Q&A: Topix CEO Chris Tolles on adding user comments to 61 newspaper sites

News forum Topix seeks to power local conversation in every city in America. It announced Tuesday a deal to provide MediaNews Group with online discussion and article commenting capabilities for each of the publisher’s 61 daily newspapers.

OJR chatted with Topix CEO Chris Tolles about how the partnership works and what it means for the future of citizen journalism. Below is an edited transcript. [Note: Topix is a financial supporter of OJR. As a result, OJR editor Robert Niles did not participate in the reporting or editing of the story, which was edited by OJR graduate assistant editor Noah Barron.]

OJR: What happens in a Topix and media company partnership? What’s the benefit to media companies?

Tolles: It’s a no-brainer for them. They get content up without any work on their part. There’s additional ad inventory. And there are opportunities down the road for them to actually integrate their journalism and the commentary – using forums as a place to get stories, to take the pulse of the community.

The opportunity in the partnership is to work with several different large networks and a massive audience that federates between them, and to monetize that.

OJR: You take the comments on newspaper articles and cross-post to Topix sites.

Tolles: Right, if someone comments on an article about the New England Patriots in MediaNews Group’s Lowell, Massachusetts newspaper, it appears in the Lowell paper as well as to the New England Patriots section on Topix and on the Topix local page. Likewise, a comment on the Patriots page on Topix will also go into the newspaper page. It feeds off each other to create greater utility out of that same comment, filling up empty room. It also drives more traffic back to the original story.

OJR: Have you learned lessons from previous partnerships that you plan to apply to MediaNews Group?

Tolles: We want to make sure that we engage with their local sites quickly. Essentially, the more input and feeling of participation that the people who work there have, the better they’ll feel. I think that’s the biggest lesson. The other challenge is for us to figure out how what we’re doing isn’t just an adjunct of what they’re doing, but rather central to their mission.

OJR: Are people at newspapers resistant to the integration?

Tolles: Not on the online side, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a news editor that likes unedited comments on their site. News editors would want to vet every comment, which would kill the whole system.

OJR: Are you looking at other partnerships? What are you doing in the future?

Tolles: We are. We are also working on another product, a hyperlocal editing platform. On Topix, we have a “wires” page with a whole list of articles we’ve crawled from the Net. We also have a “news” page that can either be automated with an algorithm to figure out the top story every couple of hours, or managed by an editor who pulls stories from the wires or the Web to create a custom news page. This page is centered around a subject or topic. Ideally you get three or four people from the community to take charge of this and an editor who walks in once in a while to make sure nothing’s wrong. It’s a way to create a micro-targed news section with very little editorial on top of it.

For example, if the LA Times wanted to create a page for Silver Lake, you could have an editor feature the paper’s Silver Lake stories on the site, solicit comments, and solicit first person reporting from the community. We have a whole system to manage all that. We’re working to provide that syndicated product to other people now.

OJR: The upside of those pages is obviously matching them to local advertising.

Tolles: Monetization, absolutely. It provides a way of creating more product for less money. MediaNews Group and Topix share revenue from ads on the comment and forum pages.

OJR: Let’s talk about your competitors. One of them is Google. In August, Google announced that they were asking people featured in news articles to comment. What’d you think of that?

Tolles: I was very worried about that. But if you’re only going to allow people featured in the article to comment, then it’s going to be a boutique, hand-cranked feature that requires a very, very high editorial touch. And Google’s not the high editorial touch kind of place. That was launched three or four months ago, and I don’t think it’s had any effect. Google’s our number one advertiser, and they’re a great partner of ours. I just don’t think they’re going to compete with us in this area.

OJR: Which competitors are you worried about then?

Tolles: There’s no one person doing what we do. Yahoo! had comments on all of their articles until last December. They have a lot more resources that could be aimed at us than Google. They don’t mind putting content on their site. So they have all the pieces to build a much more effective weapon against us. They just have not done so.

Pluck provides comment sections to newspapers, but they don’t have their own websites. They compete for partner business.

OJR: Up until earlier this year, Topix didn’t use human editors. Why’d you add them?

Tolles: Topix has gone for a volume strategy – getting the most people who can participate in your online community and trying to automate the process of moderation to take out true horror from the commentary. The same automated system we use to aggregate and categorize news content, we use in the commentary space. We hide about 10% of all comments before they ever hit the site. We optimized the automated system for growth. If the comments are too horrible, then people stop commenting. If you take too many comments out, then you don’t grow as fast.

