In a letter to its members last week, Associated Press made the announcement that bloggers should be cited as a news source. This is a significant move from the AP, given that they have a history of not exactly 'getting on' with bloggers. Given that such a large news organisation has made a point of recognising bloggers as a viable news source, which they should have done a long time ago, it has much wider implications on how bloggers affect the news agenda and overall news industry. We've already seen some developments in this area, such as publishers employing bloggers on the ground, but I think this goes one further than that.
The announcement has served to recognise the work that bloggers put into breaking and reporting stories. But interestingly they make a point of saying that they must credit information where it occured from a website, so you would hope that this would cover Twitter as well, given that so many stories break on here. The details aren't clear on quite what this attribution would look like (is it the website or the individual that's credited?) but this is definitely a positive and exciting move.
Importantly this has implications for the individual blogger opposed to blogs overall. Even though the AP states that attribution to a blogger or other source doesn't have to occur at the start of a story, it still means valuable visibility for bloggers in front of a wide audience. If you're a blogger that breaks news then this has huge implications on how high up the news chain you could get. Instead of just having to go out and find stories yourself, if you get in front of the right people, it couldÃ‚ mean that bloggers are approached with the right information and maybe even given exclusives ahead of traditional publications. This may be looking a bit too far into the future, but the possibility for this can certainly be seen now.
Are AP slow off the mark?
I don't want to risk downplaying the significance of the move from AP, but you could very well argue that they're actually a bit late to the game with their most recent change. In 'The Source Cycle', an analysis of articles from the New York Times & Washington Post over 6 years finds that blogs are increasingly referenced as a credible news source. And this was carried out in 2008. It's when you look at it in this context that you realise just how much work is still to be done when it comes to recognising bloggers and importantly growing the area overall. AP is a huge news agency yet only now are they making this change.
As exciting as this announcement is, we must question who is looking after the blogger's rights and how can they make a living from their blog? It's one thing to attribute them as a news source, but you would hope that this change from AP may well affect the blogosphere overall and we may start to see more bloggers employed by news organisations who recognise the collective power of bloggers in regional areas. This is where bloggers' ability to influence and set the news agenda really starts coming in to play and can change the traditional news industry.
The third way
A fascinating study by Pew into news online, finds that 99% of links to news stories in blogs, are to traditional news outlets or mainstream publishers. I find this figure incredibly surprising. Typically when I link to stories, I tend to link to other blogs not so much as a conscious decision, but because they're what prompt me into writing a blog post myself. There's simply more content out there on blogs, and I find it a bit juicier than that offered by mainstream publishers. Given that so many blogs rely on traditional outlets to reference in the post, you can't help but wonder if there is a third way on offer here. Not so much journalist v blogger, but what skills do the two of them have together that can offer a unique news product?
A new project that shows just what's possible for online collaboration and news - is TBD.com. Its a local news site that focuses on Washington, DC. The owners describe the site as an 'integrated newsroom' which is enough to get the juices flowing in itself! Importantly, it aims to bring different news sources and types together online, to offer realtime news from a wide range of sources. It combines in a very real way, traditional journalists, bloggers and other online news sources, in what they collectively call their community network. And the people that make up this network see their own work on the site, not just an aside as a news source. This shows the potential of what's possible as we increasingly seek new ways to consume our news, combined with publishers finding new ways to monetise - think the Times' paywall.
This in itself shows that there's big changes to come in the structure of news organisations. The traditional monetisation routes need to change, and with it so does the overall layout of the newsroom. We're seeing this start to happen now and in a couple of years our news outlets will probably look completely different. I believe that blogging is largely the reason for this change and I look forward to what's coming next.