What’s the ROI of blogging? Exactly $1.55

At least that’s what this blog is worth. A buck fifty-five per post.

Here’s how I know.

ToughSledding finally earned me some money last week — a $546 annual raise. Not much, but it’s cold, hard cash. Real ROI.

How does one get a raise for blogging? It’s tough work. I spent hours crafting a 3-page memo loaded with data and generous dollops of persuasion. I submitted my proposal in the “research and creative activity” category of our “faculty excellence awards” competition. My colleagues reviewed that proposal and voted me the raise.

Truth is, I didn’t do so hot, finishing 10th among 15 applicants. But I’ll take what I can get in this economy. And yeah, I know it’s completely insane for coworkers to vote on each others’ raises — especially when the ballots are open for anyone to review. I think it’s part of management’s divide-and-conquer strategy! :-)

Can one’s work in social media ever be deemed “scholarship”? Traditional academics will say “no” to that question. And I see their point. Some blogs contain useful content and generate a lot of traffic. But they’re not reviewed by a “jury of peers” — at least not academic peers.

One could argue that this blog reaches a larger and broader audience than the PR academic journals. It’s been quoted by or linked to by hundreds of other bloggers, and the Technorati numbers are higher than any other PR academic in 2.0. But in the end, ToughSledding doesn’t present original research, and it doesn’t follow the scientific method. It’s just a blog.

But no matter. Blogging keeps me immersed in social media. And as social media continue to take a central role in public relations practice, I’ll be in the thick of it — connecting, sharing, debating, and occasionally ranting.

What’s important here is that I’ve resolved the ROI issue. I finally have a definitive answer when my wife sneers and asks: “Tell me again, how much do they pay you to write that thing?”

Exactly one dollar and 55 cents per post, sweetie. And you can take that to the bank.

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14 Responses to What’s the ROI of blogging? Exactly $1.55

  1. Well done! One small step for a blogger hints at a wider change in academic publishing.

    Blog posts (at least on well-respected blogs like this) are more widely peer reviewed than articles in academic journals (they’re more widely read too). Blogs encourage divergent thinking (though there’s much convergence too). There are more ways to approach problems than the scientific method.

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    I’ve been thinking the same, Richard. But for the academy, it’s going to be a difficult change, as they’re quite locked into the traditional model of refereed papers. Unfortunately, those traditional papers and publications earn little notice outside the ivory tower.

    Would like to think I made a good case that this blog has broad reach, based on comparing traffic numbers with other PR academic bloggers. And it does a good job generating conversation, based on comment-to-post ratio. It also has a fair amount of influence in its niche, based on Technorati ranking and authority.

    But, alas, it has no chi squares! So I’m looking for another way in :-)

  3. Bill Huey says:

    Congrats, Bill. A buck fifty-five per post is better than writing a book.

  4. Bob C. says:

    Bill,

    I partly agree and disagree. It is important that regularly blogging, like ToughSledding, be counted toward scholarly activity especially since much else in the journo professions is of far lesser quality coming from various institutions.

    On the other side, I think poking fun at research and peer review devalues your point. The problem isn’t so much that the traditional model, as you put it, is flawed, it’s that researchers do a poor job of communicating their research results and relevance. Journalism research in particular is in dire need of reaching the masses more than it has. It’s doubtful most journos even known what peer review is or why it is relevant, especially when nonsensical advocacy makes the news far more readily and peer-reviewed science.

    Research is an incredibly valuable tool to get at the heart of matters our brains aren’t always best equipped to figure on our own. My take on the 2008 Twitter Vote Report used a t-test to look at Nevada’s TVR output to find that, despite claims of the project, the TVR was, at least in Nevada, meaningless. Sure it wasn’t peer reviewed (had I been on a tenure track, I would have turned it into a full-on study, as social media presents a wealth of readily available data), but using statistical tools can help aid the points we may otherwise make, or perhaps may change our views of things if we are ready to be honest about what our data reveal.

    While I think you’ve made an excellent case for your blog in the PR/social media world, I’m not sure can disagree that those who blog and conduct solid research are weakened by joining these endeavors.

    It’s perhaps imperative that researchers develop a mindset of communicating the relevance of their work; conversely, bloggers can benefit from research mindsets in order to offer the world higher quality content.

    B.

  5. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Bob. And if my comments on peer-reviewed research seem flip, that wasn’t my intention. As I said in the post, I see their point. (I guess that “chi square” crack in my comment got me in trouble!)

    It’s gonna be tough to make a case for self-published material as legitimate scholarship unless we can show that review and validation after the fact meets some sort of standard. In time, blog analytics may enable us to make the case. That’s where I intend to concentrate my efforts in the coming month. That, and on catching some bass!

    I published two posts back in ’07 based on a survey I conducted in conjunction with BurrellesLuce. I presented the paper at the IPR research conference in Miami, and should probably have submitted that work to an academic journal.

    But to be honest, the time lag from submission to publication is so long that I knew the data wouldn’t be meaningful by the time it saw print. I also knew an academic publication wouldn’t have much impact on the profession.

