Best Newspaper blogs for comments, community and readability

by Shawn Smith on November 1, 2007

Many want examples of how to get comments on blogs and create communities on blogs. The blogs listed here have done a good job doing that, for the most part. I did some research and also tapped Online News Association members to find out some of their favorite blogs. I tried to find blogs that, in Vin Crosbie’s words, “encouraged readers to join the process, not just to consume the results.”

Note: I included few sports blogs, if any, being that I have found many sports blogs having an easier time creating communities regardless of blog presentation. Sports fans want to talk, even if a blogger doesn’t encourage it. I also did not intentionally leave anyone out, but wanted to highlight the blogs that I did run across that stood out in their respective niche. I also tried my best to highlight blogs that focused on local communities and regional areas.

If you have other newspaper blogs from around the web that you find interesting, please share them in the comments.How did I decide which blogs to include? For the most part, I looked at:

  • Reader comments and community interaction
  • The information given in blogs
  • Bloggers’ writing style
  • How closely the blogs mirrored the principles of popular blogs such as problogger, copyblogger, engadget and others.
  • Recommendations of members of the Online News Association

Common themes in the listed blogs:

  • Most posts aren’t too long or too short
  • Many blogs have focus, sticking to posts within a particular niche
  • Many feature blogs ask questions within posts to spur reader comments – encourage reader comments
  • Good headlines are important. Entries with provocative and understandable headlines tend to get more comments

Here’s the list of blogs broken down by category, in no particular order:

ABC News The BlotterHeadline Writing
ABC News’ The Blotter
ABC News’ headlines have provocative questions and statements that are enough to get readers to stop and think. Although they aren’t necessarily asking for comments, this blog might be getting them on the sole basis of their intriguing headline writing.

Washington Post’s Focus on Fairfax

Blogging about a small town local region:
WaPo’s Focus on Fairfax

This blog features news related to Fairfax, from restaurant reviews to high school sports scores to direct links to special sections. This very closely mirrors what impact pages should be, showing quick news items that send users to other sections and articles where they can get more information about a particular topic. Essentially, this blog blogs the newspaper and other items.

Bakersfield Californian BakosphereCovering your town:
Bakersfield Californian’s Bakosphere
This blog highlights stories around the web about people related to Bakersfield, California. The story notes when magazines, other news outlets, late-night tv shows and others mention anything Bakersfield related. Comment rates vary, but look to have reached as high as 43 on recent entry.

USA Today’s On DeadlineNews Aggregation
USA Today’s On Deadline
Although this blog covers the nation, its principles can be transferred to a local blog. The bloggers here aggregate stories from other news sources to be the true resource for readers. Linking out to other news outlets is important because it establishes the ON Deadline blog as the resource readers go to first to find the news. They also respond to comments within the comments section.

Montreal Gazette’s HABS Inside / OutBlogging your own stories
Montreal Gazette’s HABS Inside / Out (hockey blog) :
This blog consists of short items that mention articles produced by the paper and also quick quotes from sports figures. By blogging the papers’ stories, the HABS blog is able to get readers more into the content of the site. It also makes for easily digestible content. The comments are pretty consistent and high as well.

Spokesman Review’s News is a ConversationForming relationships between paper and reader:
Spokesman-Review’s News is a Conversation:
Written by the editor of the The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., this blog discusses why and how stories are chosen for publication, how they are played and gives reasoning by the paper on why they were reported. This blog also responds to reader comments on stories and blogs.

Spokesman Review’s Ask the Editors
Spokesman-Review’s Ask the Editors:
This blog allows editors from the Spokesman-Review to address questions from readers that can apply to many people at once. For example, readers often send the same or similar questions to publications, and feedback managers can easily respond to many people at once using this format. The answers are also always available using a blog, which helps readers find answers on their own.

Bakersfield Californian’s Ask the CalifornianBakersfield Californian’s Ask the Californian:
Q&A blog by the newspaper for residents’ questions regarding their town – such as, why is there a mound of dirt on this block? Why is the street lighting out on this street? Haven’t you wondered every once in a while why the city is tearing up the streets and putting in LED streetlights. The “Ask the Californian” is a great way to answer your reader’s questions about their hometown.

Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Talk of the TownAtlanta Journal-Constitution’s Talk of the Town:
The paper taps into what people are talking about and asks leading questions at the end of posts. Another cool thing is the AJC loads the most recent comments directly below the latest blog post. This can get people directly into the comments and also highlight reader interactivity.

St. Louis Dispatch’s Punch LineReader Interaction
St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Punch Line:
This blog features a comic scene that allows readers to offer comments and fill in the unfinished thought bubbles. Users seem to love it! The comments are often around 200 per post.

Spokesman Review’s Multimedia video blogMultimedia
Spokesmen-Review Multimedia blog:
The Review posts their multimedia items directly into the blog where readers can easily skim through the latest projects. The blog often gives a short quip about the story associated with the multimedia, a photo or video embedded in the post, and sometimes they put in a quote regarding the story.

Houston Chronicle’s Kristin 2 GoTelling a story using video
Houston Chronicle’s Kristin 2 Go:
Although not always the most-refined videos, Kristin does well the provide videos with stories that require images. If she’s covering a story with action, she has the video camera. Putting her personality in this blog makes sense.

USA Today’s Pop CandyEntertainment
USA Today’s Pop Candy:
Like David Pogue, Pop Candy’s writer really connects with her readers. She offers a Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) mini-blog to give readers quick updates on entertainment news and events the writer is attending. The writer also writes profiles on her commentors when she is on vacation, which spur tons of comments. Take a look today at how the writer got readers to send in photos of Halloween costumes.

