There Miles O’Brien was enthusiastically providing fly-on-the-wall observations from the Mojave airport.
O’Brien’s posts began early at 7:15 a.m. ET (4:15 a.m. PT). In these early hours before the launch, O’Brien provided some brief but helpful context for that day’s historic flight - even commenting on the better catering in the press tent:
"Bagels, coffee, fruit and juice this time. Better than the greasy eggs last time."
Although the updates were not terribly frequent (about 5 per hour), they held our attention and gave a sense of being there.
(Observation: O’Brien’s posts seemed to show up consistently 20 minutes after their stated post time. We’re not sure why this is. Perhaps his posts are edited or cleared before going live. One post, timestamped 12:04 p.m. (highlighted in red), shows up after a post timestamped 12:10 p.m.)
But, as the timeline of blog entries below shows, the posts stopped soon after the aircraft began their climb to launch altitude:
But O’Brian was on-air and did not alert readers that he was suspending posts until after the event.
Forty minutes later, we got a call from a relative that Burt Rutan and team had won the X-Prize.
At 11:37 a.m. ET, 23 minutes after SpaceShipOne landed, O’Brien posted a quick apology for being “busy with TV duties” and then delivered a quick recap of the X-Prize winning flight. We were disappointed.
This is not in anyway a condemnation of O’Brien but a questioning the purpose of the CNN Blog.
Blogs are great for giving a timely, energetic and, and often, unpolished chronicling of events. While O’Brien had great access, he had no time to communicate to his readers because O’Brien’s priority - rightly so - was to TV.
In comparison, we went to Florida Today’s blog. As you can see from graphic above, when O’Brien was busy on-air, Florida Today’s writer (or writers) went into overdrive posting almost minute-to-minute during the main event. Their blog format also allowed headlines, which were crisp and catchy.
After the landing of SpaceShipOne at 11;14 a.m. ET, Florida Today’s posts dwindled and O’Brien kept posting. Presumably, the FT crew was now working the press conference and O’Brien’s schedule had opened up.
So what’s the takeaway? Big media can’t blog?
No. Both Florida Today and CNN both had some bright spots. The problem is that it’s not their priority. Good bloggers are obsessed. They live, breath and blog in the moment. They are also beholden to no producer, editor or shareholder – only their community.
What will it take for big media to blog effectively?
Big media might have to stop being big media in order to blog effectively.
You said yourself that bloggers “are beholden to no producer, editor or shareholder – only their community.” Big media can’t publish in the way that bloggers do because they are equipped differently. Editing and production take time—and there is little room for time when it comes to live blogging.
So, in order for big media to blog effectively, they’ll need to undergo a total transformation. And I’m not sure they should, or want to. Most big media outlets are blogging now because it’s hip, not because it adds a lot of value to what they do.
I think we need big media to complete the media ecosystem that bloggers are an important part of. If big media abandoned their “bigness” to become just like bloggers, who would play the big media role?
What’s our role? That’s the conversation big media should be having.
Dan Froomkin from OJR has a few thoughts on the subject here.