Hard to believe that BlogPotomac, DC’s premiere unconference on social media marketing, is just around the corner (Friday June 13th to be exact).

Washington Post local business editor Dan Beyers took a few minutes to do a quick Q & A about The WashBiz Blog, which he edits, as well as the broader topic of the relationship between old and new media, which he’ll be talking about at BlogPotomac.

Q & A with BlogPotomac speaker Dan Beyers

Debbie: What’s the role of The WashBiz Blog in the Washington Post’s local business coverage?

Dan_beyersDan: The WashBiz Blog aspires to be the Post’s main
street for news and commentary on local business. We’re still very much in
our infancy in developing the site, and you’ll see enhancements in the
weeks and months to come.

For instance, we’ve recently added weekly online
columns by staff writers Tom Heath and Zach Goldfarb, both of which are off
to promising starts. I’ll be starting a weekly editor’s note soon and we
have plans for guest bloggers and other new features.

Debbie: How hard was it for you to get the blog started? Was it considered a daring experiment?

Dan: Getting the blog started was a piece of cake. Never in my time at The Post has it been so easy to start something new.
Sustaining the blog, developing compelling content that meshes seamlessly
with what we print in the newspaper, is another matter.

We’ve only begun to
scratch that itch. And while daring is not an adjective I would use for the
blog, we are trying to test a premise here. The Post has successfully
launched blogs dealing with national politics, celebrity and technology.
Can it do so with a subject like local business? I think so, but it will
require we be creative in how we engage readers.

Debbie: The colliding of old and new media is a topic of endless fascination. What’s your take on it? 

Dan: At the Post, the issue is hardly
old versus new. We have to embrace both. Newspaper readership, though
shrinking, is still substantial. Our online business, though growing, is
still not as lucrative as the newpaper’s. The focus of a lot of my
attention these days is navigating the transition, trying to blend both new
and old ways of doing things.

Our plans for the Post 200, our annual guide
to the region’s biggest companies, offer a glimpse of the sorts of things
we’re trying. In addition to the printed guide that will be distributed
with the newspaper, we’re building out our 200 company profiles on the Web,
adding live news feeds, links to SEC documents, videos when available, and
other content.

We’re also teaming up with the Greater Washington Board of
Trade to host a Post 200 event, featuring Treasury Secretary Henry M.
Paulson Jr. as the keynote speaker. The idea is to connect with people in
the way they find most comfortable, either through the newspaper, on the
Web or in person.

Debbie: How do you foresee social media affecting the Washington Post’s coverage of local news in the next year or two?

Dan: Social media is already
having an effect. It’s a resource for reporters. For instance, our ability
to reach people through Facebook was important to our coverage in the wake
of the Virginia Tech shootings. And we’re experimenting with social media
as a way to reach out to readers, with Facebook apps, with Twitter, with
some of our comment functions.

Debbie: How active are you on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Do you find them useful in your role as a Wash Post editor?

Dan: I dabble but so far have not found my killer app. Some story
ideas and contacts have flowed through the networks. But it can be very hit
or miss. The networks are only as good as the people on them. And the
anonymity of people on some networks can be difficult to parse. Are they
loyal readers? Spammers? Sometimes it is hard to tell. That said, I do
think we ignore such networks at our peril.

Visit BlogPotomac for more information and to register. Dan Beyers will be speaking at the event at 9:35 AM on Friday June 13, 2008 at The State Theater in Falls Church, VA. You can also follow BlogPotomac on Twitter.