I promised to explain why I believe Lakeland Local is not like the Winter Haven Chamber Blog which is not like the Polk County News Blog. Blogging is a fluid medium, and everyone has a different set of definitions. I’m presenting mine.
First, could you go read the entry on blogs at Wikipedia?
I just gave you a key component for a blog. I linked to a site I don’t control. The reason the Internet is called a “web” is the connections we foster between sites. My personal opinion is, first and foremost,
If you don’t link, you don’t write a traditional blog.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. But, sharing information, and directing your readers to additional information, is a key component of blogging.
Next up is interaction. Blogging is all about creating conversations. Between you and your readers, or among your readers.
If you don’t allow comments, you don’t write a traditional blog.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t simply accept emails and publish those. Though, the preferred method is to have simple online commenting available.
Now we have to consider independence. A blogger must own his or her words. She or he must write from a personal perspective and not within a corporate (profit or not) environment. Also, within the limits of libel laws and commonsense, a blogger must be able to write what she or he pleases.
If you can’t write what and when you like, you don’t write a traditional blog.
Polk County has many traditional blogs. Writers who link, have comments, and write about anything he or she pleases. I direct you to the list in the right column. I am sure there are others I haven’t found.
That said, we also have different kinds of sites that have some components of blogs, but are more specialized.
Take this site. Lakeland Local is a hyperlocal blog. I cover the news and information concerning a very specific geographical location: Lakeland, Florida. That’s what makes Lakeland Local “hyperlocal”. The fact I follow the three tenets above is what also makes it a blog. Some hyperlocal blogs cover wider locations, Empirical Polk covers the whole county, and others cover smaller areas, Potrero Hill covers just a neighborhood in San Francisco, California. It’s not the size of the community, it’s the focus of your blog that makes one hyperlocal.
Looking at the Winter Haven Chamber, we find an example of another type of site. Bob Gernert is operating his site to publicize business concerns in the Winter Haven area. He links, and accepts comments, but his site is not a hyperlocal or traditional blog. He doesn’t “own” the posts. At the bottom of each page is the copyright notice ©2006 Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, Inc.. Bob doesn’t own his words, the Chamber does. If he leaves, he can’t take the site with him. This means that his site fails the “independent test.”
Not that it makes his site less than any hyperlocal or traditional blog, but it is more a continuation of the old-fashioned press release than it is a blog. Gernert is bypassing the traditional media to take his message directly to the public. I’d call his site a PR-log.
Speaking of the media, they are attempting to move into blogging. Some with better success than others. Yet, I can’t call them bloggers. Here’s why: they are writing for a corporation. Their newspaper, their TV station, etc. Still, some are closer to bloggers than others. For the sake of shorthand, I’ll use the term J-logger (journalist/blogger).
Looking locally, it’s easy to see the preeminent jlogger is Billy Townsend. He links like a demon. His site generates comments. His posts add to his reporting and cover topics not available in his paper. But he misses at the same mark as Gernert. He is at the direction of his corporate employer, the Tampa Tribune.
That said, Townsend is closer to the concept than many of the Lakeland Ledger “bloggers.” While some are excelling in the j-log concept, some have not. Many of their posts are mere asides they left out of their reporting. There is a dearth of linking to pertinent information. Some Ledger writers let comments sit unanswered and that stifles the conversation required to be a blogger. But, most importantly, they are also not independent. They are writing at the whim of their employer.
Still, I don’t take the Ledger, Tribune, or Chamber sites any less seriously than I do the traditional blogs. PR-logs and j-logs are not lesser than traditional blogs. Their background and goals are simply different. To date, I have found them all to be upfront, open, and trustworthy. However, my bias is towards independence. I favor independent bloggers who can write what and when they like without fear of irritating a boss, or losing a client.