Politico. It’s a name you’ve at least heard, even if you’re not familiar with the website. Throughout the last presidential election, it was one of the go-to places for up-to-the minute, breaking news out of the nation’s capitol.
Since then, we have seen the maturation of Twitter occur in a very high-profile fashion. Incidents of unrest around the world have made their way onto the Internet with blazing speed. Lots of news coverage became possible thanks to the microblogging platform — ant that’s something that now has Politico rethinking its stance on blogging.
First, let’s get a solid perspective on Politico itself. Frederic Filloux, general manager of the French ePresse consortium, gives a great thumbnail view of its birth and development in his recent piece for Monday Note:
To cover American politics, Politico deploys an editorial staff of 150. This is more than any news organization in the United States for the same beat. It all started five years ago: a niche website launched by three seasoned political reporters who sharpened their claws in mainstream medias. As envisioned by John Harris, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, Politico was to start with a kernel of 12 hardcore political reporters who would aggressively run after all the balls.
And aggressive they were. Politico gained ascendance mainly due to its nearly real-time reporting on Washington, D.C. — a role that is almost certain to fall to Twitter during the coming election cycle.
Politico blogger Ben Smith notes the reaction of his boss to the situation in a recent blog post:
‘I’ve had this discussion with Ben, and I think what Ben is wrestling with is, ‘Are blogs as viable and essential today as they were four years ago, or is Twitter in the process of replacing blogs?” VandeHei says. ‘Can a blog still thrive as robustly today as it did four years ago? The answer might very well be ‘No,’ that it’s much harder for a blog to get and keep and cultivate that audience today than it was four years ago because of that competition, of Twitter pulling away that conversational immediacy element from the blog world.’
It seems that every year or two, someone makes the grand statement that blogging is dead. While VendeHei does not go quite that far, the implications of his words are fairly worrisome.
Dylan Byers, a writer for AdWeek, brings us some info on VandeHei’s projected new stance on the subject of blogging:
Knowing they can’t rest on their laurels, Politico has been working on a strategy for coming out on top in 2012, and beyond. But this time around, the strategy is remarkable not because it is radically new, but rather because, for the current environment, it is so radically old.
‘I have thought about this theory that there is going to be a big resurgence of long-form journalism,’ VandeHei says. ‘If you can’t punch through as easily with speed as you could in the past, the one thing you can do is you can punch through with quality.’
Content that defies the 140-character limit of Twitter. Content that has room for depth and nuance. Content that relies on high quality to draw and retain traffic. In the age of status updates and mobile Internet, it might seem to be a step backwards to some, and a much needed shift to others.
While some are apprehensive about it, the change is not an entirely unwelcome one, as this other excerpt from Byer’s piece shows:
[Ben] Smith’s blog is likely to change in some ways as well. There is a part of him that would welcome the chance to focus on longer, more substantive pieces. He envisions a blog that is ‘more like a column,’ with an emphasis on his perspective and analysis, rather than his ability to post breaking items faster than the competition.
‘In some ways,’ he says, ‘it’s a luxury to be relieved of the I-can-transcribe-faster-than-you thing.’
That last line really hits the nail on the head. While Twitter’s impact is massive — and only a fool would say otherwise — it cannot act as a vehicle for long-form content. Take a look at how much of Twitter’s user base consists of people sharing links. Those links are most often to news articles, blog posts, or other multi-paragraph writings (when they’re not links to cat videos or Rick Astley, that is).
The issue Politico faces is not one of whether blogging in general is dying out as a form, but whether it’s dead as far as its approach to leveraging. Politico‘s reputation and prominence was built on a foundation of speed, a foundation usurped by Twitter. Obviously, we here at SixEstate can attest to the efficacy of the long form. It’s the foundation of our Newsblogging services.
The question is: As election time looms, will the traffic and audience that Politico has built up over the past several years wax or wane as it transitions to its new stance? Or will it find itself in the position of having to rebuild a significant amount of its readership?
Source: “Can Politico Win Again? Blogger Ben Smith helped the site dominate the 2008 election cycle — but Twitter’s encroaching on its turf,” AdWeek, 09/06/11
Source: “Politico’s Way,” Monday Note, 09/04/11
Source: “Blog neurosis,” Politico, 09/06/11
Images: Politico‘s and Twitter logos, used under Fair Use: Reporting.