Amy Gahran will have more details about the revenue side of this in Poynter's E-Media Tidbits column--which I'll add the link to the post when it appears--but for now we have Blinq blogger Daniel Rubin's own words on the matter, and they say quite a bit...
What I'm moving on to is the metro desk, taking a crack at being a local columnist. Talk about your old media.
Yes, stunningly old media, but also what many a journalist/blogger (or is it blogger/journalist?) might be hoping for--to move ahead, to be taken seriously by the Powers that Be (for whom print still carries much weight), to be able to make a great buck from what we like doing: telling others about our worlds and voicing our opinions.
In journalism, only a Columnist earns the right to have an opinion in print.
By blogging, Rubin says he learned that "Blogging for a Philly audience is a contact sport."
Dan, blogging is a "contact sport" for anyone who's out here doing it with any modicum of seriousness and desire to connect with others. It's got nothing to do with Philly per se.
Yet that statement, to me, speaks to the myopia and disconnect of most Big Media newsrooms. The People are somewhere Out There, and the newspaper blogger/columnist is above them all. If you continue to read Rubin's words about his blogging, they sound as if what he was doing was toil--that he may have hated blogging, even though it brought him in touch with the unwashed masses of the blogosphere in a way he never expected. (UpdateRubin adds in comments that he enjoyed his work at Blinq--I appreciate that he took the time to leave the comment and hope he will not be limited from commenting once he is officially moved up the food chain.)
Yet the decision to simply not continue with Blinq is really bad from a marketing standpoint. From what Gahran found (and I'll link to later) Blinq wasn't cutting it when it came to contributing to Philly.com's bottom line. Thus, it was probably more cost effective to move Rubin inside the office, to a column, rather than have him languish as a discontented blogger.
Blinq became a burden because it was an under-performing property for Philly.com.
Didn't matter that it was building brand loyalty...
A takeaway from the marketing cons I've attended is that building brand loyalty is a hugely important. As it's stated by marketers, products want to form bonds with consumers. Companies that make products want people to connect with the products and make those products part of their lifestyle.
Blinq was part of people's lifestyle and was thus helping build brand loyalty to Philly.com.
But I guess that wasn't what the paper wanted. Maybe they want brand loyalty to the dead-tree product. Which seems a bit retro....
Yet there's a point about blogs and brand loyalty I'd love to point out to Philly.com: from what I know, I don't believe that GM's Fastlane blog has done a great deal to increase GM's bottom line. But what Fastlane has done is build brand loyalty via corporate transparency--which creates loyal customers which leads to sales that GM may not have realized otherwise, even if those sales aren't enough to make a dent in its flagging bottom line.
Thing is, for as many people as we believe are online right now, things like blogs and the whole notion of social media are fairly new. They are still the province of early adopters, despite all they hype that everybody's doing it. There are still problems with access to the 'net in the U.S., as there is a problem with information overload and time management. But the folks who are involved in the Internet, who love the interaction, are the leaders. A whole generation, the Millennials, will be using the Internet in a way that will outpace (by sheer numbers as much as orientation toward the Internet as a means of communication) their older Gen X counterparts (who are the early adopters/adapters.)
Killing Blinq might prove to be unwise. Another option could have been to pass Blinq on to another blogger (I think Gahran talks about this option.) Blogs are sometimes different from columns--they can be stand-alone name brands without a particular person attached to them. Blinq as a brand is known--and it could possibly be a brand that could have been maintained. It was a "home" for a small community of interacters and lord knows how many lurkers. Because it was established, Rubin might have thought to pass it on to another blogger (then again, an option he might not have had.) That would have been an interesting experiment: could a branded blog be passed on to another and maintain its readership?
Maybe, though, it's not about experiments of that sort. Maybe it was about having some bragging rights: "ok, we tried that blogging thing. we've now got a columnist who knows the blogosphere. He can write about it, so let's just move him up to the newsroom where he belongs and kill the blog."
I don't know. I can't intuit the minds of Big Media any more than I can prognosticate the New England weather....but I do know that something like brand loyalty is a tough thing to build...marketers worry about it all the time...and when you've got it, it would make sense to try to keep it.
Post-script almost a year later: Perhaps what's even more important than the whole brand loyalty thing is that Dan Rubin learned who Philly.com's readers happen to be. They are, indeed, the folks who congregated around Blinq. Who else could they be? Who else would be so interested in commenting on a blog connected to a newspaper--and one that had a hyperlocal focus? Rubin is one of the scant few journalist who learned to communicate with his audience in an online environment. A rare, and quite wonderful thing, and a very valuable (yet under-appreciated) skill.
Journalism, citizen journalism, media, marketing, Blog, Blogs web 2.0