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Why it doesn't matter that 52% of bloggers consider themselves journalists

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This PR Newswire report that 52 percent of bloggers consider themselves journalists has been getting passed around a lot lately. I saw it earlier this week and brushed it aside because I didn’t think the numbers really revealed all that much. And they don’t.

On the Web, reputation is all that matters

If you’re trying at all to grow your Web traffic (that is, if you’re not writing a Go To Hell blog just for the fun of it) what you think you are doesn’t matter. Your visitors and the general buzz surrounding your brand will make or break you, even if you think you’re the hottest stuff on the block.

Think of it like this: Anytime a politician gets on a microphone and talks about himself, the first thing journalists do is start digging into his claims. Is what this guy says the truth? Does that gel with what he’s said in the past? Etc. Ultimately, it’s the record—not what the politician said—that will make or break the politician’s claims. Any news site—new or old—is going to get the same treatment from its readers.

News consumers aren’t stupid

Except for the zealots and true idiots—who you can’t worry about anyway—news consumers are smart and they aren’t going to be easily swayed by a blogger who just sets up shop and says I’m a journalist. That title will be earned (or perhaps awarded) by the reputation that the blogger builds. If he’s posting conjecture and rumor and frequently making corrections, it’s not likely that he’ll be taken that seriously (or at least that he’ll be taken as unbiased). But if a blogger is posting and linking to information on a daily basis that’s reliable, he’ll earn the trust of his readers, some of whom may eventually consider that he’s a journalist.

A real news org will let readers decide what it is

Old school news orgs don’t like to hear that they have to compete with bloggers. They’ve been around for decades in a lot of cases and these bloggers set up shop what, last week? But being angry or feeling entitled isn’t going to win in a battle between you and your competition—that’s true for anyone. You may be the original and you may feel like you established yourself years ago, but how you feel doesn’t matter to your readers/viewers/visitors. What you do is what affects them and it’s what they’ll use to gauge whether you’re relevant to them.

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