Think back to the first time you heard the word "blog." Funny word, isn’t it? But the perceptions and roles of blogs have gone through a tremendous transformation since your first giggle over the word, and blogs now serve as a serious force to be reckoned with.
Cincinnati.com Digital Content Manager Chris Graves says that blogs have risen in importance amongst her colleagues and friends as they turn to blogs for niche information. "Almost in the way that I used to say, ‘Yeah, why would you not read Time or Newsweek," Graves says that blogs are fast approaching the status of magazines.
In fact, blogs have made some recent strides in being incorporated into mainstream media. CityBeat recently added "Best Blog" to their readers’ choice superlative awards, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati reached out to bloggers for their latest campaign that runs until the end of this month. Cincinnati.com also joined in the mix as it turned blogs from giggles into laughs with its LOL launch in July. Don’t be mistaken, however, because this LOL stands for Locals on Living.
LOL incorporates posts by local bloggers into the regular content of Cincinnati.com. As part of the Living section on the site, bloggers provide readers with more human interest-based stories. This "soft content" appeals to one of Cincinnati.com’s key audience demographics, women ages 25 to 49, Graves says.
"As this newspaper [The Cincinnati Enquirer] has gone through some difficult economic times, as the whole industry has, we don’t really have a fashion writer. We don’t have a gardening writer per se. We certainly don’t have a wine writer. We don’t have just somebody who deals with romance and relationships," Graves says. But in incorporating local bloggers through LOL, Cincinnati.com allows readers to continue to obtain those niche interests and different perspectives while the staff reporters can cover more of the "hard" news.
LOL stands on the frontlines in the traditional media world with its innovative model that brings in writers who are not trained journalists, a move that has some industry players worried about media ethics. Yet, as it stands ahead of the crowd, Cincinnati serves as a potential inspiration for papers across the country. "It’ll be interesting to see if this model catches on," Graves says.
There are signs that Cincinnati.com has started a trend. Gannett Company, who produces USA Today also runs Cincinnati.com, and members of the corporation are eyeing the LOL model. "Some folks [in the corporation] have called us and said, ‘Boy, I really want to understand how you guys did this," Graves says.
Whether snowballing into a media movement or not, LOL continues to stand as a resource for local readers. LOL bloggers provide a wide range of topics, including:
- Fashion: What I Wore Today by Kasmira and Chic this Week by Cincy Chic‘s own Amy Scalia
- Food: wine me, dine me by Julie Niesen, Cooking With Caitlin by the Cooking with Caitlin trio, and My Wine Education by Michelle Lentz
- Gardening: Cincinnati Gardner by Stephanie Andrews
- Relationships: Girlfriendology by Girlfriendology Owner Debba Haupert and Cincinnati Therapy Guy by Dennis Mendleson
- And more of life’s important aspects.
Niesen, who also provides Cincy Chic readers with some of her local cuisine adventures, has been blogging for almost a decade. She first dipped her fingers into the blogosphere by writing a Live Journal.
After her blogging ways evolved for seven years, Niesen started her wine, me dine me blog in 2007. "I have had more fun in the past year and nine months — oh wow! — than I think I’ve had in my entire life," Niesen says. In that time, Niesen has met friends and business contacts, developed a personal brand for herself and enjoyed a whole lotta food.
With her experience as a blogger, Niesen has seen the rise of the blog from the more personal, diary-like entries to what blogs have become today. "Blogs are how we get our news and how we get our information and how we get our opinion. They haven’t replaced mainstream media, I don’t think," Niesen says. "I think they are a complement to mainstream media."
Kelley Long, a personal financial coach and another blogger who reaches Cincy Chic, agrees with Niesen. Blogs serve as another medium through which society can obtain information, particularly honest opinions that are not tainted with marketing slants, Long says.
At the same time, Long remains reserved about some blogs, as anonymity and a lack of an editor can cause bloggers to provide inaccurate and downright false information. For this reason, Long advises that readers look to the majority of blogs more for an opinion or point of view than factual information.
If you would like to share your own expertise and opinion with the world, Niesen and Long both have advice before you dive into the blogosphere. One of the top pieces of advice is to be consistent. Niesen recommends posting on a consistent basis so that you don’t lose readers. To achieve consistency, Long recommends setting a specific time for blogging.
Both bloggers also advise building a trusting relationship with your reader. You can work toward this goal through honesty and professionalism, which means to use spell check and to avoid foul language. You also can gain a stronger point of view by researching your topic and keeping in-tune with what’s going on, Niesen says. Check out this week’s career story for more tips on blogging beginnings from branding expert Matthew Fenton. Whatever you do, just write what you know and write what you love.
Photographer: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Second photo: Chris Graves
Third photo: Julie Niesen
Fourth photo: Kelley Long
Makeup: Trina Paul, Nordstrom
Location: The McAlpin