We’re about freedom of speech, but a newspaper, for example, might have a much different editorial sense. We’re OK with hot-blooded comments. Some newspapers aren’t. It comes down to making a better product.

There’s a cultural problem: Newspapers don’t want to see bad comments. An editor is almost viscerally offended by an insensitive comment. We’re not. If you come in with the attitude that 1% of comments are great, then the challenge becomes how to escalate the good comments out of the mass of bad commentary.

OJR: Enter citizen journalism?

Tolles: The New York Times is not going to emerge fully formed out of a comment system, but the New York Times isn’t the desired result either. Ideally, with citizen reporters – I don’t want to say “journalists” because “journalism” has certain ethical and stylistic burdens – you’ll see several different reports of the same thing, and you, as the reader, will have to make the decision yourself on what really happened, what’s true and what’s not. A newspaper generally tries to provide an analyzed result, a fair and balanced report of what happened. What the Internet did to travel agencies, it’s going to do to journalism. Travel agents used to have recommendations for hotels, now they say, “Go choose yourself. If you make a mistake, it’s your fault.” An article becomes the start of a product, not the product itself.

Reporters aren’t graded on how many people read their articles. They’re not judged on whether their articles made money. In the last decade or two, reporters tend to think the Pulitzer is the ultimate recognition. Pulitzers are decided by other journalists. At the end of the day, what does that matter? Getting commentary, getting people excited, changes what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to create the most politicized, polarizing article possible. You want to get right in the middle and throw a hand grenade. That’s what people used to do in newspapers.

The beauty of this is maybe we’ll help bring journalism back to its origins. The golden age of newspapers was when they made you angry or made you happy. They weren’t boring. They heart of journalism is not where it is today. Fox News is the closest thing we have to real journalism. It’s successful.

If you’re going to do something, do something that people will like. I’m sick of this idea that journalism’s a priesthood. It’s not. The First Amendment covers all of us, not just journalists. There are no specific privileges that journalists should have that aren’t afforded to everybody. Why don’t you just do something that people will want to read and talk about?

The Internet being the first mass two-way communications medium gives you the opportunity to get people involved. The way to do that is to talk about issues that no one wants to talk about that have historically caused the most commotion. That’s what newspapers should do. Instead, newspapers say: Let’s not talk about the homeless in San Francisco because people are going to be upset. No, the goal is to get people upset. That’s what citizen journalism brings to the party. That is destiny. There’s no fighting it. That is the way it will be.

OJR: But we’ve seen recently how citizen journalism can lead to tragic results. Are there ethical problems with building a platform that enables something like that to happen?

Tolles: I believe in the purloined letter approach. You need to make sure that there’s an information overload on any given person so it’ll take a lot more to ruin their lives. There are limits of what I want to see online, but those limits are a lot different than what a typical newspaper editor would have. You have to honor the scale of the problem. If your requirement is to have no bad comments, then you’ll have four comments on your site. I’ll have 80,000 a day. At the end of the day, I’m a big fan of supply and demand. Those are the real laws of the world. As long as there’s a demand, we’re going to create a supply. If your religion prohibits you from dealing with reality, you should probably change your religion.

OJR: Is that the general feeling in the Web 2.0 community?

Tolles: Web 2.0 is all about bringing people into the conversation and making the media, the product of Hollywood and New York, into the starting point of more interesting conversations.

As for the commercial aspect, well, I think journalists should all be publishers. They should all be responsible for bringing in an audience and monetizing that audience. If you’re disconnected from that, then you’re inherently not understanding your profession.

OJR: Lastly, do you have any plans to expand globally?

Tolles: We rolled out Canadian news a couple years ago. Probably would have been better if we rolled out in the UK because the advertising dollars are higher there. But I don’t think we have any plans to go global more than to license our stuff to a foreign partner. We’ve had several conversations with large publisher coalitions in other countries – we might sell the Topix system in the German language, for example. But there’s enough market in the US to be successful.

The thing is, how do you get newspapers to think about communities as an opportunity? MediaNews Group looks at it like they’ve got to do this. That’s pretty forward thinking.

Can newspapers do blogs right?

Within the past few weeks two of America’s leading newspapers have watched staff-written blogs blow up in their faces. First, Ben Domenech left Washingtonpost.com after outside bloggers uncovered numerous examples of plagiarism in his past work. And last week, the Los Angeles Times suspended the blog of Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Hiltzik (interviewed by OJR just before the scandal broke) after he was discovered to have posted comments under false identities on his and other blogs.

