Newspapers will supply top blogs, says Times boss

Newspapers are best placed to provide the best
bloggers and supply trusted information on the web, the managing
director of Times Newspapers has argued.

Speaking at at the
Internet World exhibition in London on Tuesday, Paul Hayes said power
had shifted between consumers and media owners in the past year, but
not as some people had expected.

Hayes said: "Millions of blogs
have sprung up over the last year, but a cursory search shows that the
majority of their information sources lead back to mainstream media.
The bloggers are seeking or delivering insight, but what they need is
accurate information on whatever subject they're interested in. Time
and again, bloggers draw their readers' attention to what they have
read in papers, such as the Times."

"Blogs will be
a continuing part of content output, but only a relative few will be
read beyond the narrowest of audiences. Most of them will disappear
unnoticed, and frankly unmissed by the world.

"Some blogs are
conversations among people you'd frankly prefer not to meet, others are
cries for help and their writers are clearly in need of therapy. Others
are just people expressing themselves, which is an entirely honourable
pursuit, but would you like to meet this geek on a dark night?"

Hayes predicted that just four types of bloggers would retain "resonance beyond mememe.com":

  • "Branded bloggers", such well-known writers or celebrities;
  • "Intelligent aggregators" who make little comment but drive readers to other useful sites;
  • "Well-connected bloggers" such as journalists, ex-politicians or specialists who have the ability to uncover information; and
  • "Brilliant bloggers" who attract readers largely by the quality of their prose and the originality of their wit.

As an example of the latter category, Hayes cited Baghdad Burning, the blog by the young Iraqi woman who was recently nominated for the prestigious Samuel Johnson prize.

But he also argued that established content creators like newspapers are best placed to provide bloggers of this sort.

Hayes
said because they had already made the necessary investments in quality
journalism, newpapers are best-placed to quench "the thirst for
purposeful content on the web."

Newspapers' established brands
will also provide a long-term advantage, Hayes argued: "As information
overload really kicks in, the consumer will want to go straight to the
brand that they trust. So with all due respect to the hundreds of
thousands of information sources out there, you can't beat a big brand
name to re-assure you that what you're reading is high-quality content
worth spending time with, and frankly, true. People don't have time to
trawl through dross."

Hayes said Times Online, the web site of both the Times and Sunday Times, now attracts more than 8 million unique visitors per month, a figure which represents an annual growth rate of 115 per cent.

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