How do bloggers differ from journalists now?

The difference between journalists and bloggers

Summary for the conference "Beyond Tomorrow" of the Quadriennale

Monday 19th May 2014

"Could you give a blogging workshop?" At the end of last year I was asked by the social media team of the currently running Quadriennale 2014. At the time they were planning the conference “Networking beyond tomorrow - New opportunities for exhibition operations”, to which representatives of cultural institutions ( especially museums) were invited. With their question, Kathrin Michel and Latifa Shangama-Kalmes ran open doors to me, as I still notice in discussions with press offices, marketing and communication departments how many question marks still hover over the topics of “blogger relations” and “corporate blogging” . Since Tanja Praske was also invited as a speaker, I quickly knew which of the two topics I would address: blogger relations. Because how museums and theaters can use blogs, Tanja has for a long time had a firm eye and can therefore contribute something much more targeted than I for the target group “cultural institutions”. So it was obvious that I would be there in my role as a private blogger and would rather dedicate myself to the question of what makes this digital species tick.

What I keep finding: The uncertainty about how to deal with bloggers is based primarily on a wrong assumption. The idea that bloggers are actually something like journalists, just with a Facebook page and Twitter account. With the misjudgment, from my point of view it is quite understandable that the cooperation with bloggers is rather sluggish. Educational work is needed. At this point I followed up on the Quadriennale and therefore led the workshop “No, bloggers are not journalists 2.0” last Friday. At this point I would like to summarize what I believe to be the most important differences so that they are also accessible to those who were unable to participate.

Let me start by saying how I understand the terms “blogger” and “journalist” is as follows. Because one thing is clear: a commercial fashion blogger with a huge reach is different from a private DIY blogger with 30,000 hits a month. And a freelance travel journalist who spends months researching is different from a full-time editor of an advertising newspaper who sometimes just changes the headline of a press release and then copies it into the paper. In the following, I am therefore starting from the phenotypes that a cultural institution is usually confronted with: editors of daily media or specialist media as well as private bloggers who pursue a professional approach, but earn their money in another job. In order not to randomly line up the differences, I have sorted them according to keywords. At the end there is a link to the presentation, which too gives specific tips on how to deal with bloggers.

TIME

Blogger write, photograph and research in their private time, i.e. the blog collides with other leisure / family activities. For a blogger event within the week, they may have to take vacation or work overtime. Even if you work freelance, you are not automatically flexible. After all, doing something for the blog means not doing anything that is paid for during that time. In addition to writing, a blogger spends a lot of time on all accompanying social media activities and digital networking with other bloggers. In addition, there is the time required for photography, layout, research and contact. In contrast to an editorial office, bloggers are a one-man show - with all their advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is certainly that there are no externally determined deadlines. The blogger alone decides when and whether a post goes online.

Journalists have significantly narrower time frames. The date for a press conference is specified, as is the headline for submitting the article or the finished article. A journalist is therefore much more pressed for time than a blogger. However, this time pressure is part of his job, because what he does happens during his working hours. Such a banal but often forgotten difference and at the same time so important for planning blogger relations: bloggers invest private time, journalists work time.

Two completely different differences can be found with regard to the keyword “time”: bloggers usually report live in their social media channels, a journalist with a time lag. And while a blogger can just get started without training, a journalist invests years in freelance work, traineeships and internships in order to be able to work in his profession.

FREEDOM

A Blogger does what he wants, and in his very own way. He decides at his own discretion whether a topic will make it onto his blog or not. It is also completely independent in terms of text length and photo selection. There is no code that he has to adhere to and it is also not mandatory that a topic is up to date. He can blog about the opening of an exhibition, but his readers will not look askance if he only publishes something during the course of the exhibition. Fortunately, the majority of bloggers still insist on their freedom of expression when it comes to collaborations. There is no code that bloggers have to adhere to, but there is a legal framework.