Can newspapers do blogs right? I e-mailed that question to several prominent online journalists. All have experience with “traditional” media and either blog or oversee bloggers in their work. Their edited responses follow:

Anthony Moor

I’m not sure we know yet what “right” is when it comes to blogs. We’re in an R&D phase here, for lack of a better term, when it comes to incorporating blogs into our “traditional” Web content. There are going to be missteps. We know that blogs are a powerful software tool for self-service, instant publishing with a built-in tagging capability that plugs us into the conversation online. We also know that blogs are fostering a new kind of editorial voice in our writing: intimate, off-the-cuff and breezy.

Now, how that powerful new force on the Internet intersects with our mission to provide accurate and credible information to our audience is what we’re figuring out. We don’t have to do what bloggers v.1.0 are doing now to incorporate blogs effectively into what we do, and I think we shouldn’t try.

What makes us journalists is our ability to gather facts, synthesize, and write about the world around us — and those are not necessarily the requirements of blogging. As long as we couple our essential skills as journalists with this new medium, I think we CAN shape blogs into a valuable new asset for newspapers.

Look, the analogy is this: When software became widely available to easily manipulate photos into photo illustrations, the public-at-large found a myriad of uses for it. And news organizations suffered some notable missteps as they began using it too. Now, however, we’ve learned how to incorporate this power into our journalism without giving up the essential things that make what we do journalism.

Xeni Jardin

BoingBoing.net and National Public Radio
Newspapers will get it right when the people responsible for designing and launching blogs for them take the time to understand the culture, the process, the dynamics and the sociology of blogs. It’s important that newspapers not launch blogs for the sake of launching blogs. There had to be a purpose to other than to have the ability to tell the world that you have a blog.

What’s the point of interacting with your audience? Is the point just to leave snippy comments on the blogs of your critics? Or is the point of interacting to provide bits and pieces and nuances of information that traditional newspaper reporting doesn’t lend itself to?

I feel like way too often it is done as a gimmicky thing. Not to name names, but some companies launch blogs because there’s someone at the company who monitors search engine traffic, and one day that person recognizes, “Hey there are a lot of people searching about babies — I think we need to have a baby blog.”

Just because the traffic shows a lot of traffic, and potential for advertising revenue, they lanuch a blog and hire some inexperienced copy writter to fill it with stuff. It’s just an excuse to have something to sell ads against. I don’t think the Los Angeles Times created its blogs as an excuse to sell banner ads against, but too often in situations like this there’s disjointed thinking. There’s this idea that you stick a blog up there, you stick unmoderated comments up there, you don’t give your reporters who are totally unfamiliar with this medium any guidance, and you’re going to expect it to turn out well?

I think the fact that people make such an unnatural distinction between blogging and writing for a newspaper is part of the problem. Behave in your blog as you would in the paper.

Lisa Stone

Of course they can. Blog, wiki and audio technologies are just like the printing presses used to publish newspapers — tools that a broad spectrum of thinkers are using to get their word out. Period. Just like in traditional newspapering, some of these blogs, wikis and podcasts are superior, others are bird-cage liner.

Newspaper blogs that work are carefully planned, openly executed exercises in public conversation about news and information. These blogs allow comments and turn into 24/7 townhall meetings about everything from the headlines to how well the paper is doing to deliver and discuss the news. Newspapers that blog well embrace the community and use the blogs as an extension of their op-ed pages. There are dozens of examples, from MSNBC’s oft-ignored Bloggermann (one of the national media’s best blogs) to brave local daily sites taking important baby steps such as Madison.com and FresnoBee.com.

Newspaper blogs that don’t work tend to dismss blogs as, in Alex S. Jones’ famous words, the sizzle rather than the steak — as useless chatter rather than as an extension of the newspaper’s journalism that deserves the same care, feeding and standards of accuracy and ethical behavior. How can newspapers expect to survive if they keep mooning their readers like this? Answer: They won’t.

