In case you missed it, here on Berlind's Testbed, I posted an entry on a new company called Code Green Networks the other day. Whether or not you find Code Green to be worth your attention, that blog post is worth a second look because (1) you're going to see more of that sort of multimedia editorial packaging here on TestBed and (2) I think ZDNet is either on or near the tip of the spear when it comes to where blogo-journalism is headed.
As some of you have realized by now, I've retreated from making daily posts over on ZDNet's Between the Lines blog and am focusing my attention here, on Testbed. Co-authored by Dan Farber and me, Between the Lines (what we call "BTL" internally) was ZDNet's first blog. In fact, I believe it was the first blog in all of CNET (which has a lot of other Web properties). Depending on what day you check, BTL ranks somewhere between 180 and 210 out of the 57 million or so blogs worldwide that Technorati tracks. When Dan and I first started BTL, it didn't even merit Technorati's attention. In fact, this blog -- Testbed -- is currently ranked around 700,000th and it's so far out on the "long-tail," that I'm not even sure if Technorati is bothering to recalculate its rank. According to Technorati, something -- either this blog itself or Technorati's rank calculation of it -- was updated 628 days ago.
With Larry Dignan now on board, prolifically contributing to BTL, I was given the freedom to focus on something else that needed attention here at ZDNet: our reviews area. Having once been a product tester and eventually the director of PC Weeks Labs (now eWeek), I come from a product testing background. So, when it came time to start thinking about how we could blend blogs and reviews at ZDNet (particularly with a steady stream of testing data pouring out of CNET's testing labs), it was only natural for that hot potato to be passed to me.
I have a lot on my mind when it comes to what we can do with ZDNet's reviews area. But at the top of it is to do what reviews have traditionally done for any media property that has offered them -- provide ZDNet's audience members with actionable information. Information that you can base a decision on. Information you can act on. Though I haven't heard the phrase used in a while, the term "Decision Support System" or DSS comes to mind. I've been giving a lot of thought to how a media property like ZDNet can best deliver actionable information. But in this day and age of blogo-journalism, two things are very clear to me.
First, subject to the rules of fair use, when publishing something (anything), we need to think about whether there's other information out there on the Web that is worth refactoring into what we're about to publish. For example, in my write-up of Apple's recently released Core 2 Duo-based MacBook, you'll find that my analysis is based on data that was gathered by CNET's labs as well as tests and observations that were made by others on the Web (for example, John Poole's findings over at Geek Patrol).
Second, we have to be prepared to deliver actionable information across whatever medium audience members prefer. In both cases, you'll start to see some experiments here on Testbed.
For example, check out the aforementioned Code Green coverage. If actionable information in text is your cup of tea, it's there, replete with still images. Not only are still images integrated with the blog post (no big deal these days), we took still images one step further and offered an image gallery that shows Code Green's management console (a dashboard according to the company's CEO) in action. But wait, there's more. When we interviewed Code Green CEO Sreekanth Ravi, not only did we videotape the sit-down with our new Panasonic HVX-200 DV cam, we also grabbed the audio of the whole interview on my Edirol R-4 digital audio recorder. As such, the post includes both a 5-minute video (with opinionated cut-aways) and and a full-length podcast. In other words, whether you want to consume the text on your PDA or smartphone, the audio on your iPod or in your car, or both along with the video and images on your PC, you can get the skinny on Code Green the way you want it. Pretty much the entire package was turned around in under 24 hours.
Within the CNET family of Web sites, ZDNet was, back in January of 2005, the first to offer podcasts. To the best of our knowledge, we were also the first of the media companies in our class (or bigger), to offer unique podcast programming (about the same time, BBC Radio started repurposing some of its radio broadcasts as downloadable audio and podcasts). Currently, regardless of where you go within the CNET family, our editors are podcasting. Now, here at ZDNet, we're pushing the RSS-enabled world of blogo-journalism once again by offering a more complete package than we ever have before. Not only is it more complete compared to what ZDNet and our CNET sisters have offered in the past, we think you'll find it to be unique in terms of what can be found elsewhere on the Web (especially amongst ZDNet's peers). But I don't think it will be for long.
Are we making mistakes? So many, I can't count. But that has been our heritage here at ZDNet. Not only do we want to redefine what it means to cover tech, we want to redefine what it means to do speedy, multimedia blogo-journalism in real-time. And the only way to do that is to simply go for it.