It's being reported that the blog, "Freakonomics" -- based on the hugely popular book of the same title -- is to relocate to the New York Times, a move which the paper has signaled could be the first of many blog partnerships.
From the New York Observer:
Mr. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt began blogging at freakonomics.com in March of 2005, establishing the site as a spin-off from their wildly successful book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. The blog, too, became a big hit, and now the two are taking it to the majors. As of August 8, the blog will appear exclusively in the opinion section of The Times’ Web site. This is the first time The Times has taken a free-standing, independent blog and published it under the aegis of nytimes.com.
Vivian Schiller, the senior vice president and general manager of nytimes.com, is quoted as saying: "This is the first established blog that we’ve picked up. But it won’t be the last."
It's interesting to see acquisition or licensing as a possible "exit" strategy for the most popular independent blogs, and the fact that old media sees the hiring of star bloggers as a way of pulling in more eye-balls to their online versions of the paper. To me, this makes perfect sense. Blogs like Freakonomics have already built up a loyal and not insignificant sized audience -- and to the readers, the fact that they might be re-directed to a different destination to get their daily blog fix, doesn't make much difference. As long as the content remains the same, that is, and the paper takes a hands-off approach.
This is where I can see potential problems.
The culture of many newspapers is the opposite to blogging. Whilst the traditional editorial process can be beneficial (somebody could catch the worst of my typos), the results often create something very different to a blog, which tends to be more speedy, informal, and based on the authors own voice. Bloggers also don't have to worry about lawyers (not till after the event) or the paper's editorial stance. We just write what we want and hit publish.
Despite these challenges, I think we will see many more of the forward thinking newspapers go down the road of buying up the best bloggers who match their existing brands. When the fake Steve Jobs was outed earlier in the week, news came that Forbes.com was likely to become the site's new home.
Which star blogger will be next to land a mainstream media gig?