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The Tiger Beat Blog: A macroscopic view, part 2 Blogging

Last time, I reprinted a portion of an e-mail conversation between Karen Black, NTID director of media relations, and me about the role of this blog. Our conversation continues:

Karen: Your radio analogy is a good one. To that point, have we asked our audience what they want? Do we know what they want, or are we making assumptions? Have we surveyed them to get their feedback on what they want, or are we forcing them to want what we think they should want? Why not put together a survey that offers a wide variety of choices, as well as write-in options, to see what our audience would like, instead of force-feeding them?

Mike: No, we haven’t conducted a formal survey—although, on a couple occasions, I’ve solicited feedback on what readers want. But, you’re right—at present we’ve made assumptions.

I’ll add, although our assumptions aren’t scientifically based, neither are they wild assumptions. We’re a fairly intelligent group offering something a little bit different: A university news blog that avoids PR spin (this candid, public conversation is a good example).

If you’ll forgive another radio analogy: When I hosted my request show, “The Jukebox,” on WKLX-FM/WBBF-FM, I had to turn away a lot of requests. Naturally, some listeners were disappointed as a result. But I had to consider my wider audience (including those in the majority who didn’t phone in). My philosophy was this: Though certain listeners influenced the show, ultimately someone had to be in control, guiding it, to prevent total chaos from breaking out.

Turning back to this blog . . . Sure, we could survey our target audience. But, past experience shows, response would be small—which could result in our catering to the interests of a handful of readers while ignoring those in our wider audience (people who—like my listeners who didn’t make requests—read the blog, but generally don’t comment, sometimes referred to as “lurkers”). Conversely, because we don’t want “total chaos” in the form of a mishmash of disjointed topics, we would need to turn away some “requests.”

So, we’ve decided to focus instead on our niche.

To again paraphrase anthropologist Edmund Carpenter, who asked about print’s role in the face of competition from new media, “What can print do better than any other medium and is that worth doing?” Applying it here:

“What can The Tiger Beat Blog do better than any other medium and is that worth doing?”

My answers:

This blog offers the “inside story” about RIT news better than any other medium anywhere in the world. Nobody does it better than us. (How could they?) Is this worth doing? That part of the question remains unanswered.

Today, we’re committed to the blog’s theme, “Behind the scenes of RIT University News.” But, if one day we were to decide on another direction, we could consider—furthering the radio analogy—“changing format.” (Anyone for “All John Follaco, All the Time”? I, for one, would love to read more on the continuing saga of John’s quest to date—’er contact, I mean—Miss Croatia. ;~)

Thanks to those of you who joined the conversation about the role of this blog.

  1. The Tiger Beat
    Aug 25

    [...] Next time: This conversation continues. (In the meantime, you’re welcome to join this discussion—and help shape the role of this blog—by adding your comments.) Silandara Aug21 I like behind the scenes of graduation and interpreting! Or behind the scenes of move-in. (Since that’s coming up very soon.) I think we could do that with a PR perspective. Because it doesn’t all have to be about how the story gets in the news, the PR scope is a pretty big one and involves any and all of the things that we deal with or encounter - interpreting, graduation, move-in, talking to a professor about new technology, etc. being included in that. John Aug21 I think the key is using our PR lens to focus on these other topics/events that Karen mentions: interpreting, graduation, technology, etc. [...]

  2. Justin Thorp
    Aug 25

    “What can The Tiger Beat Blog do better than any other medium and is that worth doing?”

    My Answer: Start a conversation or have a relationship with your readers.

  3. Mike Saffran
    Aug 26

    . . . focusing on the ”inside story” related to RIT news.

    The reason I add these words to your answer, Justin, is because I believe yours—although a good one—is too generic. Couldn’t it apply to a thousand other blogs? That’s why I posed the question, What can we do better than any other blog?

    Don’t get me wrong, we could start conversations on just about anything, and some might even be pretty good conversations. But would each one be better than those on every other blog? Probably not. For example, Tom Friedman, the well-known columnist for The New York Times, probably has slightly more credibility than do we about the Middle East. Now, I realize that’s an extreme example. But the same philosophy is behind why we sometimes needle our own Pete, for instance, when he strays a little too far off the RIT news path and too far into ’computer geek-dom’—because there must be literally thousands upon thousands of blogs targeting geeks (a conservative estimate), with many doing it better than we ever could. (Similarly, we couldn’t possibly discuss Justin Thorpe better than ”Confessions of an Undercover Geek” (http://www.mycapitalweb.com/justin). That’s your niche! :~)

    But, as I wrote, no one in the world can top our expertise about RIT news. It’s our niche. Or, to describe what we’re doing using the management-theory phrase popularized by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr., in In Search of Excellence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Search_of_Excellence): We must ”stick to the knitting.”

  4. John
    Aug 28

    Justin, what should that conversation or relationship be about? Should it be social? Professional? Both?

    I guess I'm wondering why you visit our blog? Other than the opportunity to read my not-so-witty remarks, of course.

    Understanding that may help us bring others, like yourself, to our little corner of the blogosphere.

  5. Omar
    Aug 28

    When I look through my feed reader at the blogs I check daily, the common thread is an informal, personal style of writing. That's not to imply that the subject matter has to be of a personal nature, just that the text feels like it's written by a real person. The blog's subject matter is the initial draw, but when it comes to what compels me to return to a blog (or comment), it's all about the style of writing.

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    The Tiger Beat takes you behind the scenes with the members of RIT University News—the news and public relations division of Rochester Institute of Technology. Get the “story behind the story” and an insider’s look at who we are and what we do to publicize RIT news.
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