The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are locked in an obsessive death match. Only one newspaper can survive! But until one slays the other, they're mimicking each other's every move.
The latest derivative move: The Journal has launched Digits, a group blog about technology. The logo has ones and zeroes in it, even. It is an answer to the Times's Bits, a group blog about technology. Get it? You can tell they're both about technology, because technology uses binary digits. Also, pics and capsule biographies of the writers! How chummy. Let's compare them:
|Slogans||Business * Innovation * Technology * Society||Technology News and Insights|
|White Maleness||75 percent (9 out of 12 writers)||32 percent (7 out of 22 writers)|
|Editor's Alma Mater||University of Chicago||University of Chicago|
|Wackiest Writer||Matt Richtel, prostitute impostor||Jessica Vascellaro, Cyprus party girl|
If only the likes of Richtel and Vascellaro expressed their rich inner lives on the sites. There's nothing particularly bloggy about either newspaper's offering; they just host slightly shorter articles that do not appear in the print edition. The move is really driven by advertisers: By calling their expanded technology sections "blogs," the papers cater to gadget advertisers' desire to reach tech-obsessed readers who are unlikely to read the print version of the paper — while not alarming print-first fundamentalists who balk at the idea of online-only articles.
If only the articles had more to add. There's a numbing sameness to Bits and Digits, as they engage in the new pack journalism and race to cover the big technology story of the day. Did you know this was Amazon.com's "best-ever" Christmas? Both sites will enlighten you.
My advice to both of the tech-blog imitators: Drop the cutesy sub-brands — "Bits" and "Digits" will never be more valuable than the "New York Times" or the "Wall Street Journal" names — and just start running stories online, without ghettoizing them in special blogs. Either they're worthy of the papers' editorial standards, or they're not — a binary equation that whoever named these blogs ought to be able to solve.