    I’m encouraged to see more journals going online, and hope they all follow suit. And I’m hoping their editors find ways to shorten the review process while also seeking topics that are more relevant to the practice.

    Yes, there’s interesting work going on. But there’s also a good bit of marginal stuff cranked out to feed the tenure machine. Too often, IMO, reviewers approve of articles that are academically and methodologically sound. But that doesn’t make them relevant.

    This may be why so much of the academic research in both journalism and PR goes unnoticed by the professionals. It just doesn’t help them.

  6. mediatide says:

    In some cases, the research is relevant and useful, but the article is unavailable (and unreadable) outside the academy. The keys are summarizing the results in a language that others can understand and getting the word out about that summary through the traditional and social media. We’ve all read, heard and seen the medical reports that claim, “A glass of red wine each day could help prevent heart disease.” All of us non-medical types can understand that, but if we read the original published article, our collective heads would explode just reading the abstract! Watch what happens when my dissertation gets published in 2012. It will be relevant to social media practitioners and educators, and you’ll understand the results, but you won’t want to read it.

  7. Bill Sledzik says:

    Great points from Andy (Mediatide). Too often the academic research is unavailable or unreadable. And that’s easily fixed.

    First, we can fix part of the “access” problem by writing clearly and succinctly. You don’t see that often in the journals, and I never understood why. A former colleague used to joke that the final step in publication of academic research is to “run it through the dull-a-tron.”

    The second step is to make the material available. If all academic journals were put online, we would eliminate those expensive, low-volume press runs and save a helluva lot of library space. The new PR Journal is a good example of this.

    Get those two problems fixed and it becomes oh-so easy to spread the value of the research far and wide (assuming there is value) via social media.

  8. @collentine says:

    I often enjoy the conversations in the comments more then the actual blog post.

    You lift an important topic with academic research vs blogs. I believe both have parts to learn from each other. The blogs need more places to have seperate high-quality posts collected and the academic research needs to be more visible. One way of making the academic research more visible is by utilizing the tools blog do and link much more to each other within their text.

  9. Bill Huey says:

    Yes, you can go online, but if you’ve still got articles like this:

    Toward a Publics-Driven, Emotion-Based Approach in Crisis Communication: Testing the Integrated Crisis Mapping (ICM) Model

    You’re really just digitizing the chi-square didddling.

  10. Bill Sledzik says:

    Precisely, Bill. There may be good information here, but making it available online is only the first step. You also need someone to translate it for practitioners so they can decide on its usefulness and relevancy.

    That’s where a blog would come in handy — to summarize what the research means in practical terms. Fact is, professionals don’t read the academic publications, and they won’t until it’s presented in a more digestible format. We could start by prohibiting the use of colons in titles :-)

    To be fair, some research may not be immediately useful to practitioners, but could serve as the foundation for other studies that are. The summary of this study, sorry to say, is downright incomprehensible outside the academy.

  11. Bill Huey says:

    Yes, I’m familiar with the “research that may not be immediately useful, but lays the foundation. . .” argument, but if you read the abstracts of the papers presented at AEJMC and journal article such as this one, many PR researchers seem to be laying the foundations of a bridge to nowhere.
    The Institute for Public Relations has attempted to address this problem by identifying productive areas of research, but unless the emphasis is removed from publishing for its own sake (or rather the sake of gaining tenure) we will continue to get papers that tell us more and more about less and less, as one experienced academic put it.

  12. As long as the U doesn’t claim your blog as “intellectual property” :-)

    Seriously, my attitude is that the PURPOSE of scholarship is not to impress other faculty but to inform the profession. A well done blog by a professor is a form of being a “public intellectual”; maybe it isn’t the same as a rigorous, scientific study passing peer review, but it doesn’t lack all value. And a blog may have broader readership among practitioners.

  13. Marketing $ociologist says:

    From questions I’ve posted on Linkedin, and talking to other experts, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has used social media to create a sustainable business.

    I hear these bars tell how they built their clientele on Facebook. I’ve gotten a couple clients – Hannah Montana stars no less – from MySpace. Yet I’ve never seen the ROI via social media that you get from traditional outlets, including telemarketing.

    Yet, Mr. Sledzik, as for publishing, you would have never reached me. I am “tickled pink” by your blog.

    Two things your blog reminds me of: Diogenes of Sinope carrying a light through the streets (looking for an honest man); also, “Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine.”

    Please continue your contribution to public relations.

    • Just found out about this blog through a friend who was on Twitter and found it. He shared the link. He was the gate-keeper I trusted to deliver useful information to me. I would have never found it otherwise. I am not disappointed.

      This process is important and it is why public relations faculty must convert their ways of knowing and ways of thinking away from legacy media and how we’ve measured that. Thanks to some of these social media tools we can finally study and observe relationships as they flourish online. Of course, there are the Orwellian problems of these new media too.

      Now my question: if I also teach PR at the college level and I review your blog and appreciate your contribution — is that not peer review? Higher education is really stuck these days and resources on the Web are a huge threat. Would love to see some commentary along these lines from your faithful blog followers.

      How’s this for a new “tree in the woods” analogy: if a research paper is written and nobody reads it or cares about it: does it make an impact?

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