Every blogger does a bit of both: originating some stories and coverign those written by others. The latter is not only easier but gives you access to news and reporting resources that you may not be able to marshal on your own. And, counter intuitively, reblogged stories can get plenty of play — in traffic and other reblogs and retweets. But, there’s still a certain value in developing your own original news. Doing so is easier than you may think. To pump up the amount of original content on your blog, go retro: press releases.
Many believe that press releases are passé, but these tools can be quite useful.
Think through the “reblog supply chain.” Except for hardcore reporting (of which we’re seeing less and less in general, everywhere), most traditional outlets do a lot from press releases. When you’re reblogging one of these stories, you’re unnecessarily giving props to a media outlet that really only did what you could do on your own. Because of the reblog, you’re making yourself look disproportionately dependent on other outlets.
Stop the madness!
Get on as many media lists as you can, and work directly from the press releases. You’ll get the same result (maybe better, even) without having to give credit where it isn’t really due.
Of course, this technique makes you no better than the traditional outlets. Rather, you’re merely “just as good.” Fortunately, it doesn’t take much work to find a twist to add to the rewritten press release to make your story distinct. For an easy fix, pop in a related video from YouTube, or summarize what other blogs are saying about the story. Do a quick Google search to see if there’s any previous coverage to which to link back.
To get a “man on the street” perspective, you don’t need to find people to interview. Instead, rely on the digital mountains of user-generated content available. Writing about a restaurant? Check out OpenTable reviews. Covering a destination? Hit TripAdvisor, or cruise the comments on Gadling.
For a recent story on Deloitte’s annual revenue report, I went to GreenDotLife, a message board where employees pitch about the firm. By doing this, I found that the company’s strong hiring numbers for the year came from its picking up pieces of BearingPoint (which had folded). The BearingPoint piece had been covered months earlier, but few made the link in October. Using GreenDotLife, I was able to talk about Deloitte’s ongoing layoffs, which you wouldn’t expect to see in a story based on a press release that discusses record hiring … and I was able to capture raw employee reactions.
The result was cool original reporting with no budget and little time expended. I didn’t accomplish anything major, but I was able to go a layer deeper without having to work too hard.
Bloggers don’t need to live as deep in the shadow of mainstream media as we do now. We have plenty of components at our disposal — we just need to assemble them.