June 25, 2014

A lot of the advantages blogs offer will remain at the New York Times, Assistant Managing Editor Ian Fisher told Poynter in a phone call: “We’re going to continue to provide bloggy content with a more conversational tone,” he said. “We’re just not going to do them as much in standard reverse-chronological blogs.”

The Times is ending its blog The Lede, Poynter reported earlier Wednesday. That’s about the 10th blog the news organization has shuttered, Fisher said. And more will come. The Times has been “moving away from blogs over the past year and a half,” spokesperson Eileen Murphy told me.

Fisher declined to name which blogs would get the hook next, but he said, “There’s little chance that our marquee blogs, ones like DealBook, Well, Bits, will be going anywhere anytime soon.”

Of the paper’s current blogs, though, “Almost half of them will be gone as a blog or will have merged into something else.” (The Times’ opinion shop has no plans to thin out its blogs, Murphy said.)

There are a lot of reasons for the move. The Times’ blogging software doesn’t work well with its redesigned article pages. And a lot of the blogs “were duplicative,” Fisher said: “It was very hard to understand the difference between some of the general sections and the blogs themselves.”

Some blogs are quite popular, but others “got very, very little traffic, and they required an enormous amount of resources, because a blog is an animal that is always famished.” Fisher said he thinks the “quality of our items will go up now, now that readers don’t expect us to be filling the artificial container of a blog.”

Another issue: “Very few people went to the blog landing pages,” Fisher said. Most enter sideways, through a shared link or a link off the Times’ homepage.

The Times’ leaked innovation report said “our blog platforms helped train an entire generation of Times reporters and editors to write for the web,” something Fisher said is “absolutely true.”

But the Web they trained for is not necessarily the same place. Something else Fisher says he’s rethought: The necessity to brand blogs. “I’m actually a believer for the most part that we don’t need to be naming things,” Fisher said. “I think at this point readers are way more sophisticated than we give them credit for.” In other words, they don’t need a flashing neon sign.

There’s no timetable for the blogpocalypse: “We’re very busy here, obviously, and we’re doing it as it seems to make sense,” he said. Lede Editor Robert Mackey has been “a pioneer of this kind of journalism,” but since he moved to the foreign desk, “it didn’t make sense for The Lede to be this everything-but-foreign kind of thing,” Fisher said.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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