"I'm a newspaper opinion guy and I love arguing and debating and I think that anything that extends that discussion is good for newspapers---and newspaper opinion sections are often the best local opinion that's out there."
Mastio talking with the MGP, June 2009
Photo Linked From: http://www.reinventingclassifieds.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/davidmastio.jpg
By MGP Associate Editor Sara Majka, June 2009
"Until recently, we were willing to do them entirely on a revenue share basis," he says. "So there were no out-of-pocket expense to newspapers at all. And you couldn't get them to make a decision." He talked to hundreds of newspapers before talking to Jack Lail, the Director of News Innovation at the Knoxville News Sentinel. Lail agreed, and they launched the Knoxville Blog Network in September 2007. He now lists about five partnerships, including the launch of South Florida Blogs in the Miami Herald last month. Others are in an alternative weekly in Milwaukee, the Daily News in Bowling Green, and one that's about to launch in the daily in Memphis.
When asked why he thought newspapers resisted the idea, he mentions committee decision making, where one person could kill a deal. "There's still people in newsrooms who think a blogger is a scary thing and they're not ready to deal with it," Mastio says. He also talks about the "not invented here syndrome," where the technical people at the paper say they can do it themselves. The basics of aggregation is pretty easy, he says, but none of the newspapers have actually gone and done it because of the time it takes upfront.
He searches for the right phrase and says newspapers are still in a slow-moving mode, "even though things have changed so much and have gotten so bad."
"If you talk to my former bosses, I probably have entirely too high of an opinion of myself," Mastio says when I ask what made him decide to cash out his retirement. "And if no one else was ready to take the leap, I was ready to take the leap. Because I thought the idea was pretty darned good."
He had become fascinated by blogs as they started on the web. He noticed that while most early ones were national, local ones were starting to spread. As for why he started a business rather than a blog, he says, "I'm a newspaper opinion guy and I love arguing and debating and I think that anything that extends that discussion is good for newspapers and newspaper opinion sections are often the best local opinion that's out there."
He's been an op-ed page editor, editorial page editor, and letters editor, and calls it one of the best institutions in the paper. "I think it has also been one of the most woefully neglected ones in terms of innovation and investment," he says. He sees opinion as being at the core of new media, and that newspapers should exploit that strength. Blogs would also allow them to focus on another strength: doing local.
Eventually, he would like to convince newspapers to take blogs out of one section in the newspaper and spread them throughout. "One of the things that we have the ability to do is every time a blogger links to a particular news story, we could have that news story automatically link back to that blogger, and give what that blogger's headline is," he says. This is already being done at the New York Times, where you can click on the "Try Our Extra Home Page" icon below the masthead to get automatic blog reactions.
All this, he says, is not a simple thing, and can be a scary leap for newspapers. The Miami Herald went out looking for blogs that were critical of their paper and added them. "Now there is a direct, automatic pipeline into the Miami Herald from critics on the right and the left," he says. They also went out and talked to bloggers, had them in for a meeting, and solicited their feedback.
Mastio calls the almost uniformly-positive response the highlight for him so far. And that positive moment was needed at a time when their advertising revenue for 1000 page views has gone down 60 or 70 percent over the last 12 months. He says that eventually a few former bosses and his father invested, which has meant he's "not totally out on the limb by myself."
BNN Broadcast, the official blog for BNN, written by David Mastio. ""BNN Broadcast" will bring readers the latest news on what is going on at BlogNetNews, our latest features, expansions etc, give bloggers a place to comment on what we're doing and will also be the launching point for our attempt to start covering the local news and politics blogosphere as a community."
June 14, 2009 Miami Herald article announcing their new blog page: "It's such a sprawling universe it's hard to navigate, search and keep up with for all but the most dedicated readers. That's why The Miami Herald launched a sharp new guide to 280 South Florida blogs this week that I think you'll want to spend time with."
Also, Herald editor Shelley Acoca writes about the announcement, this article is on the Knight Digital Media Center website.
A four-minute audio clip of Mastio talking about blogs and newspapers at a Knight Seminar, saying that newspapers could play the role of sorting and making blogs more useful to readers. "You can't be the gatekeeper the way you used to be."