Got your attention there, didn’t I? Well, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I do admit that blogs exist, otherwise this post would have been rather pointless. But contrary to my hugely blogusiastic colleagues Drew and Jon, I’m quite sceptic on the impact that blogs are going to have on the media landscape as a whole and on business communication in particular. Since I’m visiting our London office this week – where aforementioned colleagues are based – I figured this is the perfect time to sort this out.
It mostly hinges on time. Time is, in two different ways, the thing that will cause the widely expected business blogging revolution not to happen. Because that’s what we’re talking about, right? A revolution. The blogosphere, unique in it’s ability to interact with the audience and spread news like wildfire, is about to tear down the traditional media fortresses, thus enacting a new media reality built upon public journalism and social networking. Or so the blogging guru’s say.
But I don’t see it happening. Blogs are, essentially, only a front-end innovation. They make it easier to communicate and share information, but that’s basically it. At the back-end, it still takes just as much time to create quality content as with any other website or publication. Consequently, the only people that manage to maintain an interesting, frequently updated blog either don’t have a job or don’t have a life.
If you then factor in that the ability to create quality content in itself is rare enough, it comes as no surprise that there are still appallingly few good industry blogs around. Most really good people simply don’t have time to spend, say, four hours a day on filling a blog. Because that’s the amount of time you’re looking at if you’re any serious about attracting a sizeable audience. And that’s just one side of the coin.
The other side, obviously, is said audience. Business professionals have precious little time available for keeping up with news and events, which means they tend to rely on a very limited set of media sources which are read on a moment of their choosing (such as the newspaper in the bus to work). The blogosphere and its RSS features are aimed at a fundamentally different audience, namely one digesting news from many sources at the moment it breaks.
I can think of only three kinds of professionals who value the latter approach: media, PR and investors. The rest probably couldn’t care less for real-time news, as they don’t have time to read it directly anyway. But even if you are into real-time news, it isn’t always easy to deal with it.
I tried it, you know. I installed an RSS reader and subscribed to a whole bunch of seemingly interesting feeds. But before long it drove me utterly crazy. A large part of my job requires periods of uninterrupted concentration and that’s just not going to happen with promising headlines popping up in your dock/taskbar every other 20 seconds.
What made the experience even more annoying was that I’d get the same story ten times over, each time told in a slightly different way. Yes, I know that this linking mania is what makes the blogosphere go around. But if I’m a busy business professional, I don’t want to scroll through pages of identical copy just to find that one interesting link, thank you very much.
So eventually, I deleted all but a select few of the news feeds from my reader, and set it to update once every two hours. My primary selection criterium was: ‘when I click on a link, I want at least an 80% chance that I’m going to read interesting, original and/or funny content’. Needless to say, very few blogs remained in the list. I can see many business people doing the same – if they even go through the trouble of finding interesting blogs in the first place. What, then, makes blogs any different from the traditional media from the user’s point of view?
And if you’re still not convinced that business blogs aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be, consider this: what is the kind of news that spreads throughout the blogosphere? Well, not the release of version 5.3.0 of your new product, that’s for sure. News like that rarely makes it out of the clique of blogs belonging to your employees and partners. No, any flack can tell you that in order to have a broad outreach, news needs to have a broad appeal. Which, in the blogosphere, means that it should qualify as one or more of the following: funny, weird, scandalous or sexy.
Is that the context in which you want your company name to show up? I think not.
So is there any value to blogs, beyond serving as a tool for thirteen-year-old girls to talk about their ponies? Well yes, I think there is. Even some business value, albeit not particularly revolutionary. But more on that later. This post has already become much too long, and frankly – I’ve also run out of time.