The Talk Is A Bloggier, Webbier Version of The Inquirer Online. And It’s Free.

Is this the web portal they should have built in the first place?

Amidst talk of whether journalists at the Inquirer are at war with in-house cousin (and the charge that the new paywalled was “set up to fail”) we noticed this morning that veteran Inky scribe Daniel Rubin had launched his own blog — The Talk — that includes plenty of free access to Inquirer content, along with top Philly headlines and plenty of social media links. looks like a website put together by print journalists. The Talk looks like a website put together by a web journalist. It’s more visual, more dynamic, and — in this 21st century era of personal branding — it’s built around Rubin himself. That’ll probably irritate some old-timers, but the overall effect is to give the Inquirer‘s content a fresher, more welcoming edge.

Rubin said this morning he’d “volunteered” to become the Inky’s social media director in January. In public, it mostly appeared that he was using that role to make clever comments on the paper’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. Behind the scenes, though, he was working on The Talk — trying to figure out how to give content visibility it seemed to lack. His strategy: Be social. Encourage a conversation — both on site, and on social media.

The site had been “soft launched” over the past few weeks. It’s just now emerging into more general public view.

“It’s a gorgeous opportunity,” Rubin said. “I think it can work.”

Visitors to The Talk are greeted with a banner filled with Inquirer photos — an RSS feed of thumbnails of the paper’s best visual work. The center of the page is filled with Rubin’s blog; the lefthand side features recent game scores from local teams, a Twitter feed filled with a number of Philadelphia tweeters (including, it turns out, yours truly — I’ll probably stop tweeting about my diet as a result) and a CoverItLive chatbox where Rubin hopes to eventually have a running conversation between readers and Inquirer journalists.

On the righthand rail: A list of some of the most notable stories of the day — along with a free code to bypass the paywall. Rubin says that code will be offered everyday — meaning, in a sense, the paywall experiment is officially over for anybody who really wants to read the paper online for free. Rubin rewrites headlines for a sharper edge, “in a way that makes it as interesting as it really is.”

Below the Inky content is “Outside Readings About Philadelphia” — an aggregated list of stories from a variety of news sources both in and out of town. In that sense, then, The Talk follows the advice of Internet journalism guru Jeff Jarvis, who constantly advises organizations to “do your best and link to the rest.”

Though the site is built around Rubin and his voice, he emphasizes that “it’s based on what this giant staff does.” Indeed, it’s easy to see — between the site’s freshness and it’s ability to offer free content — that The Talk could probably become the way most people engage the Inquirer online.

Of course, that’s assuming The Talk receives any promotion. One of the apparent beefs between Inky journos and has been the lack of promotion for the Inquirer and Daily News websites. Rubin avoids talk of such matters.

“My job is to try to make it work,” he said, “and not to talk about why it’s not working.”