simple: all I had to do was to stall until he says OK.  Finally, we obtained his contents with the highest amount that we can afford.

He got realistic and we all got what we wanted.

This discussion seems to be winding.  Sometimes I am talking about values, and sometimes I am talking about being realistic.

In summary:

It is important to be excellent, but it is more important that people should know that you are excellent.  The latter is a lot harder than the former.

Therefore, news bloggers must live under news portals and they cannot be independent.  I don't know about gossip bloggers, though.