MEDIA WATCH: Buzz postings plummet

The St. Pete Times’ The Buzz blog is arguably the best source of insider political news in Florida. Its steady stream of news releases, analysis, breaking news and tidbits not fit for the print newspaper are widely read and commented upon. It was not uncommon to see 80+ comments posted to any one item.

Until recently.

Buzz’s value has plummeted after editors there decided earlier this month to discontinue a policy allowing fully anonymous comments to be added their posts. Political Editor Adam C. Smith explained to Buzz readers on February 15 that “[w]e're trying out a new system for Buzz that we hope will add a little more accountability in the comments while maintaining the free-wheeling nature of this blog.” That system required bloggers to register a valid email address before posting. The response was negative. One anonymous poster commented, “The risk of being identified for those of us in the process is far to great to continue our banter on the blog. Unfortunatley, it will be the end of the real inside information.” Another was more blunt: “Nice work assclowns ... watch your relevance go out window.”

Comments on the blog dropped precipitously. In the three weeks before the change, each blog item had an average of almost 31 comments posted. After the change, that average dropped to 3. That translates to one-tenth of the commentary it had before the switch.

Smith - an old friend and one of the state’s top two political reporters (along with the Palm Beach Post’s Brian Crowley) - said the change is not irrevocable and he remains undecided about whether it is a good idea. “We had something that was really neat,” Smith said. “We’re still open to switching back to it. I’m totally torn. “

Meanwhile, over at the Tampa Tribune's online partner, tbo.com, it turns out there is another new entry in the political blogging world. Political Safari was launched in January with no fanfare. In fact, good luck finding it on the Trib’s web site. It took me nearly 30 minutes to hunt it down again after I accidentally found a link to it a few weeks ago. (And while posting this item, tbo.com is not loading pages so I can't provide a hyperlink for you right now. Good tech, tbo.)

Blogger Laura Fiorilli said Political Safari aims to link “readers to political news, information, trivia and humor from around the Web. Rather than providing breaking news or ‘insider’ political gossip, Political Safari intends to point readers to what others are saying about current stories and issues. I would say it goes hand in hand with TBO’s expansion of blogs and reader comments. We have also added blogs about travel and weight loss, among other topics, and people can now post comments on most of the stories in our Breaking News section. The Politics page itself is also new. It’s the place to find all our recent political stories and related content.”

I know they have different stated aims, but The Buzz has it all over Political Safari.

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