The official inside scoop on ChicagoNow

Tonight I was treated to my first Beatblogging podcast, courtesy of District 299 founder and blogger Alexander Russo, who recently joined ChicagoNow and emailed me the link.

I've followed the site for a while and consider it a tremendous resource for bloggers and journalists looking for a tip sheet on how to leverage social media to expand their reach. But I hadn't listened to what I'm sure now is a rich library of interviews with newsmakers and producers. It took Russo's link to open my ears.

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After some sweet guitar licks in the intro, Patrick Thornton
asks Russo a lot of questions I frequently get as ChicagoNow's
community manager for news and opinion. (Full Disclosure: I work with
Russo to help him tune his content and promote his work. Between you
and me, he doesn't need much help, so it's pretty easy and fun)).

I
won't rehash the podcast because it's more than worth a listen, but I
will tell you that as a young "old school" reporter, working on the
project is incredibly rewarding and educational.

For
many of the bloggers we're fortunate to have on ChicagoNow, it's not
about the money. It never has been. It's about their love of art, sports, news, politics, comedy
and the chance to share that passion with the rest of the world. They wanted to tell
stories, cover their communities, expose wrongdoing or write about the
games they loved.

At ChicagoNow, bloggers own their
content. As they should. It is our pleasure and honor to host their
blogs. I don't tell Russo what, or how, to write. I just try to show
him ways he can grow his audience and provide more value for the
community he writes for. He's also teaching me a ton, even if he
doesn't realize it.

Russo
mentioned that our "second wave is more serious," but I'd suggest our
first wave is quite serious. Many of our sports bloggers cover Chicago
teams like it's a science.

We
won't spill the beans yet on who's stepping up to the plate, but we
think you'll enjoy their contributions to ChicagoNow as we continue to
fulfill our responsibility to reflect Chicago's diversity in every way.

Folks
who are willing to ask me wonder what makes a successful ChicagoNow
blogger. If you look at the folks who are on the team, you'll notice
some similarities. They are experts in their subjects or care deeply
about the subjects they are covering. How else can you draw people to
your work?

Counting page views is one way to gauge a community.
After all, no page views = no pulse. But assessing the health of a blog
is much more than that. It involves developing a sense of community
among readers. Some of which can be seen in vibrant comment threads.

It's also about employing what might be considered "best practices," some of which Russo is implementing and others are copying.
For starters, post the Chicago way, early and often. But also, as sports community manager Jimmy
Greenfield
has told me, you want to give readers a reason to click. Russo is doing
roundups
of coverage on Chicago Public Schools, saving his readers the effort of
tracking down every story in every media outlet that might interest
them.

Toward the end of the interview, Russo discloses that the
"Holy Grail" of District 299 would be to have a map that would
illustrate for visitors where discussions about specific CPS schools
were happening and how "hot" the debate was. While we're not there yet,
we have created a slick mashup at Garage Sale Warrior
that maps your favorite weekend pastime almost anywhere within
reasonable driving distance from the city. Some of that technology will
likely spill over into District 299. How and when? Not sure exactly,
but probably soon. Things have a tendency to move quickly at ChicagoNow.

Which is the long way of bringing me back to the point of this post. Thornton asks Russo about "link journalism,"
which Russo uses in his roundup posts and some have generally decried
as lazy. These days, links are what pass-arounds were for newspapers.
If Russo hadn't sent me that link, I wouldn't have been motivated to
share these thoughts and you wouldn't be reading them. It's that social
aspect of media that's transforming news. For the better.

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