Friday, March 30, 2007

Second Boston Blogger Meeting

Thanks to all the folks who came Tuesday to our second Boston blogger meeting (even when another organization was offering free drinks at their meeting down the road!).

I’m especially grateful for all the ideas the participants came up with regarding the placement and labeling of blogger stories in the paper (color coding or the use of an icon or both) as well as on how we should craft a compensation system (a mixture of cash, press passes, etc. based on the individual bloggers’ wishes).

We also talked about how to promote blogger videos and podcasts in the paper (screen shots and transcribed sentences) as well as how to handle blogger archives (they can live on our site or yours).

We answered questions about rights (you keep’em) and pointing back to your website from BostonNOW (that’s perfectly fine).

Finally, we talked about how to bring the sense of community on the Web into the paper by highlighting the interactivity within each blog, publishing comments either on the “Dialogue” page (our equivalent of the traditional editorial page) or on the appropriate page (sports page for sports bloggers, entertainment page for entertainment bloggers, etc.).

Keep an eye on this blog for future meetings and online discussions aimed at resolving the unanswered questions involved in bringing you, the creative online community of Boston, into world of 150,000 readers a day and onto our website.

Thanks again to all who attended and all who wrote to say they wished they could.

Until next time,


Thursday, March 29, 2007

BostonNOW at the Thursday Meeting at Berkman Blog

Hi, all!

I'm scheduled to attend the weekly blogger meeting at the Berkman Center tonight to talk about BostonNOW and answer questions from the group. According to the website, "[a]nyone who wants to join us is welcome." So, if you're in the Harvard Square area (23 Everett Street!) and want to come down around 7pm to hear more about BostonNOW and share your thoughts, please do so!

Thanks to Erica George and the kind folks in the group for inviting me.

Regina O'Brien
Web Content Manager

Getting published in BostonNOW in print and online

We've been asked by a lot of folks, "How do I contribute to BostonNOW?"

Here are our intial thoughts, which will grow and evolve over time with your input.

BostonNOW wants to encourage active participation in our online and print community, so interested contributors will only need to follow a few steps to be considered for the print publication. As soon as the BostonNOW website ( goes live (scheduled for Monday, April 16; the day before our first paper is published), you would create a BostonNOW account. This account will allow you to create a profile that will allow you to contribute to the community and be considered for print publication. (Future releases of the BostonNOW online functionality may allow for RSS aggregation from your website or blog.)

Via the BostonNOW website, you will be able to post blogs or creative writing via a Wordpress interface using your BostonNOW account. All posts will automatically be considered for publication in the next day’s paper (there will be a check-off box later to be removed from print consideration). Each time you post, you will select the "Section" of the paper/website you would like your blog to be a part of (e.g., sports, entertainment, editorial, news, etc.), and then tag your article according to its content (e.g., Dice-K, Justin Timberlake, MBTA, Bush, sushi, etc.). Your post will appear immediately in the section you choose.

Short-term: Using a third-party photosharing account (to be determined), join the BostonNOW group (the group name and location will be linked on the BostonNOW website.) and submit photos to be considered for print.
Long-term: The BostonNOW website will support uploading of photos and organization of galleries for active participation via our SnapNOW interface.

Short-term: Using a account, submit videos with a BostonNOW "tag" to be considered for promotion in the paper. You will also be able to cross-post your items to your BostonNOW Wordpress blog directly. If selected, your video will be highlighted in the print publication and linked to from the main website.
Long-term: The BostonNOW website will support uploading of videos for active participation via our WatchNOW interface.

How will BostonNOW select items for the print publication? In other words, how do I get in the paper?
To put it simply: If you're good, you’ll get published (until there are so many of you that we have to come up with a more refined selection process). Blogs should be well-written and free of spelling errors. They should also be compelling and local. Photos should be in focus and of high digital quality. Videos should be steady and of high digital quality. With the exception of the “Dialogue” page (our version of an editorial page), the subject matter should be specific to Boston. However, that doesn't mean you can only post about the MBTA or take pictures of the Commons. For example, local shows of national bands would be fine as would the perspective of a Bostonian on national or world issues. BostonNOW is all about capturing what it means to grow up, go to school, go to work, or leave this city.

