Maybe blogging is not so pointless after all

Marketing expert Max Blumberg conversed with Bob Bly, saying:

[…] Blogging is more likely to raise brand awareness, but that the impact on direct sales will be more difficult to assess. Blogging is akin to, and probably forms part of public relations whose direct impact on revenue is difficult to measure, but definitely exists.

Absolutely spot on. It seems like this and other conversations Bob has had about his previous dismissal of blogging have gone some way towards persuading him that blogs require at the very least some investigation. Indeed Bob has now started his own blog. In the first post, he says:

In this blog, I want to provide the blogosphere with a view from my side of the fence as a member of another “sphere” – old-fashioned direct marketers who still believe the main purpose of marketing is to get the cash register ringing and not just have “conversations.”

This is great. I applaud Bob’s willingness to experiment and explore a medium with which he is not familiar, but I hope that he tries to dig a bit deeper than many marketeers currently do to see the genuine usefulness of blogs, not just as a way to communicate with (and, in some unfortunate cases, broadcast to) a market, but also in other contexts. After all, which business tool is flexible enough to be employed as a CRM tool, for knowledge sharing, or as a lightweight CMS?

I’ll give you a hint. It ends in ‘-og’.

Exploding the diary myth

Bob Bly is meeting rather a lot of resistance at the moment for his piece Can Blogging Help Your Product? in which he fairly firmly decides that blogs have no value as a marketing tool. Unfortunately the article is rather flawed, illustrating more Bly’s lack of knowledge and understanding than potential problems with using blogs in marketing.

Bly’s initital error, and the one I want to address here, is an assumption I have come across repeatedly over the last couple of weeks. He quotes Debbie Weil:

“A blog is an online journal,” blogging expert Deb Weil explains in her Business Blogging Starter Kit ( “It’s called a journal because every entry is time and date stamped and always presented in reverse chronological order.

In Weil’s response to Bly’s piece, she says that her quote was taken out of context, yet Bly’s use of it reinforces the mistaken characterisation of blogs as nothing more than personal diaries. This then blinds non-bloggers to the potential uses for blogging software because they write it off before fully exploring the possibilities.

Just recently I had a long conversation with a friend of mine who, despite working in IT, confessed that he didn’t ‘get’ blogs. He also sees only the personal diary aspect of blogs and because he sees no use for personal diaries in business he doesn’t see the relevance of blogs to his work.

At the root of this problem is the confusion between the blog tool and the blog content. A blog is no more a diary than an empty notebook is a diary. Blogs become a diary when people use them to publish diary entries in the same way that a notebook becomes a diary when you write a diary entry in it.

But an empty notebook can also be a sketch book, a novel, an exercise book, a dictionary, or an infinite variety of other things, depending entirely on content. Equally, a blog can also be a tool for disseminating important news, or a project log, or a team building tool, or a marketing tool, or whatever its user chooses to make it.

In fact, blogs are a lightweight content management system which are easy to use, have strong archiving, cross referencing and search facilities, and are cost effective and flexible. That is what they are. A diary is what some people make them.

This leads me on to another conversation with another friend who brought up familiar concerns about even using the words ‘blog’ or ‘weblog’ with clients. He finds it counter-productive because frequently they neither understand the terms nor do they wish to expend the effort to get to grips with what they consider to be new and unusual (therefore potentially threatening) concepts. In other cases, he suffers the same blog=diary misconception.

Instead, he advocates using any other words or phrases which is appropriate to the client’s existing paradigm, whether that is ‘e-newsletter’, ‘event logging tool’, or CMS, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is to get the client using the blog software and seeing the value in it. Later on you can explain that what they’ve been doing is blogging, but by then they’re so familiar with the process that the label is irrelevant – it’s water off a duck’s back.

Of course, none of this is really news. Anyone who’s tried to explain blogging to a non-blogger has probably come up against it. But it does cause a problem for those of us who work with blogs in business – how does one explain what one does if one can’t use the word ‘blog’?

One thing’s for sure. I shan’t be saying ‘Oh, well, it’s like a diary…’.

Blogs are evil. Really evil. Really, really evil.

We know this to be true because Dublin-based Research and Markets says so. Michael O’Connor Clarke has already begun the initial fisking of Research and Markets: Companies Need to Raise Employee Awareness Regarding Blogging and Associated Threat, but I can’t stop myself from weighing in on the subject. In fact, I have started a whole new category just for this post: Blog Fuckwittery.

Anyone involved in introducing new technologies to business is aware of the fear that mere newness can create. Even if the thing you’re dealing with is not new, the fact that it may look new or have a new name causes a certain risk-averse portion of the corporate population to come out in boils and see visions of their firstborn being eaten alive by Beelzebub with a warm Chianti and French fries.

This report is the very essence of that fear of the unknown. Over on Flackster, Michael deftly deconstructs the abstract, so I shan’t repeat his words here, apart from these ones:

“Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, Remote Access Trojans, hackers, organized crime, terrorists, and others continue to make the Internet a dangerous place due to fraud, extortion, denials of service, identity theft, espionage, and other crimes. Now, blogging is emerging as a threat to the Internet user community.”

Blogs are like terrorists? Like viruses? Sorry. My flabber is too gasted to permit any kind of rational response here.

Quite. My personal flabber feels currently like it’s been taken out back and beaten senseless with a cricket bat.