At a Journalists if you take a closer look. He is committed to neutrality and the press code. Unlike a private blogger, he cannot finally decide whether a topic is to be dealt with or not - that is done by the editorial team or the boss on duty. The question of the topicality of a topic always plays a major role in this decision. When it comes to implementation, the journalist has to take formal requirements into account. News reports in the regional broadcast or reports in the local area always follow traditional lengths.

THEME DEPTH

I'm not leaning out of the window now and writing that bloggers are more likely to scratch the surface of a topic with their articles. Because that would not do justice to technology bloggers in particular. But one cannot deny that journalistic reporting is almost always much more in-depth than a blog post. Simply because several positions and people often have their say in an article or a radio or TV report. Yes, I know that is not always the case in journalism, but it is much more common. Critical questions from bloggers are also rarely observed. To put it bluntly: Bloggers are more about experience than about collecting investigative information. An example: While a kitchen trade magazine is certainly interested in what exactly the energy efficiency of a new Siemens kitchen is based on and what other exciting material or technical details are available, this interested the bloggers who shared it with a high-ranking chef Prepare a three-course menu, rather less. On Twitter, the hashtag #nomnomnom dominates posts around this blogger event, the hashtag #energy saving is probably not found once. I write that in a completely neutral way - I don't think that's bad. Because a blogger event is more about image cultivation and brand messages, less about depth of topic. And that also explains why thick folders with documents similar to press releases do not actually have to be handed to bloggers. You can do that, but you shouldn't be surprised if none of the ten blog posts I have made appear in this folder.

MONEY

A journalist cannot be bought, a blogger does not want to be bought. Even bloggers who are proven to be commercially active insist on their independence of opinion. At least on paper. The reality is often different, but as a company you should still write behind your ears: With cash payments you buy range, not an opinion. Unfortunately, many people still forget that range is worth something. Thousands of euros are invested in an advertisement, but you don't want to pay anything for a blog post. Where the difference is obvious: In contrast to the journalist, the blogger does not get paid by anyone for the time he spends on the post. (Another discussion is that journalists often get too little for their work….) At the same time, however, he invests money in his blog: it starts with the fee for his domain and in blogger training courses, which with travel expenses can easily add up to hundreds Cost euros.

IMAGE

Blogger do a lot to maintain their digital image and to make the blog a brand. That is exactly what makes them so exciting: They are not only experts, but also representatives of the worlds of life. More than a journalist, a blogger is a figure of identification. Because he reveals personal information and places himself at the center of his activities. Selfies of Journalists on Facebook with the reference to which brilliant event you are currently participating in, are rather rare. Most bloggers, on the other hand, can't help but show themselves in the context of their blog work. And here, too, I don't think one thing is worse than the other. I don't want to experience a journalist the way I know from bloggers. That would rather reduce his seriousness. It is only important to understand that bloggers are just “willing to show”. If you find this embarrassing, you'd better not work with bloggers. Those who understand the mechanism behind it, on the other hand, do.

When it comes to image, a completely different point of view is appropriate: What image do the two groups actually enjoy with third parties? In my experience they have it Journalists Much better: When it comes to managing directors and decisions, they are more important, serious and reliable. Bloggers are quickly classified as erratic, amateurish, and unpredictable. But that is also due to the false expectation that bloggers are still too often met with. If you want them to work and publish the way a journalist does, you can't help but be disappointed. However, if you don't rely on neutrality and subject depth, but become aware of the actual advantages (creativity, emotional reader closeness, reach in social media), then that would also improve your image.

HEART BLOOD

Now it's getting tricky, because I can't and don't want to write that a blogger puts more passion into his job than a journalist. Perhaps it gets to the heart of my thinking better when I speak of “connectedness”. Even an editor feels - hopefully - connected to the medium he works for, but the identification of a blogger with his blog is of course even greater. From the points mentioned above: He does his work unpaid and of his own free will - you have to have a lot of fun with it and put your heart into this activity. Bloggers therefore also take positive and negative feedback about what they do very personally.

A detailed comparison of the points summarized here as well as specific recommendations for action for cultural institutions derived from them were summarized in a presentation for the workshop. You can find it at Slideshare.

Photos: Quadriennale and Susanne Diesner