The problems of failing standards of accuracy and ethical behavior among the nation’s leading newspapers are not limited to blogs. As someone who grew up on newspapers and will never give them up, the past five years have been agonizing to behold, from Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg, to Ben Domenech and Michael Hiltzik. America’s newspapers have the opportunity to leverage blogs as credibility-building exercises — but the first thing we need to do is to stop architecting our own demise. To avoid meltdowns like this, newspapers need to do exactly what exceptional blogs do: For God’s sake, assume the position of the reader and behave accordingly. Readers want to know what they’re getting, who they’re getting it from and how, so that they can trust their sources — that’s you. Here are two easy steps:

Step 1: No more rookie maneuvers. Call in a blog expert with a journalism background and have this outside person walk you through community scenarios to test what your newsroom (and management) can tolerate and what you cannot. If nudie pictures on your wiki are a no-no, you have a choice to make: (a) Don’t publish the wiki, and/or (b) Don’t publish the wiki without human and/or technical filters. But you have to have someone advising you who knows how wikis behave. Or, say, if you don’t want a blogger to violate fair use acts on this blog or in previous blogs, (a) Check out their personal records, and (b) Say so and sign them to agreement that says so.

Step 2: Repeat Step 1 in an open conversation with your readers and ask them to behave according to these guidelines too. Publish your community guidelines and ask readers what they want and why. Edit your guidelines accordingly.

Step 3: Integrate blogs into the newsroom’s efforts. Starting slow is fine — but the best blogs are a team effort. In a newsroom unused to community conversation, to groaning when readers write and call-in, is to make it part of the journo’s job description — and their editor’s too. That means a conversation with the community via blogging (including Steps 1 and 2) needs to be embraced by the people at the top of the newsroom hierarchy.

Bob Cauthorn

I think it’s going to be difficult for newspapers to do blogs right because their DNA continues to be trapped in the “we talk, you listen” mode. Fundamentally, staff-written blogs are nothing different than what newspapers do now — simply spilling more of the same voices onto the public streets.

Sure, staff-written blogs have a fragile patina of interactively because some accept comments. Scuffing off that patina doesn’t take much.

1) Under the best case, newspaper blog comments are enfeebled interactivity. Only fractional percentages of readers comment on staff-written blogs. Maybe the public has simply given up on the idea of newspapers listening or caring. Consider the case of the Guardian’s staff blogs. The Guardian is one of the best online newspapers in the world and its commitment to the staff blog borders on the fanatical. They throw substantial resources at it. And yet, if you look closely at the number of comments per post (realize in many cases comments are more than a week old) and then you consider the total traffic on the site, you must conclude that the supposed interactivity of the Guardian’s blogs has failed utterly. I mean we’re talking less that 1/10 of one percent of all readers who are moved to comment! (FYI, I did a quick study of this last fall because the Guardian folks had a hissy over my post attacking the concept of staff blogs.)

2) Even if you get a few comments, the moment they turn hostile to the newspaper, suddenly the commitment to interactivity wavers. It’s happened a number of times. And indeed, the Hiltzik incident specifically highlights this. Today’s newspapers are sufficiently thin-skinned that the idea that people might use comments to attack the writers doesn’t go down well. So you either stop comments, or you remove the accounts of critics, or — as in the case of Hiltzik — you create deceptive online personas to respond to the attacks. It’s the “we talk, you listen” attitude taken to the extreme: Even if the public talks back, the media requires the last word! It’s a fatal appetite on the part of the modern newspaper. Some sociologists have pointed out that modern America can exert power on the global stage, but it no longer exerts authority (for authority comes from the nexus of wisdom, restraint, morality and cleaving to higher purposes). Newspapers are in a similar boat — they’re still powerful institutions but their authority is in shambles. OK, let’s get this straight: So we let the public speak and when a tiny number do we come rushing in with fake personas to defend the paper against attacks. We never let anyone else get the last word. That’s wrong and it’s stupid and it’s going to kill papers. Instead of stifling criticism, newspapers should embrace it and learn from it and grow wise.

(Incidentally, The fact that the LA Times perceives the Hiltzik’s actions as a violation of ethics is a *very* good thing. One of the dirty little secrets of newspaper blogs is that many, many of the comments come from unidentified staff members. I applaud the LAT for this move. It’s high time to stop this deplorable practice.)

So if newspapers blogs are not *really* about interacting with the community — and I challenge anyone to demonstrate they’ve been successful at that goal — what makes them different? They just offer the same voices you read all the time.

This is *exactly* what my beef with staff blogs is about and why I’ve been trying to get newspapers to change the approach. Jon Stewart put it nicely when he said mainstream media blogs “give voice to the already voiced.”