The table of contents hints further at the evil that blogs do:

– Introduction
– Notice to Clients
– Blog Policies & Procedures Needed
– What is a Blog?
– Who Uses Blogs?
– Why Do Employees Use Blogs?
– Why Companies are Vulnerable to Blogging
– When Do Employees Use Blogs?
– Is Blog Use A Risky Behavior for the Enterprise?
– Home, Office Blog Linkage
– Internet Crime Overview: These Entities Can Scan
– Blogs, in Addition to the Crimes Noted
– Three Acceptable Use Policy Variants for Blogging and Bloggers
– Blog Acceptable Use Policy: ZERO TOLERANCE
– Blog Acceptable Use Policy: LIMITED USE
– Blog Acceptable Use Policy: PERMISSIONED USE

Note the use of inflammatory language, such as ‘vulnerable’, ‘risky’, ‘crime’, ‘entities’, and ‘zero tolerance’. This is using the language of the terror alert in reference to blogs in order to whip up anti-blog sentiment and trade off businesses’ fear of being somehow abused by bloggers, a fear which is quite frankly ludicrous.

There is undoubtedly a lot of sense in having a blog policy for your employees so that everyone knows where they stand, but if your employees have signed an NDA, yet you don’t trust them not to disclose your secrets, then one has to wonder why you are employing them in the first place. If they haven’t signed an NDA, maybe you should think hard about what you’re actually afraid of.

Opening a dialogue with staff who blog is easy, need not be confrontational, and should result in an acceptable use policy that both parties can live with. Yet if we take this report at face value – and until I actually get a copy of it, that’s all I can do – it seems to imply that blogs are all evil, evil things which will induce crime and corporate vandalism and spying and, oh fuck, entities! Which scan! Ffs.

Oh, I’m trying so hard not to get all ad hominem here, but the people that wrote this obviously have their head stuck up their own colon so far that their eyes are brown. I suspect that these people have no real understanding of blogging or the blogosphere at all. They conflate potential problems with blogs* and problems with emails (viruses, worms, Trojan horses etc.), phishing sites (fraud, identity theft) and hackers (denial of service attacks). I’m still not sure where the organised crime, terrorists or extortion come into it, but they are nice scary words which look good on the page.

The thing is, if there is anything nasty going on with blogs, it has nothing to do with viruses, worms, Trojans, phishing, fraud, identity theft, DoS attacks, blah blah blah, and much more to do with bloggers saying things that companies wish they hadn’t.

And porn. Strange how they haven’t mentioned porn.

Blogs are not a threat to business. Stupidity is a threat to business. Ergo, this report is a threat to business.

I can’t wait to read it, to see how they justify all this fuckwittery.

*I sincerely doubt that blogging is an important tool for corporate spies what with the traceable and non-ephemeral nature of blogs, but if there are any espionage experts who can disabuse me of this notion, please do fess up. I’d like to know: Blogspot or Typepad?

Mink Media launch new UK blogs

New blog publishers Mink Media have today launched the first of a new stable of blogs in the Weblogs Inc/Gawker Media vein, but with a British/European slant.

Honourable Fiend, written by Andrew Stevens, examines the UK political scene, taking a scalpel to Westminster and Parliament in the best tradition of the blogosphere. Sabrina Dent’s travel blog, Wanda Lust, looks not just at destinations we’d all love to visit, but also those places best steered well clear of.

Mink Media’s Azeem Azhar says, “The UK blogging scene hasn’t yet developed the credibility the US blogging scene has, but we think it’s starting to and that 2005 will be a good year.”

Blogs still to be launched by Mink Media include Sqreech, for London, vice, virtue, stuff to do and gossip; Gadgette, for stuff you might want to buy; and GrokSpin, to keep an eye on the media.

I shall be keeping a very close eye on Mink Media. I’ve had several conversations lately about the small pond state of the British blogosphere, and anything which threatens to splosh a bit more water into the system is not only welcome but must be watched closely for signs of minnows and frogspawn.

True Voice: The Business of Blogging

I’m delighted to announce Corante’s new seminar series True Voice: The Business of Blogging, which will start in New York on 26 January 2005, and then move on to San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and London. I’m working on the content for the seminars with Stowe Boyd and Greg Narain and we’ll soon be starting a True Voice blog using sponsor SilkRoad‘s blog software.

This one-day Corante event will examine the business, political and societal implications of social media and the impact of this burgeoning communication medium on the future media and business landscape. In particular, we will present practical and pragmatic advice on the nuts and bolts of blogging, balanced with the science and theory of social media. An innovative union of face-to-face interaction with knowledgeable and experienced bloggers, video interviews, and case studies, this seminar is a highly interactive and engaging experience.

If you would like to be pinged when registration details are available, email Stowe (stowe AT I’ll update you with more info in due course, but in the meantime, take a look at the press release.

Audioblog release new features have recently added a few new small, but useful, features to their service including the ability to download the source MP3s.

Audioblog allows subscribers to record audio files via either a browser-based Flash recorder or their phone (in the US). You can also create your own MP3 or WAV files and upload those directly. These files are then hosted on Audioblog and published to the user’s blog via a customisable player.

Until now, the source audio files were locked up in Audioblog’s system, but they have not only made them available to users, but have also given users the option to make them available for download by their listeners.

This means that users can make the most of Movable Type’s enclosures to send the audio file URIs by RSS, thus creating their own podcasts.

Eric Rice, founder of Audioblog, audioblogs more on the new features and podcasting techniques.