In the last 6 to 12 months Rupert Murdoch has discovered the Internet, and especially blogging and social media. He’s been buying all sorts of online companies including Intermix (operator of MySpace.com) and IGN.com.
Not wanting to miss out on the fun Sky News (Murdoch’s UK rolling news TV channel) has created its first blog, and with it, it’s first real attempt to connect with its audience. Beyond pressing the red button, that is.
In reality, I’m sure Sky’s recent acquisition of Tim Levell (former editor of the BBC Action Network editor and before that the BBC Newsround website) has a lot to do with this launch. In fact I know it has because a) he told me and b) some of the posts are by “tim”!
A quick look through the Sky News blog shows that they’ve nicely avoided a number of the obvious pitfalls with blogging. For a start, the blog is personality led (by Sky News at 5 anchorman Jeremy Thompson) and it actually looks and feels like a blog. Hey, that may sound like a bizarre quality but closer to home you’d be surprised some of the things that can get promo’d as a blog!
It took a long time for the Guardian Blogs to really begin to get pushed on the main Guardian site and so the Sky guys have been brave to launch this into the world straight off – even more so when you consider this is Sky’s first furore into blogging.
There are a few things I think could be improved, but understandably the guys over at Sky are still finding their feet and so I don’t want to be too crewl. However the main two things I would suggest need more thought are:
More back channel conversation approach
The biggest question for me to come out of news blogging is “Why have a blog in the first place?”. You need to thing about why you are offering a blog over-and-above your news website. What makes the blogging proposition distinctive from the mainstream news website offering?
For me, that question is answered by offering “back channel conversational” content. Your news website and TV channel are delivering news, your blog needs to explain how and why you are delivering that news. The Sky News/Jeremy Thompson blog does that in part, but it’s still a little focused on the news agenda for my liking (which I can get from their site, or by watching their programme). The launch of the blog comes at the same time as the relaunch of Sky News as a whole, and so somewhat understandably there are discussing their set, etc.
As I said, they are still finding their feet, but what I would like to see going forward is some real conversation with the audience that goes beyond “tell us what you think of our new set” etc. Explaining how they arrived at their editorial decision, ie focusing on the past and not just the future programme would also be beneficial, I think.
Incorporating all of this into the TV show would be even better (I still haven’t watched the new News at 5 programme, so can’t say whether they are doing this or not).
Better integration into the site
It goes without saying that large companies and organisations who already have an established web-presence need to maintain strong control of their blogs. That means not hosting them on Type Pad or similar but within their own domain space.
By hosting your blog on a third party you are missing out on seamless integration with the rest of your website plus you are loosing control over important aspects of your proposition such as quality control and availability. If their site goes down or begins to bug out, then it affects you and your reputation. I know the guys over at Sky News are looking to bring the blog in-house, but personally I would have waited until I could integrate everything from the main site before launching.
Sky’s first attempt at blogging is commendable. They’ve not made some of the pitfalls others have in the passed, although they have certainly had the benefit of watching other people’s mistakes from the past.
I’m not personally a fan of Sky News – either their news agenda or their personality led approach – but I know it works for them. However on the blogosphere, personality led stuff works well. It is slightly disappointing that a fair amount of the posts written to the blog are not written by Jeremy himself, however.
I’m aware they’ve listed my blog as a favourite site, although I think I’ve Tim Levell to thank for that rather than Sky News per say! No doubt what I have written above may be the downfall of my link disappearing from their site – so be it… Welcome to the blogosphere chaps, where people write their own uncensored views!