Look, it’s easy to get this right: don’t have staff members blog and instead bring in the legitimate outside voices. There are many ways that a mainstream media organization can do this — make a blog about *outside* blogs, point some of your traffic to outside voices (even those who, gasp, criticize you!), invite some of the best outside bloggers in your community to post right on your pages. Give selected bloggers early access to your stories — particularly enterprise stories — so that they can have same-day reactions. (Make sure these are bloggers you can trust not to jump the publication, obviously.) In other words, genuinely and sincerely embrace *outside* voices. Allow the community to have a stake in what you are doing once more.

As stand it stands right now, newspapers keep shouting louder in a room that, increasingly, is emptying around us. Maybe, before the last reader departs we can convince people to stay by letting them know we want to talk *with* our community, not *at* them.

Chris Nolan

This is a pretty big set of issues that really, I think, go to the heart of what’s wrong with newsroom culture these days. Suffice it to say that the contempt that a lot of folks on the floor feel for people working online really has to stop. The problem is that guys like Ben Domenech and Michael Hiltzik aren’t exactly helping to make that argument. I’m not entirely sure that’s anyone’s “fault” as much as it is the result of having the news business open up to its audience at a time when newsrooms are in crisis and readers are better informed than they’ve ever been — thanks to the Internet.

The idea that the Post of the L.A. Times have somehow screwed up royally by hiring folks who cut corners isn’t the end of the world as we know it. It’s a series of mistakes. It’s done. We’ve learned a few things — among them, there should be an intermediate step between running your own website and writing for a big newspaper.

Newsroom editors and writers need to spend a lot more time reading and watching the talent that’s out here on the Web. Lots of folks sitting in newsrooms are going to have to get over the fact that people outside the building really do know what they’re doing much of the time. Just as online folks are going to have to stop cutting corners and claiming that they represent a new form of “media” free of all basic rules and constraints that’s some how superior to what’s being done in the ink-and-paper format. The way you produce your story has nothing to do with what the story says to the reader.

Fundamentally, the rules of the reporting game — be fair, be honest, represent the reader as you do your job, limit the harm you do as you do it, and always be aware that there’s someone on the other side of the story — are not going to change. Part of what’s going on with Domenech and Hiltzik is that those lessons are being meted out in a very public fashion. This, by the way, is how those things used to get taught by foul-mouthed city editors who thought nothing of yelling at new reporters. I knew a few of those guys … didn’t you?

Nick Denton

Gawker Media
Reporters, trained to put aside opinion, make uninteresting bloggers. And it’s notoriously hard to manage, in parallel, a daily news cycle and regular updates for breaking news.

'Why do I love online publishing?'

As we wrap up another year at OJR, I wanted to leave our readers with a touch of inspiration for the holiday break. So I e-mailed several people you might know, or least have heard of, in the online business to ask them a simple question:

Why do you love online publishing?

Here’s why I do: As an American, I feel so fortunate to be alive at a time when, 200-some years after the ratification of the First Amendment to our nation’s Constitution, the people of this country finally have a medium at their disposal which allows any person to speak and be heard by a global audience. If freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, now, we all do. And the world, ultimately, will be the better for it.

Unfortunately, the Internet is also being used by those who favor schmoozing the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of promoting the welfare of all fellow citizens. I love that the Internet allows the rest of us a powerful collective voice with which to give all readers an alternative to such smarmy propaganda. Now it is up to us to be smarter, sharper and louder than ever when using this medium during the year to come.

And, now, in alphabetical order…

Len Apcar

Len Apcar is Editor in Chief of The New York Times on the Web

What I love the most is the challenge of trying to figure out how a great news organization like The New York Times can succeed in a big way on the Web. It is a daunting task trying to help lead a transformation from a newsroom focused on producing a daily newspaper to becoming a successful online publisher. But I believe it is important that the Web offer a wide array of content including news and enterprise from the nation’s leading newsrooms.

Bob Cauthorn

Robert Cauthorn is the former vice president of digital media at the San Francisco Chronicle

What do I love about it? What keeps bringing me back?

That’s really simple: the readers. And really, the whole community. Online publishing brings you so close to the readers that they become part of every breath. And that’s one of the greatest feelings in all of publishing.

The readers constantly amaze me with their insights, appetites, intelligence and sheer sense of fun. You learn from them, whether it’s active contact via e-mail or forums or blogs, or from somewhat passive instruction like the contents of your Web logs.

The readers are there when you wake up in the morning and when go to bed at night. They’re passionate. Poetic. Weird, too. Knowing that you’re locked in the hot little tango with your readers is the greatest feeling in the world. And when your readers become writers too, it’s all the better.

