The New York Times Blog The Walk-Through made it official and closed their doors. This was not unexpected since the last post was made more than a month ago. I am glad that they made a decision one way or the other. It did no justice to their real estate reputation to have the blog sit without content or explanation.
At the end of the day, it was a noble attempt at something that it is difficult for Big Media to pull off. They had Damon Darlin, a prolific writer for the business section to be the primary contributor plus a slew of other writers. The business section was the driver of the blog rather than the real estate section, which I didn’t quite understand, but nevertheless, it had all the pedigree it needed to be successful, yet it wasn’t.
Why do these blogs thrive and The Walk-through did not?
The Walk-through started out fairly benign but was skewered alive when it took on the bubble bloggers. The reader’s response was rapid and readers pulled no punches.
After that difficult period, its content then seemed to lose its identity. It couldn’t address the question: Was their a real estate bubble? Not that it had to have an answer, but bubble bloggers wanted a commitment. Shortly after this period, the content reverted to its original safe format as if those responsible lost interest and the quantity of posts seemed to ease off.
It is a cop out to say Big Media can’t do a blog about real estate. It can. Just look at Businessweek’s Hot Property. So what would have made it work?
I think it comes down to a few items:
- Consistency: post every day if possible
- Voice: the language and tone need to be familiar to the reader
- Passionate: express your views, not what you think the reader wants to hear.
- Content: Don’t use it as a vehicle to link to all your feature stories. It ok to do sometimes.
- Original thoughts: Don’t glom off of other blogs.
- Better graphics: Leverage the photo archives and use charts and graphs.
- Champion the blog: Have a representative, the person most identified with the blog.
- Sense of community: Think about how much you want to orient the content to reader feedback.