Media Nation’s new business model

The Boston Globe has nothing on Media Nation. Last night, I added Google AdSense above the header in the hopes of generating a bit of revenue. I had tried several years ago, but messed something up and could never straighten it out.

This week, I finally figured out how to undo the damage. The indefatigable Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub — who also supplies local bloggers with the “Flyerboard” ad that appears in the right-hand column — helped me with the coding.

We’ll see what happens.

Patching in to AOL’s Patch (II)

Old friend Mark Leccese, blogging at Boston.com, offers further thoughts on the competition among Patch, GateHouse Media’s Wicked Local sites and Boston.com’s Your Town initiative.

Let me repeat: The most interesting local online journalism is taking place at the grassroots. And no one in Greater Boston does a better job of aggregating it than Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub. If you didn’t know that already, well, now you do.

(Disclosure: Media Nation is part of Gaffin’s Boston Blogs advertising network.)

Earlier item.

Reconnecting with your audience

I’ll be leading a discussion on “Blogging, Social Media and Journalism” tomorrow from 10:45 a.m. to noon at the annual convention of the New England Newspaper & Press Association at the Park Plaza. I’ve put together some slides (above), but I’m conceiving this session as an unconference, and I want to turn it over to the editors and reporters who’ll be attending as quickly as possible.

The blabbing continues. From 3:45 to 5 p.m., Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub and I will lead a workshop on “Writing for the Web.”

Finally, on Saturday from 1:45 to 3:15 p.m., I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion on social media that’s part of the ACLU of Massachusetts “Secrecy, Surveillance and Sunlight” conference at UMass Boston. I’ll be joined by Northeastern University Law School professor Hope Lewis, ACLUM online communications coordinator Danielle Riendeau and ACLUM communications director Christopher Ott.

Now, to get back to those slides (and sorry for the funny line breaks; there’s something about SlideShare that I’m obviously missing). There are a number of examples I’ll be talking about that are worth taking a deeper look at. So I thought I’d post some links here.

Who are those unnamed “political blogs”?

Adam Gaffin has posted the best piece of media criticism you’ll read all weekend. Heh.

Panic: Buy all milk, bread and eggs right now

Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub has sounded the first major French Toast Alert of 2009-’10.

Tweeting from City Hall

Amy Derjue (from Twitter)
Amy Derjue (from Twitter)

Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub has some big-time fun with the Boston Herald’s story on city employees who use Facebook and Twitter during work hours. Gaffin reproduces a photo of the Herald reporters who wrote the story, Jessica Heslam and Dave Wedge, from — yes — Heslam’s Facebook account.

“What are they using them for?” asks Gaffin. “What are they hiding? Ooh, insinuation is fun!”

Kidding aside, you have to admit that there’s an appearance problem with the way some city employees are using social media. Heslam and Wedge focus on Amy Derjue, a former Boston Magazine blogger who was hired earlier this year to serve as City Council president Mike Ross’ $39,000-a-year spokeswoman.

Derjue is something of a young-woman-about-town, and I follow her on both Facebook and Twitter. (If you page through her 340 Facebook friends, you’ll see a wide array of local media and political folks, including Gaffin, me — and Wedge.) Some of her posts make me cringe, and Heslam and Wedge dutifully provide some cringe-worthy examples. But I’ve never heard anyone suggest she wasn’t smart, hard-working and energetic. For what it’s worth, she has complained to me on behalf of her boss, which suggests dedication to her job.

More to the point, most of us — and you can be sure Derjue falls into this category — are never fully off work. If we’re expected to tend to business when we’re off-duty, then we have to be allowed some fun during the formal workday as well. And, as Gaffin writes, “Why, it takes sheer seconds to post something to Facebook or Twitter.”

An aside that may help illustrate my point. Yesterday John Robinson, editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., tweeted that he was being yelled at by a “legislator who resigned in disgrace.” When I responded at how impressed I was with his multi-tasking, he replied, “Yes, tweeting while yelling. What else am I supposed to do? Listen?” This was not a private conversation — it was seen by all 1,196 of Robinson’s followers and all 2,019 of mine. Welcome to 2009.

