Observer launches new blog

The Observer launched their first blog today (or rather, yesterday, by the time MT deigned to post this), and I have to admit that I really like it. It’s a mix of links to stories from the Observer, glimpses into the production process and thoughts about the news:

Ok, that’s the first edition gone and now there’s the big haul through the next few hours to improve the paper as we go through the night. Last edition is at 2am and we’ll keep tweaking until then.

I’ve been here since 8 this morning, probably ballsing a few things up, changing my mind and basically shouting at people who are doing a very good job. Good staff always save the news editor. At one point the production editor, Bob Poulton, patted me on the shoulder and said: ‘We kept you out of the loop on that one’ as I started arguing about another headline. Quite right.

Unlike most blogs out of the mainstream media, the Observer blog has a nice personal tone to it. Although it obviously does link to its own articles, it’s not just hawking them, it’s talking about how they decide what to cover, how they put the paper together, what their thoughts are. Some of the commenters accuse the blog of being banal, but I like the personal observations. There are so many blogs that act as content filters, giving me links and sending me off into the great wide web, and that’s nice, but for me an insight into what it’s like to put a major UK broadsheet together is far more interesting.

I’ve said before that I think the Guardian ‘gets’ blogs in a way that most of the rest of the media don’t and Neil McIntosh, along with the Observer team and Ben Hammersley, has done a great job on this new blog.

In his email announcing the blog, Neil said:

The blog experiment has been fascinating thus far, especially the unprecedented quality and quantity of discourse between readers and journalists we’ve been enjoying. We’ll be continuing the experimentation as we continue to launch and develop our weblogs in the months ahead, aided by blog guru and journalist Ben Hammersley, who’s come on board to help with the technical aspects of our blog setup.

The Observer is also possibly the first mainstream paper to start podcasting too, as Ben explains:

Meanwhile, the first Podcast (another newspaper first, I think) went up today with this post by John Naughton. Apart from being a fine chap, and one of the webloggers, John wrote the definitive history of the internet, and is the Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology for the Open University. So, you know, this isn’t some old guff recorded in the car by a fat bloke with a mullet.

It’s a coincidence that the Observer’s blog launch comes the day before my discussion panel at the LSE on blogging and journalism, but it’s a great example of the good stuff that can be done with a little thought and a solid understanding of how blogs work and what their strengths are.