'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.

About Robert Niles

Robert Niles is the former editor of OJR, and no longer associated with the site. You may find him now at http://www.sensibletalk.com.


  1. I love that it’s still relatively new and that the rules and capabilities are still changing. I love that it gives people who would otherwise not be published a voice.

  2. I live to write.

    Oh sure, I love the Blogsboro Community myself and others have built and I’m addicted to the stats, but before all that came to pass I was a complusive writer with no means of satisfying my lust to remain creative. I take “publish or perish” to heart. Online publishing allows me to publish poetry, short stories, news, commentary, reviews, full length novels, and anything else I dream-up at the “push of a button.” I publish far more on any given day than any newspaper or magazine would allow one writer/journalist to publish, my audience is far bigger than most small town newspapers, and bigger than the vast majority of print publications world-wide. And unlike traditional publishing, publishing online is within my financial grasp and earns a much quicker return than trying to start my own print publication ever did.

  3. Robert, what a great panel interview. I feel both their pleasure and their pain.

    The “mosaic” of wonderful stories our agency feels important to share are often removed from the conventional news stream as the result of sudden (and understandable) editorial decisions.

    On-line publishing thankfully serves as a “grout” that holds our mosaic firmly in place, allowing our stories to not only be archived and accessible, but also to be readily appreciated at a time, place and mindset that is best for our audience.

    Our on-line presence thankfully does not rely on any particular quantity of readership. Rather, it balances dearly on our ability to connect with our stakeholders directly and obliquely, one mouse-click at a time.

    Brian Humphrey
    Public Information Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department

    LAFD News Blog: http://www.lafd.org/blog.htm

  4. Thanks for this article. Great way to close the year. Having done an international online magazine for ten years this coming March, I’d like to add that it’s a wonderful way to meet new writers with perspectives from outside the U.S.A. I’ve found that personallly enriching.

    Rod Amis
    G21: The World’s Magazine

  5. I like that this medium allows people to look at and use information in new ways. I also like the shortened distance between idea and implementation.

  6. I agree with everyone.

    It does give great power and voice to the consumer and “common citizen.”

    Personally I love online publishing because I create yet another group of friends aside from the ones I have near to me. I can practice my writing skills and get a better sense of what is happening outside of LA.

    It also gives ordinary people a “celebrity-type” status by having mundane accounts of going to work, going to school, eating, and other everyday activities described and logged for the world to see.