[While this might seem a little strange to be writing about ZDNet and my fellow bloggers on ZDNet I think it might fly in the slightly shifted way the new media world is developing...]
In 2003, led by ZDNet veterans Dan Farber and David Berlind, the site launched blogs and later in 2005 original podcasts, adding context and perspective to the day's news in a way that only experts and well-connected insiders could offer. Farber and Berlind quickly amassed a network of more than 30 bloggers that today includes some of the most authoritative and well-respected voices in the IT community.
I'm proud to be part of Dan Farber's blogger corp over on CNET's ZDNet IT news site where I publish IMHO (in my humble opinion). The ZDNet blogs have grown from strength to strength, largely because of Dan's leadership.
It is great to work with Dan's team because he exhibits a tireless pursuit of news. I don't think I've ever seen him without multiple cameras and laptops attached. I wouldn't be surprised to one day see him with a SNL Al Franken satellite upload dish on his head because that is how tenacious he is as a journalist to report and file news.
Dan is everywhere, at many of the events that I go to. And I tend to avoid the obvious daytime news events because there are dozens of other journalists there. I go to the evening roundtables, the salons, because the journalists with day jobs are home with their families. That's when I get a chance to come home with exclusive content--except when Dan is there.
The ZDNet blog section is an experiment in media publishing that is well worth watching. I've no idea if it is profitable. I and my fellow ZDNet bloggers are paid based on pageview numbers.
How much money does this generate? Well, I have never cleared the $500 per month minimum base rate and I think that many of my colleagues are in a similar pay bracket. The Apple guy I've heard has been the top performer of our group netting $4k per month and sometimes much more.
The base rate is pocket money for most since nearly all of the ZDNet bloggers (except me) have days jobs in well paid professions (i.e not journalism!).
The money-for-traffic payments are becoming common at other publishers too. Business 2.0 for example, has such a system for its recently launched staff blogger section.
In theory, such a system of reward for content performance might encourage sensationalist headlines and posts. Or encourage posts that goad the Apple community, which reliably responds in large numbers and with a lot of passion. (This is John Dvorak's favorite way to boost traffic on a slow day :-) But so far, that hasn't happened to any obvious degree over on ZDNet.
Although the financial performance of the ZDNet blogger group is not known, I will bet it compares very well against ZDNet's dwindling group of salaried journalists. And Dan's blogger elite is far faster in covering breaking news than most salaried journalists.
Take a ook at the coverage on ZDNet about Yahoo's reorganization. The news was released late in the day, about 6pm Pacific Time -- just about heading home time for the salaried journalists. But the ZDNet bloggers kicked up a storm of coverage and news analysis - well into the night and early morning.
My two cents on the project is that I could do with some basic support on the production side of things, such as a copy editor to look over my shoulder and correct those things that we become blind to because we have to edit ourselves.
And a production assistant would be great too. Putting in those links, adding images, pointing to other relevant and worthy content, it is something that adds value and richness to a post. But it is often difficult to do as a standalone journalist--when it is late at night and the analog world of dreams beckons.
Also, we know from the hundreds of years of producing news: great journalism is created by teams and not by individuals. Just as everything else in the world that is consistently good, is the product of teams... IMHO.