Mail & Guardian‘s Thought Leader blog is quite an interesting mashup of traditional media and new media. The site is basically a really big group blog with about 40 contributors so far. The blog is monitored by Mail & Guardian’s online editor, Riaan Wolmarans who pretty much seems to have his hands full making sure the contributions submitted to the blog are safe for publication. The reason for this editorial control makes a lot of sense. According to Matthew Buckland, Mail & Guardian’s General Manager (if I have his title correct?):
Unlike our other blog products, we needed this because Thought Leader appears strongly under the Mail & Guardian brand, therefore the company is liable, responsible and directly associated with the content.
Too many organisations forget the potential liability they incur if their employees go off the reservation with their company blogs or other publications associated with them.
Thought Leader is organised by topic and writer and you can subscribe to the main blog feed or to individual contributors’ feeds. I would like to see an option to subscribe to category feeds as well as topic feeds so readers can really pick and choose what they want to subscribe to. One of the challenges of a multi-contributor blog is that there can be too much content to follow meaningfully so it helps to be able to trim it all down to only what you want and maybe a little extra on the side. There seems to be some Amatomu integration too and it looks like you can also get a sense of how people are responding to contributors’ articles.
Vincent Maher has described Thought Leader as the culmination of a three step process:
Thought Leader is the 3rd part of our 3-step blogging strategy. The first was was to aggregate and measure the local blogosphere, which we did via Amatomu. The second was to provide a hosting platform for blogs, which we did via Amagama. The final step, and the most challenging, was to create a hybrid between a group blog and a more traditional opinion and editorial site that we could really throw our reputation behind as a quality news source.
This last step puts Mail & Guardian into an interesting position vis-a-vis its main competitor in this space, The Times. The Times launched its blogs and multimedia properties a few months ago and has since expanded them quite a bit although Thought Leader better integrates Mail & Guardian’s journalists and writers with bloggers in one space. On the other hand, Thought Leader is the only property that really ties into Mail & Guardian (the news service) of the three recent developments. Amatomu, while backed by Mail & Guardian, serves a more generic function and Amagama is really aimed at newer bloggers. The Times seems to have focussed its energies expanding its core business of providing news and opinion pieces to its readers. At least that is my sense of both services. (Disclosure: I am one of The Times’ blogumists)
I like the Thought Leader blog and the way it has been put together. If Vincent and Matt add those extra feeds the service will be even more useful. For now, it is early days but I think this one is going to be a goodie going forward. In the meantime, I am going to add one more feed to my list …