Mark Cuban takes The New York Times to task for debasing itsesf by calling its blogs… “blogs.” Rather than having the Times’ imprimatur validate the blog, he argues, calling its blogs “blogs” drags the venerable newspaper down into that dangerous dystopia of dubious diatribe known as the blogosphere. Journalists, don’t go there alone at night if you value your kidneys. Once bloggers start moving into your publication, your media property values will sink like a stone.
The Times’ struggle against Internet commoditization began when the newspaper — like every other major news organization — established an editorial presence on the Web. Refusing to call its online presence a “Web site” in favor of something that nobody understands would not have changed the fundamental dynamics of the Web’s low barrier to entry. (That said,, the Times now follows Mark’s advice to tie into its print recognition by branding its Web site “all the news that’s fit to click.”) If blogging is as commoditized as Mark portrays it, then a flashy rebadge isn’t going to help much.
Also, I don’t see how Mark can dsmiss all of the positive connotations of blogs — intimacy, feedback, conversation, perspective and modernness. Calling the Times’ blog “realtime reporting” doesn’t convey any of this. “Reporting” may reflect the Times’ traditional brand value, but doesn’t distinguish beyond what the Times may be doing online or, for that matter, what CNN does on television. Indeed, the Times could be doing a lot worse than blogs in attracting some sources of traffic.
Mark closes by referencing HBO’s “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” marketing slogan, but that’s an easy distinction to make in a bandwidth-constrained medium by a premium cable channel. Over a decade ago, HBO (once better known as an acronym for Home Box Office) shifted its emphasis from commercial-free movie airing to creating its acclaimed lineup of original, exclusive TV series. The slogan, which came later, reflected the reality. It didn’t create it.