Washington Post’s Going Out GurusOut on the town
WAPO’s Going Out Gurus:
WaPo writers give quick items about entertainment venues in their town. The blog talks about acts, ticket prices and venues. Comments aren’t huge, but this blog acts as a guide that could be nearly indispensable for those looking for things to do. My guess is people don’t expect to find this type of resource from the Washington Post and the blog could possibly use better promotion.

St. Petersburg Times / Tampa Bay’s Stuck in the 80sNiche
St. Petersburg Times/ Tampa Bay.com’s Stuck in the 80s:
A true personality blog with niche interest. This blog does well to break longer posts into sub-headings and create lists to make posts more readable. Using photos and bolding makes posts really stand out. This blog style is easy to quickly comprehend and digest.

Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Get SchooledSchools
Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Get Schooled:
This blog’s community is very active. One reason may be because the writer invites readers to comment through the use of leading questions and updates. I also like that the blogger offers updates to the posts. Rather can completely editing them, the blogger simply adds a note at the bottom with updated content – similar to how the blogosphere at large handles updates.

Dayton Daily News’ Get on the BusDayton Daily News’ Get on the Bus:
Writer gives background on stories and quick vignettes on items that didn’t make it into paper editions of articles. Comment community vibrant. What’s cool: Reader comments are pull-quoted directly into the top of the post. I’m not sure if those are automatically loaded or not, but highlighting user quotes is a great way to encourage community interaction.

Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Misadventures in AtlantaDating
Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Misadventures in Atlanta:
Uses questions and personal stories to spur conversation. Community is very active. The AJC even made one of the top commentors a regular writer for the blog, and the former reader has become quite popular. Nice way of interacting!

Bakersfield Californian’s Dine n DishDining
Bakersfield Californian’s Dine n’ Dish:
This blog does well to tell readers where they can get what kind of foods and highlights special dishes and specials. The blog also offers recipes in an easily readable format and encourages readers to give their reactions to foods.

Chicago Tribune’s The WatcherTV
Chicago Tribune’s The Watcher:
Although this blog is a little lengthy, it provides updates on plot twists and actor news you might not see in the regular paper. The comments range from 3 to upper 20s per post. This blog might also do well because it covers shows that people actually care about, such as Heroes! I’ll have to take a better look at this one. I’m not exactly sure why the reader comments are high. Maybe the writer’s conversational tone inspires readers?!?

Parenting
Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Momania Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s MOMania:
This blog gives a personal look into the writer’s life and the writer asks for the thoughts of readers to help the conversation. What else do I like?? She links out to other sources. She is a resource for moms. Rather than trying to keep readers at her blog with her own content, she’s giving her readers the info and resources they need to make informed decisions. That’s definitely a top duty of a good blogger.

Washington Post’s Small BusinessBusiness
WAPO’s Small Business:
This blog is a little dry and doesn’t seem to get a lot of reader interaction. I included it because I like the way the writer links out and points readers to other resources. Giving readers all the resources they need is important to keeping readers coming back for more.

San Jose Mercury News’ Square FeetReal Estate
The San Jose Mercury News’ Square Feet:
Real Estate is a hot topic anywhere right now. The blogger averages anywhere from 5-10 comments per post. The posts offer personal opinions and seems to spur reader reaction.

Houston Chronicle’s Houston DeparturesTravel
Houston Chronicle’s Houston Departures:
This blog highlights user questions, quips on stories around the web and relates them to Houston readers and also lays out travel deals in a newsy and informative way.

New York Times’ Pogue’s PostsTechnology
NYT’s Pogue’s Posts:
Great voice, interaction with readers and interaction with the blogosphere. One of the leading newspaper people who have found a balance between print and digital. He also creates really interesting videos and responds to readers with a very informal tone. That seems to catch the attention of newspaper readers who are used to the dry, “speak at me” voice of many newspaper articles.

International Herald Tribune’s Green Business of GreenEnvironment
International Herald Tribune’s Business of Green:
Short, quick blog posts about going green in business (environmental). Averages a few comments per post, but the blogger answers questions in posts that most likely would be too short for feature stories – which is an interesting niche.


Who else should be on this list?
Let me know!

UPDATE:

I found another list that popped up after the discussion was on the ONA listserv. Check out Mama T’s top bogs at Online News Squared. Blogs mentioned on the list that are not sports blogs include the L.A. Times’ Show Tracker and The Envelope. Danny Sanchez at Journalistopia also noted The Other Football blog, which Squared says is one of the top blogs at the Tribune (and it looks pretty good too!).

{ 23 trackbacks }

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November 1, 2007 at 9:03 am
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{ 30 comments }

Pat Thornton November 1, 2007 at 11:24 pm

Every newspaper considering doing blogs should read this post. Blogs can be done well at a newspaper, and this is post is an excellent place to look for ideas.

I wish more newspapers took the time to figure out what makes a blog work and not work. Too often I see blogs that just don’t get it or don’t serve a real journalistic mission.

Shawn Smith November 2, 2007 at 5:22 am

Thanks Pat, I’ve found similar issues with newspaper blogs. There’s many factors that go into media blogs not having a direction and/or not having much of a community, which could be news promotion, blog coaching and the writers’ familiarity with the web.

Newspapers have some of the best writers on the planet, but there’s just something different about writing on the web. I think above all, it just takes newspaper people looking for inspiration from blogs like they would the New York Times and other big papers.

Sam Jones November 2, 2007 at 11:19 am

Great list Shawn! Dugg.

Mark Potts November 2, 2007 at 3:31 pm

Um, Fairfax, the subject of the “Blogging about a small town” winner, is hardly a small town. It’s a county with 1.1 million residents–larger than most cities.

Shawn Smith November 2, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Good Point Mark, I’ll make a note of that. Appreciate the correction.

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