Blogs Get Fit to Go to Print A publishing company from Iceland is bringing the blogosphere to print. Beginning with a new daily in Boston this month, bloggers will be able to share their musings — and possibly break news — in BostonNOW.
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Blogs Get Fit to Go to Print

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Blogs Get Fit to Go to Print

Blogs Get Fit to Go to Print

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Next we're going to listen to something that is very rarely heard these days in the newspaper industry, a job interview for a new reporter position.

Unidentified Woman: Do you have the resume that I e-mailed you?

Unidentified Man: I don't. Have you got one with you?

Unidentified Woman: I do happen to have one, but it's not the most updated version of it.

Unidentified Man: That's okay.

INSKEEP: This interview is unusual because newspapers are cutting staff as they lose readership and add revenue to the Internet. But a publishing company from Iceland - from Iceland - plans to launch free dailies in 10 U.S. cities beginning this month with Boston as the pilot market. The hope is to dodge the downward trend by taking some Web attractions and putting them in print.

From member station WBUR, Curt Nickisch reports.

(Soundbite of music)

CURT NICKISCH: In a cafe in a trendy part of Boston, a DJ mixes some background tunes as editor-in-chief John Wilpers makes his sales pitch to a dozen local bloggers. He tells them they're the ones plugged in to what's really going on around the city. And if they're writing about happenings anyway, Wilpers says, why not let him publish their blogs in the newspaper.

Mr. JOHN WILPERS (Editor-in-Chief, BostonNOW): I think it'd be more fun that way, because then we're not sending a reporter who might have absolutely no interest in it and a limited amount of talent and time, whereas you guys have the time, the talent and the interest.

NICKISCH: By printing blogs alongside the usual newspaper fare, Wilpers tells them this new daily called BostonNOW will do a better job of covering the community. And he wraps up by touting something these bloggers don't have -150,000 people reading what they write. That's the daily circulation, far more than the few hundred hits most of these bloggers get.

Mr. WILPERS: If I discover a real star, then I'm going to ride you and you're going to ride us to the point where either you go off and make more money someplace else or we come up with some way of keeping you around.

NICKISCH: It may seem odd that Web-savvy writers would even consider penning for old media, but most here are intrigued.

Ms. JADE SILVAN(ph) (Blogger): It sounds cool. What he's saying sounds possible, and it sounds like it could really take off.

NICKISCH: That's Jade Silvan. She blogs about her life as an unpublished writer. She loves the idea of her name in print. Another blogger, Mike Manono(ph), likes the notion of the new paper. He just doubts that his online musings would fit.

Mr. MIKE MANONO (Blogger): You know, in the summer, I do a lot of photos of the garden, taking about that. You know, my love life, I do a little what I call slogging, which is, you know, about the sex life. All of that is in my blogosphere. I find that a little bit difficult to kind of figure how that would work.

NICKISCH: It could, though, says John Wilpers. As editor-in-chief, he's going to have to help bloggers tailor their postings for a general audience. At first, he expects only about 10 percent of the newspaper's content to come from Web contributors, but Wilpers says eventually half the paper could be filled by all the Boston blogs fit to print.

Mr. WILPERS: Right now, there aren't enough good bloggers out there, but there's not a market. And people are motivated by attention and by reward, and we'll give them the attention and we'll give them the reward.

NICKISCH: The financial reward is still up in the air. Bloggers won't get paid at first. BostonNOW is still figuring a compensation system. That has critics worried the newspaper is less a model of citizen journalism than a business model based on cheap content. Lou Ureneck heads the Journalism Department at Boston University. He thinks the low budget will show.

Professor LOU URENECK (Journalism, Boston University): Are these extended letters to the editor? Are they personal diatribes? Are they uninformed columns? I hope it's something better than that.

NICKISCH: Still, others say this foray shows just how much the newspaper industry is struggling to reinvent itself in the digital age.

Mr. ROBERT KUTTNER (Editor, The American Prospect): I think what you're going to see is a ton of experimentation with print and Web cross-fertilizing each other.

NICKISCH: Robert Kuttner edits the magazine The American Prospect. He says most publications are trying to migrate more of their journalism online. BostonNOW is innovative, he says, by doing the opposite - bringing Web content to paper. Even so, Kuttner is not sure the blogosphere is a worthy substitute for conventional reporting.

Mr. KUTTNER: Well, it turns out that journalism is expensive because there's a professionalism to it. As traditional media get all of these new competitors who have much less overhead, the question becomes who's going to provide the news? Most news still originates in newspapers.

NICKISCH: But the editor-in-chief of BostonNOW, John Wilpers, believes his blog-bolstered daily will break news, and he says it'll be the news people are missing in today's traditional press.

Mr. WILPERS: They are telling us with their dollar bills that they don't like us anymore. We're not relevant to their lives. They're not buying us anymore. Papers like NOW - us - will come in and will say you do have a place at the table. You do have a platform. We do respect your voice.

NICKISCH: BostonNOW hits the streets today. Over the next three years, it's publishing company plans to start nine more such newspapers in major cities across the country.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston.

INSKEEP: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

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