CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Quiet talks are underway between four independent Ohio bloggers -- two on the left, and two on the right -- and The Plain Dealer, which is courting them to become featured commentators of a sort on its branded Website, Cleveland.com. The indys are popular, have followings in the state and outside, and could bring fresh and sometimes audacious perspectives to a traditionally stolid MSM outlet. There is no question that the newspaper came courting because of a need to somehow preserve its role as a key source of information in a media business environment that is rapidly changing.
According to whispers The Daily Bellwether has overheard, the bloggers who are in talks with the PeeDee are Writes Like She Talks, Ohio Daily, NixGuy, and Bizzyblog. An editor from the PeeDee, Jean Dubail, approached Jill Miller Zimon of Writes Like She Talks recently with a proposal that set in motion the discussions. Nothing has been structured yet, and Dubail reportedly plans to place something on the negotiating table this week with more details. Dubail was the editor who put together the newspaper's OPENERS blog, which went online in early 2006. This could be the first marriage between the MSM and the indy Ohiosphere, which is newly ascendant and barely three years old.
[UPDATE: 7:29 am -- Cincy Newsache intelligently discussed the difficult situation that metro daily newspapers are finding themselves in these days as they attempt to remain relevant for readers and advertisers while producing revenue streams for their owners. (I, too, wrote about the Harvard study last week, but Newsache did a superior job.) Newsache's report probably explains why the MSM is now looking at the indy bloggers -- people who were once dismissed as amateurs in newsrooms -- with unfeigned interest. Change is definitely in the wind.]
[UPDATE: 8:00 am -- Rasmussen Reports had a poll out last Thursday that said hardly anybody who is not a senior citizen gets their news from newspapers. For Americans under 40, they turn to the 'net.]
So far, there is no financial package, nor have any compensation arrangements been offered -- and there may never be. Instead, the bloggers might simply choose to be affiliated with Cleveland.com for prestige and leverage that would increase their influence as members of the digital commentariat. It also could give them a leg up as voices to pay attention to while the 2008 presidential race unfolds. As bloggers associated with Ohio's largest news gathering organization in a critical state, they would probably be viewed as players on the political stage.
For the PeeDee, the deal has other upsides. Newspaper Websites have not been growing, according to recent academic research. Indy bloggers would offer a new approach, especially since the four voices sought would be non-professional journalists who kicked off their careers by writing about things on their own agendas, things that interested themselves. They found audiences through their work and writing.
If the arrangement jells, it could be a tipping point in the Ohiosphere. Other MSM outlets may have to start looking for indy bloggers to compete, or to freshen themselves, or to join the paradigm shift, which is trending away from MSM outlets rooted in print. They are losing audience. The bloggers may be able to show them how to find an audience, or new audiences.
Bizzyblog and NixGuy are located in Cincinnati's suburbs and lean Republican and right. Write Like She Talks and Ohio Daily are Cleveland area blogs and lean left. The authors, Jill Miller Zimon and Jeff Coryell respectively, make no bones about hiding their politics. They proudly call themselves Democrats.
Anyhow, the match hasn't yet been made with the PeeDee. It could come to naught. Or the indy bloggers could soon be getting ready for their star turn on the MSM stage.