Do I get to keep my copyright? Can I post my stuff on my own site?
If you post to BostonNOW, you still own your content. BostonNOW will not take ownership of your blogs, stories, photos, or videos, nor will it require exclusivity. If you have your own blog and want to post your same Boston-related content to your own site, feel free! You can also point to your website from your BostonNOW post, but the body of the post should be displayed on the BostonNOW website. Also, your content will automatically archive on our site unless you want to remove it and send readers to your site for more.

Please let us know what you think by commenting with your reactions and suggestions!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Magna Blogga

Sorry for the painful pun (with the Boston accent), but we smiled when our entertainment editor, John Black, coined it...and we couldn't resist.

As BostonNOW attempts to go where no other major newspaper has ever gone -- welcoming the community into the pages of our paper and our website in significant ways -- we are facing questions no one has yet answered and we are developing a master plan no one has built as we strive to return newspapers to relevancy.

We are trying to publish a newspaper and website that truly reflect our community and we will be trying several innovative measures to achieve that goal, including publishing dozens of bloggers in every section of the paper, webcasting our news meetings, and allowing reader input into our decisions via a chatroom or actual verbal participation.

And in keeping with our commitment to transparency, we are going to be asking for your help in answering the key questions and developing the plan to make the vision a reality.

The effort began at our first blogger "summit" last weekend. The gathering, attended by 40-50 folks, was both exciting and daunting. There was plenty of enthusiasm and plenty of healthy skepticism.

Serious questions need to be answered as we head toward our April 17 launch date. We need to solve concerns about:

  • Blog quality.

  • The quantity of quality blogs.

  • Compensation versus exposure and brand-building.

  • Editing. Bias. Obscenity. Editorial standards.

  • Selecting what to publish and what not to publish.

  • Identifying blogs in the paper.

As difficult as these questions are, I believe we not only can solve them, but in solving them, we can convert problems into opportunities for us and for Boston's bloggers. For example, if, as some people maintain, there are not enough top-quality bloggers in Boston today, the opportunity to be published, promoted and paid will go a long way toward building a market for quality work.

The most difficult question facing newspaper editors as they contemplate publishing bloggers is: how to deal with the issue of bias, attitude, or point of view, which are, of course, the heart of many if not most blogs.

There are certain standards we must adhere to and avoiding libel is the easiest. We will not publish libel or slander in the paper. Obscenity, which can be in the eyes of the beholder, is a bit tougher, but I think we’ll be able to agree with bloggers on standards most if not all of them will respect.

Bias or attitude is more difficult. Color, character and point of view are all central to most successful blogs. We will publish blogs without judging their bias. It is not a question of "if" but "where" and "how." And I don't know the answer yet.

Do we label an article a "blog" and trust that readers know the rules are different? Do we put blogs on a separate part of a page, much like newspapers put columnists (bloggers before the Internet) off to the left? Do we just ID blogs with a tag under the byline (e.g., Dorchester Blogger)? Do we shade them with a color that is a visual clue?

There is no doubt bloggers with attitude belong in the paper. They will provide the color and spark and different perspectives sorely missing in most papers today. We just need to solve the questions of "how" and "where"...and we will -- with your help.

Then there's compensation. No major newspaper in the United States is publishing, much less paying, bloggers in great numbers to appear in their papers. There is no roadmap or precedent here.

In the beginning, we will offer Boston-area bloggers what we think is an excellent bargain: We will give them exposure to 150,000-170,000 readers a day in exchange for their content. For relatively unknown bloggers, whose readership may be measured in three or even four digits today, this is an incredible opportunity to expand their "brand," spread their word, and raise their profile. The visibility opportunity is enormous: Any blogger publishing just once a week in BostonNOW will be seen by almost nine million readers in a year.

