Blog or Die

by Jeri Cartwright
Business Connect Magazine  October 2008

Blog. What a weird word. None of the spell checks in my Microsoft Word software recognize the word blog. Nor does the spell check in the blog software I use? Yet, professionals, the masses, politicians and reporters are using blogs. Chances are your kids have at least one (hopefully not with photos of you in the shower). Blogs are changing the world, for better and for worse.

CEOs are now blogging. Political campaigns and issue promoters/detractors are using bloggers to bring instantaneous messages to the masses, or even to create or carry rumor. No pamphlets, no printing bills, no postage. And, there are tracking services to tell you exactly what bloggers are saying about companies, products, new pharmaceutical drugs, the latest technological products and on and on and on.

Isn’t this just like having a Web site? Afraid not. Blogs are not stagnant information that you have to find. You can subscribe to blogs and other sites via RSS (real simple syndication). Think of RSS as a radio broadcast. You tune into a particular blog’s “broadcast band” and whenever the blog is updated, the information from it arrives in your e-mail. You can respond to the content, have your comment posted (hopefully edited of nasty or mean content), and eureka, an ongoing open-to-the-world conversation takes place.

This rise of “citizen journalism” is both invigorating and terrifying. The average citizen now has a worldwide mouthpiece. Do these citizen journalists abide by journalistic standards? Do they understand the danger of libel? Do they realize that some information needs research before it can be trusted?

Don’t get me wrong — I love reading blogs. I have five of them … sick, I know. There’s some incredible creative talent out there, with people willing to freely share ideas. But I’ve seen the dark side. Bloggers can use malice, lies, retaliation and revenge to hurt companies, elected officials and even average Joes and Josephines and their families.

Once, I attended a media relations summit and heard what it is like to be a journalist in today’s newsrooms. The big guys were there: Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today and NPR. Reporters at the conference confessed that just as PR people attempt to get news stories about clients in mainstream media (often called lamestream media by bloggers), some reporters write their stories and hope they get read. To encourage readership, reporters e-mail appeals to bloggers to carry and comment on their news stories (“Long Tail” effect). Essentially reporters are now practicing PR to get their articles read. That’s ironic.

Blogs have created immediate worldwide conversation. At any given moment, with a few strategic blog searches, you can determine the hot topics of the day, the latest pop culture, and even get an understanding of how blogs are affecting U.S. elections, government and business decisions.

Daily, millions of new blogs claim online real estate. Where is it headed? No one knows. But I do know this: It’s time to get into the game. Don’t stand by and shake your head. Be one of the pioneers.


Article originally appeared at Business Connect.

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