Blog your beat to connect with your audience

Why not blog your beat and then reverse publish the content to print?

People want continuous updates throughout the day. That’s why sites like TechCrunch are so wildly popular. People want experts on niches and they want to get news in real time.

Most good beat writers at newspapers are experts in a niche. Take a local court reporter for example. A newspaper’s local court reporter might be the only media person in the world with intimate knowledge of how that court system works and of the legal issues surrounding the community.

That’s a niche to exploit. The same goes for just about any other beat at a local newspaper.

If you’re a local sports writer and you’re not blogging, you’re an idiot. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. You’re sitting on a gold mine.

Good Beat Blogging is more than just having a blog at your news organization’s Web site. It also means harnessing social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Utterz and others. It means getting your niche content out to your niche in as many ways as possible.

It also means not thinking of your blog as a complement to your print stories. Oh, no no no. Your print stories are a complement to your Beat Blog. Get it straight.

Now don’t think of this as more work. It’s smarter work. Blog content, tweets on Twitter and other postings can be used to make print stories. Twitter can be a great place for electronic and public notes.

Beat Blogging allows reporters to fill in readers as news is happening, not just after news has marinated for a day. But good Beat Blogging requires more than just a savvy reporter. It requires editors and a newsroom culture that allows it. No reporter will ever seriously be good at any kind of new media if he has to write three stories a day.

Until editors and publishers get away from thinking that having reporters write copious amounts of print copy is a good idea, innovative solutions like Beat Blogging will never take hold. And until that day happens, more and more newsroom jobs will have to be cut because of falling revenue.

Let’s get back to the local courtroom reporter example. She can write several blog posts a day, post on Twitter whenever new tidbits come in, send updates to Utterz via her mobile phone and manage a group on Facebook. Then once she has gathered all the information for the day and sorted through it all she can begin to write a good, in-depth analysis piece for the print addition.

Each segment of the content needs to be unique. A blog shouldn’t just be a rehash of tweets on Twitter. Print stories shouldn’t be the same as blog postings.  Multimedia content needs to add to the equation, not just be there for the sake of being there.

Niches are how the Web is won. Beat Blogging is the key for newsrooms to showcase their many niches.

Ultimately, it’s about informing your users at the speed they want to be informed at, which is right now.