Rethink carefully.

I’m posting the following as a comment on the Mercury News Rethink blog in response to Jay Rosen’s call for input as to how a Merc beatblogger on green technology could have covered the “Al Gore joins Kleiner Perkins” story this week.

I’m going to throw a monkeywrench at the Rethink works here, just to air out something that’s obvious to anyone who reads both the Merc and a raft of blogs about things like Silicon Valley, venture capital, and green technology.

This is part of the problem that Rethink and Matt Nauman’s role as a beatblogger will need to solve:

Merc reporters get their butts handed to them by blogs on a regular basis.

I don’t mean to put any reporter down when I write that, but the Merc’s audience for stories like “Al Gore joins Kleiner Perkins” read the story hours — sometimes days — earlier in their feed reader.

In fact, the Merc used to have the best blog on the topic — Silicon Beat — before Matt Marshall and company left the newspaper and it was reborn as Venture Beat, which I subscribe to, regularly reading timely, clear, well-researched reporting on green tech in the Valley.

Add to the mix the sources that fuel TechCrunch, Scoble, Engadget, Gizmodo, and even the swarm of rumor-powered Apple-adjacent blogs, and you get a social network that is well ahead of the Merc’s curve.

In my opinion, the Rethink strategy of a renewed emphasis on business and technology in Silicon Valley is a Quixotic exercise.

But I don’t live on their side of the hill, and I didn’t hand out Starbucks cards in front of Fry’s in an extended but informal Newspaper Next market research project, and I didn’t talk to their readers to find out what they want from their local paper.

If it were up to me, I’d take a rethought Merc in a direction heavy on neighborhoods and light on beats that already get saturated with blog coverage.

I’m off-topic, and I didn’t answer Jay’s question yet, so here’s how I think this fits into the beatblogger framework:

A Mercury News beatblog+network on green technology should aggregate the best of what’s already out there in the wild. Trying to shoehorn sources on this beat into temporary roles as ‘commenters’ or ‘members’ of a network or ‘friends’ or ‘fans’ won’t go as far in the long run as linking out to them. Don’t try to duplicate an existing network already saturated with coverage.

2 thoughts on “Rethink carefully.”

  1. Ryan.

    But you just admitted that TechCrunch and VentureBeat, etc etc do rely on a networked approach to doing the news — and it works well for them.

    Granted – Their networks are better than the Mercs, but that’s what compeition is. Should the Merc give up?


    They should try to beat them in this networked approach.


  2. @David –

    I think the move that would make more of a difference to the Merc’s readers would be to create a network where there isn’t one already — perhaps in a niche that’s underserved by local news outlets.


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