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BusinessWeek mulls goals and challenges in blogging


First things first: Please don’t hesitate to share your views on this post, preferably in comments: That’s how we BusinessWeek bloggers, in large measure, are being measured. In a meeting with the people who contribute to our 29 BW blogs today, online exec editor John Byrne said that the goal is to create the business and finance site with “the deepest and most meaningful engagement” with our community. “It matters more than anything else.”

It’s not entirely clear to me that counting comments is the best way to measure engagement. But none of us came up with a better idea. Any suggestions?

John and Ira Sager, who’s now the “blog meister,” called the meeting to help us figure out how to become better bloggers. They encouraged us to use all the tools available, including Twitter, to engage readers. They urged us to link more, post more often, clean up typos and sloppy grammar, follow normal BW standards on fairness, and to incorporate best practices from search engine optimization (SEO). No big surprises there.

They told us that in the next month or so, a number of underperforming blogs would be culled from our mix. John said we were doing “too many things and not doing them well enough.” This blog will stick around, though recently I toyed with the idea of replacing it with TheNumerati.net, my book blog. The two often have a similar focus, and sometimes I have to debate which blog to post on.

John told us that as part of our recent deal, Amazon will send 10 of our most trafficked blogs to the Kindle. They’ll include Tech Beat, Auto Beat, and a few others that have more focus, more posts and page views than this one.

Posts from those same blogs will stream across part of the BW home page in an upcoming redesign. That in turn will boost their traffic, broadening their lead over the likes of us.

We bloggers complained about our backward blogging software and erratic virtual private network, which leads to lengthy delays. (That's a big part of the reason I'm not hurrying to bring the Numerati blog into the fold.) The root of the problem, we learned, is that McGraw Hill needs the strongest cyber protection for the Standard & Poors division, whose electronic traffic, if hacked, could rock global financial markets. We at BusinessWeek are trapped behind the same thick firewall--though we may get some relief with new software later this year.

Lots of the questions debated have been simmering in the blog world for years. I asked for a system that would let us white-list commenters so that their contributions could go onto the site immediately. That's not happening anytime soon. Some wondered if we should we edit hateful or racist snippets from comments. That discussion could have gone on for hours. Indeed, it continues to this minute on e-mail...

I asked whether they counted how many readers subscribe to our RSS feeds. The answer: No, or not yet. I'm pretty sure that our posts reach a lot of you on aggregator pages, and that you rarely visit the blog, much less leave comments, but are still in the loop. If it's any comfort, you count for me.

People asked whether photos and videos drive more traffic and engagement. No one seemed to know. Should we put up Youtube videos? John said that it's OK occasionally, but that he'd like more of the video to lead traffic to sites (ie. ours) whose revenue employs journalists. Trouble is, YouTube has maybe a million times more inventory. (a billion?)

That's about it. If you have ideas on how to improve this blog, or the rest of the BW blogs, please--please--leave suggestions. I couldn't get you on a white list, at least not yet, but I'll approve them in a hurry.


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