Ross tells the Herald that he hired Derjue in part for her social-networking expertise. And, indeed, Ross has a pretty lively Twitter feed and Facebook account. For Derjue to post to her personal sites while working on her boss’ would, as Gaffin says, take “sheer seconds.” You can question her judgment, but her social-media activities are not evidence of dereliction.

Derjue seems to have partly disabled her Facebook account (I could be wrong; Facebook mystifies and annoys me), and she hasn’t posted to Twitter since last night. No doubt she’s licking her wounds at the moment. I’m interested to see how she’ll respond.

The missing mayor

Joel Brown calls a television commercial put out by Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s re-election campaign, featuring his empty desk, “a terrible spot” and — with a bit of rewriting — “an excellent ad for one of his opponents.”

Adam Gaffin adds: “Maybe this is what happened to Curley’s desk.”

Universal Hub on the air

Adam Gaffin talks with Left Ahead! (The exclamation point is theirs.)

Why the Globe should acquire Universal Hub

The Boston Globe may be getting smaller, but it was just handed an opportunity to do something very intelligent. Let’s see if it can rise to the occasion.

Adam Gaffin, the chief impresario and co-founder of Universal Hub, just lost his day job as an online editor for the trade publication Network World. UH, if you don’t already know, is a “best of the blogs” site — an essential guide to nearly 1,000 local blogs in Greater Boston, all informed by Adam’s love of his adopted hometown and his puckish wit.

The Globe should hire Gaffin. I’ve been saying it to anyone who’d listen for quite a while now. Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix said it just last week. Yes, yes, the financially ailing Globe is in the midst of downsizing its newsroom by 50 people. But with fewer reporters, the paper is in more need than ever of someone who can intelligently aggregate content from a wide variety of sources. No one is better at it than Gaffin.

Recently, as you know, the Globe tried its hand at automated aggregation. It didn’t work out.

Gaffin’s ability to find what’s interesting, entertaining and important while holding down a demanding day job has always been awe-inspiring. If he were able to devote his full attention to it, Universal Hub would only become better. (In most respects, anyway. No doubt he would no longer offer his acidic observations about certain Globe columnists.)

Gaffin has been affiliated with the Globe in the past — for a while he wrote a roundup for the Sunday paper’s City Weekly supplement.

Do I have a conflict of interest? Yes, and thank you for asking, though it cuts the other way. Adam also runs the Boston Blogs ad network, which automatically places advertising on Media Nation and many other local blogs. Lately it’s been doing well enough to cover my Internet access fees. Were Adam to go to the Globe, I imagine we’d be left high and dry.

If the Globe is to reinvent itself, it’s going to have to act as a trusted guide to the best content out there. It should start with Gaffin.

Getting Hubbed

I’ve got a profile of Universal Hub co-founder and blogger-in-chief Adam Gaffin in the new CommonWealth Magazine. Here’s the nut:

The idea behind Universal Hub is pretty simple. Every day — during breaks at work, while he’s on his exercise bike at home, or sitting in front of the television with a laptop — Gaffin tries to stay current with some 600 to 700 blogs in Greater Boston, looking for items that are unusually newsworthy, quirky, or poignant. He links to the best of them, along with an excerpt, some commentary, and a headline. He cites mainstream news sources as well, offering words of praise or disparagement.

What emerges from all this is something approaching a community-wide conversation. It’s like talk radio, only better, richer, more diverse, with people able to talk not just with the host but with each other through the comments they post. Universal Hub isn’t exactly an alternative to the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, but it’s become an essential supplement — a source for hyperlocal and offbeat news you won’t find elsewhere, and a place to hash out the big stories of the day.

“It gives you a place to have a discussion with folks who you might not otherwise be talking to,” says Gaffin.

Also in the new CommonWealth, Gabrielle Gurley takes a look at a new model of investigative reporting, driven by students and non-profit foundations. Gurley focuses on my Pulitzer-winning Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson, whose students are regularly breaking important stories in his old paper, the Boston Globe.