The South Africa's Mail & Guardian online has been experimenting with new media through their 3-step blogging strategy. The first part of the strategy was the launching of the South African aggregator, Amatomu. The second was a blogging platform, Amagama. An editorial blog, Thought Leader, is the culmination of this 3-step strategy.
Vincent Maher, the Mail & Guardian digital strategist, explains their 3-step blogging strategy:
Thought Leader is the 3rd part of our 3-step blogging strategy. The first was was to aggregate and measure the local blogosphere, which we did via Amatomu. The second was to provide a hosting platform for blogs, which we did via Amagama. The final step, and the most challenging, was to create a hybrid between a group blog and a more traditional opinion and editorial site that we could really throw our reputation behind as a quality news source.
A few people have asked me if there is any method to the madness as we rolled out the previous two products but, as you can see, 1+1+1 > 3 in this case and the 3 sites form a comprehensive approach that not many other SA media have adopted.
Each blog is edited by our editorial team and so are the comments and the intention is for it to become the source for quality blogging in the spheres of politics, economics, society, religion and technology – this will no doubt also spur some robust debate ahead of the elections.
Another thing you may notice is that it features a lot of local blogging talent mixed in with the Mail & Guardian journalists and experts. There can be no doubt that blogging in South Africa has caused an explosion of writing and from this has emerged some real talent [along with some real untalent] and we wanted to help these newcomers get some public exposure and be part of the great debate.
Mathew Buckland, the General Manager, Mail & Guardian Online, announced the launching of the platform calling it an “editorial blog”:
We’ve launched what I call an “editorial blog” platform, called Thought Leader — the third part of our blog strategy, after the amas — amatomu.com and amagama.com.
A key aspect that we were insistent on was that this was an “editorial blog” product. We needed the content to pass through an editor… old-fashioned traditional media style. So all blog content goes through our online editor Riaan Wolmarans. Unlike our other blog products, we needed this because Thought Leader appears strongly under the Mail & Guardian brand, therefore the company is liable, responsible and directly associated with the content. We had the debate internally for months while conceptualising Thought Leader, deciding that all content, whether in a newspaper, a website or blog needs to go through a gate-keeping process if under our brand.
Chilibean described Thought Leader as a “mashup of traditional media and new media“:
Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader blog is quite an interesting mashup of traditional media and new media. The site is basically a really big group blog with about 40 contributors so far. The blog is monitored by Mail & Guardian's online editor, Riaan Wolmarans who pretty much seems to have his hands full making sure the contributions submitted to the blog are safe for publication. The reason for this editorial control makes a lot of sense.
I like the Thought Leader blog and the way it has been put together. If Vincent and Matt add those extra feeds the service will be even more useful. For now, it is early days but I think this one is going to be a goodie going forward. In the meantime, I am going to add one more feed to my list …
Nicharalambous was excited about the new initiative:
am a big fan of the work that M&G have been doing, that’s no secret but I really like this initiative and have been waiting to blog about it for a while. The concept is a simple and effective one.
KUDOS to the M&G for launching their Thought Leader blogging platform. Very nice, easy design and a good selection of bloggers ranging from the M&G’s own Matt Buckland and Vincent Maher to the somewhat self-consciously contrarian Ivo Vegter (Mbeki was right to fire Nozizwe).
Bridget McNulty felt honoured when she was invited to be part of Thought Leader:
So I’m really honoured (and a little overwhelmed) to have been invited to be part of Thought Leader – the Mail and Guardian Online’s exclusive new blogging platform (la di da! I hear you say).
Most of the people are blogging on politics and news and sport and the like. I’m blogging on The Novel Life: whimsical observations on the everyday. It’ll be a little like this, only more focused, and only on a Monday and Friday. One for the week, one for the weekend. And it’ll mainly be about novel stuff, and also about observations on everyday life.
Different to this, but also in my voice (obviously).
Come visit me!
The launching of Thought Leader brought back a common debate in the South African blogosphere about “cloning.” Webaddict asked, “Is Thought Leader M&G’s Wibble.co.za clone?”:
Came accross wibble.co.za 41 days ago, submitted it to muti
Wibble is a multi-user, multi-industry blog. If you are a thought leader in your industry open an account NOW
Over at Mail & Gaurdian Vincent Maher & Matthew Buckland have just launched thought leader…
The default plugin that comes or used to come with a Worpdress installation is called Hello Dolly. Dolly, also the name of the first sheep cloned many years ago.
Is it just me or is there something strange happening here?
Stii asked, “So what's the big deal?“:
So, was Wibble the first ever group blog? Did Vince and Matthew clone Wibble? Really, who cares! Did Muti rip off Digg or Reddit? Did Amatomu and Afrigator clone Technorati? Surely that NOT relevant AT ALL as what is important at the end of the day is which service is liked and used more and by whom. THAT is what is relevant IMHO. Not who cloned who and how and why. Wibble does not allow me to comment without having to register. M&G’s Thought Leader does! Guess where I will spend my spare minutes…
Cloning web services is an integral part of the internet’s evolution. If you have a problem with it, you should maybe stop and think for a minute… If you are the creator of the cloned product, then boy! you better watch out… There is a lot of pretty talented people out there and you better stay on top of your game, else you’ll be (God forbid) knocked out by a clone!
While Thought Leader continues to invite more bloggers and draw media attention, Vincent Maher announces: Thought Leader go print:
Usually the way things work in a newspaper is that copy gets written for the print publication and then gets re-purposed for the web. If the publication has a good convergence and integration strategy in place then the final output medium is unspecified at first, but there are not many publications in the world that have this working properly. In parallel, copy gets written for the web product, sometimes in the form of blogs, that seldom finds its way into the print edition. The Times have done this particularly well with their “blogumists”.
This week marks the first week in M&G history where a substantial amount of the Op-Ed section [close to a thousand words in two separate sections] has been dedicated to content that was written specifically for the online product by our readers. Our UGE (User-Generated Editorial) strategy is now in full swing with this, the final link in the chain.
Personally I have longed, for a long time, for the day when online media gets the same level of respect as the printed word. If we online people are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is still more authority attached to the printed word, regardless of whether there is a rational basis for it or not. To see Thought Leader go to print, and in such an important section, feels like a seminal moment.