What’s next is juicy too. Until now we haven’t really seen an engaged local advertising community to match the engaged readership. A big part of the next wave of development will focus on changing that.

When we see local advertisers as densely involved as local readers, well, this will be a splendid day. Not just because it will be nice for revenues, but because it means we’re well and completely part of the fabric of life in our community.

Pete Clifton

Pete Clifton is the head of BBC News Interactive

The deadlines never end, there is always a story breaking and a race to be first. You can’t beat that buzz – and there are countless readers out there who want to help us with our coverage. That makes it even more intoxicating.

Graham Hill

Graham Hill manages TreeHugger.com. (I found him via Nick Denton of Gawker Media.)

Things I find rewarding about blogging:

Comments from strangers. From someone’s comment, realizing that we are affecting the way people see the world and giving them hope.

Lots of stats. Something about being able to measure your progress in so many ways makes running a blog quite addictive (pageviews, links to you, unique visitors,
ranking compared to other sites etc.). They say “what gets measured gets done” and in my case at least, it certainly keeps me motivated.

It’s pioneering still. It’s exciting as it still feels like pioneering days, where everything is changing all the time and we’re all making up the rules as we go along. the rapid rate of change keeps my restless self happy. It feels similar to 95/96, a time that I found very exciting.

Power moving to the consumer. I love that we can see the power shifting from the company to the consumer. The days of powerful PR and controlling a company’s image are being left behind. There’s something exciting (and a little scary) about the new transparency. My hope is that it helps people to make the right decisions as they realize that doing the right thing will bring them consumers and that cover-ups are no longer possible if they are doing anything shifty.

The world is flat. Love that little guys with great products, e.g. my friend Shayne with the solar backpack (voltaicsystems.com) are getting tons of play in the media due to the power of blogs. I hope that this means that small businesses with great products can be more competitive with larger businesses than before. This is great for all of us as it ups the competition.

Instant Gratification. I love that you can come up with an editorial idea and then implement it really quickly and see the results. It keeps running a blog extremely creative, which I love.

Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark is the founder of Craigslist.org

Online, everyone has a voice, and the simpler blogging tools makes the ‘net everyone’s printing press … and tools are being developed to let the cream rise to the top, to address the obvious problem.

Chris Nolan

Chris Nolan is the Editor of Spot-on.com

What do I love about Web publishing?

Man, that’s a little bit like asking a kid why he likes a candy store. But I’ll try and contain myself.

For long-time reporters like me, working on-line offers a chance to get back to what this business should be about: Good reporting and great writing that presents new ideas in thoughtful and interesting ways to interested and committed readers.

Inexpensive publishing tools like Moveable Type, inexpensive “broadcast” support like that offered by our friends at Feedburner, the growing strength of on-line ad networks for small publishers – combined with the support and interest of larger, established “brand” sites on the Web – is going to make it possible for real reporters to get great stories and publish them to larger and larger audiences.

This is an exciting time to be working online. Anyone who’s still turning up their nose at what we’re doing is missing the most fun we’re going to have in the news business for a long, long time.

Denise Polverine

Denise Polverine is the Editor-in-Chief of Cleveland.com

I often tell people that I feel like I won the lottery when I became the Editor-in-Chief of Cleveland.com. It is exciting, immediate, experimental at times, industry-changing and adventurous. Publishing on the Web combines the best of all mediums; print, radio, TV, online, wireless and those yet to be discovered. We learned earlier this year when Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, that the Internet and the information it distributes can be life-altering and frankly, life-saving. I get to work closely with my talented editorial staff here, the leaders at Advance Internet and the amazing Plain Dealer editors who are embracing new technology and ideas. I have been at Cleveland.com for nearly nine years, almost since the beginning of this company and people ask me if I ever think of leaving. No way. When you wake up each day and think of new things to try, new ways to interact, new ways to engage people and can actually make those ideas reality, it’s a good job. It keeps me energized and keeps me coming back each day.

Lisa Stone

Lisa Stone blogs at Surfette and is the originator of the BlogHer conference

I love the conversation. It’s not like people just started talking about events in their world because blogging and social media tools were developed. These conversations are eternal. But they used to exist far away from printing presses and control rooms. Now these stories have a permanent, virtual seat at the coffee house, the water cooler and the kitchen counter. All we newsies need to know is how to join the discussion.

So, let’s join the discussion. What do you love about online publishing? Click the button below to have your turn.