For some bloggers, however, exposure will not be the permanent and sole form of compensation. We will work with any blogger who is interested to develop a compensation plan that measures success and addresses their interests and needs as well as ours. For example, some bloggers might prefer a press pass to an event in their area of interest over a monetary payment.

Another vexing problem, cited regularly by the anti-blogger naysayers, is the quality of writing in the blog world. It can be spotty. It can be infrequent. But even discovering a single-digit fraction of talented writers among the thousands of Boston-area bloggers will serve to prime the pump. I'm not looking for hundreds of bloggers initially. I'm only looking for two to three dozen to start. We'll build from there.

We can also contribute to a rise in the quality of blog writing. Creativity and excellence are difficult to maintain in a vacuum. Like all writers, bloggers, faced with a limited audience and no compensation (either financial or spiritual), are constantly challenged to maintain their edge and production.

If we offer bloggers opportunity and reward, we give them audience and recognition and the motivation to raise the bar for themselves.

While all of the challenges are significant, so are the stakes. If newspapers fail to involve the community, the future of print journalism is grim indeed. If our experiment does work, we'll have gone beyond helping to save an industry, we'll be helping to chart its future.

That sounds a bit grandiose, but the decline of newspapers is very real and only experiments like ours can help turn it around.

John Wilpers

Monday, March 12, 2007

Boston Bloggers' Summit (Version 2.0)

Thanks to everyone who came out to All Asia on Saturday to make our very first Boston Blogger Summit a success!

Approximately 50 people showed up over the three hours to learn more about the paper, and each other. Bloggers from all mediums and disciplines enjoyed a few hours of chatting while sampling appetizers from the All Asia kitchen and listening to DJ Anomaly spin tunes.

We talked about how bloggers from all geographic and thematic areas of Boston will be published and promoted in BostonNOW and on our website. We also talked about involving them in the process of determining how to create a compensation system that reflects success and delivers rewards that are meaningful to them (cash or tickets or merchandise or travel, etc.).

For those of you who weren't able to make it, and for those of you who want to talk to us again about the next steps toward getting published, keep your calendars clear for the night of Tuesday, March 27th. We'll be hosting a pizza-and-soda get-together after work at our new offices at 30 Winter Street in downtown Boston from 5 to 8pm. It'll be the same format as Saturday where you can drop by at any time (in other words, there is no official presentation, just lots of give and take).


Remember, you can always reach us at or comment on these posts with your questions and/or thoughts.

Thanks, again, all!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Blogger/citizen journalist compensation

Our bad!*

We didn't make it at all clear in our original posting that, with your input and participation, we will be developing a compensation plan for successful bloggers/citizen-journalists posting on the BostonNOW website. We apologize and hope this post clears up some of your questions and concerns.

Over the next several months, we will meet with as many of you as possible to discuss your thoughts about the method of determining who should get compensated, how they should be compensated, and how much.

As no one is doing this yet, we will be breaking new ground and so the more minds focused on the challenge, the better. If you’ve got an opinion about how this should work, we want to hear it. Come to our Bloggers' Summit on March 10th and speak to us in person, comment on this post with your ideas, or email us privately with your thoughts.

Together we must determine what constitutes "success." Page views? Comments? Most e-mailed? A mix? Then we must determine what various forms of compensation attach to various levels of success. There could be a rolling scale ranging from free stuff to cash.

Here are our initial thoughts. Bloggers and C-Js would post for a period of time for no compensation in exchange for the opportunity to gain massive exposure and promotion.

After that introductory period, we would use the "success" criteria and compensation scale to begin rewarding bloggers and C-Js for their work.

As we said, we’re in virgin territory here, so we’re looking for your ideas to help us craft a compensation system that is fair and workable.

John Wilpers
Editor-in-Chief, BostonNOW

* Why isn't there an up-to-date way to say "Our mistake!" that doesn't sound like bad early '90s television? – Regina