Four months as a blogger hardly qualifies me as an expert. But this post deals more with observations of other blogs than authorship of this one. Observing I’ve been doing for a whole lot longer. Here’s my take so far.
Blogs are not the second coming of Gutenberg — not for news people, not for PR people, and certainly not for Joe Six-Pack. Are blogs relevant? Of course. Do they “change everything”? Hardly, and I don’t think they ever will.
Blogs won’t replace MSM. Mainstream media will need to morph, and quickly, if they hope to remain part of our lives. And I think many will, as there’ll always be a demand for clear, concise, tightly packaged information vetted by professional editors. The blogosphere, by contrast, is “edited” largely by a community of volunteers with wide-ranging opinions and quality standards.
Pressured by social media, the MSM are getting better at inviting reader input and comment. But I’d contend that most folks just want accurate reporting in a convenient package. Most (including me) don’t care if our news outlets offer online conversation. That may change.
Blogs remain on the margin. Yeah, a blogger occasionally breaks a big story. And the MSM knows a good source when they see one, which is why many A-list bloggers are now quoted there. But it seems that a blog’s credibility is gauged, to some extent, on how often it’s cited by the Times or Dow Jones. A bit of irony there.
Those of us who hang out in the blogosphere for a few hours every day (reading and writing) sometimes forget that most of the world ignores us. Last year’s Pew study said 39% of Internet users visit blogs. But a Gallup study, also released last year, said only 9% are regular readers. Both polls show NO significant growth in blog readership since 2005.
Still, that 9% who regularly read blogs can be important. In fact, that really is the blogger’s niche — serving motivated information seekers and “influentials” who impact the behaviors of others. So sure, in terms of influence, blogging should continue to grow. In terms of actual readership, I’m not so sure. For another angle on this, check this excellent post by Blois Olson.
Blogs are a great PR tool — but they remain only one weapon in the arsenal. Remember how excited you were when you first experienced the Web? I was downright smitten, but I never saw online media as any more than another arrow in the quiver (to continue a lame metaphor). Websites changed our world a good bit. So will blogs, but they won’t change “everything.”
My fear is that PR professionals will place so much emphasis on social media that they’ll neglect face-to-face interaction. Blogs do help humanize corporations, to be sure, but I never really know if I can trust you until I look you in the eye. That’s the “social” without the “media.” Let’s not lose sight of it.
A sea change? Even if social media and blogging aren’t the next great sea change in public relations, I’ll continue studying them. And there’s a good chance I’ll continue to fill this space with words and pictures.
While I still love the MSM, and I start my day with them, you just can’t have this much fun with the Wall Street Journal. I mean, it doesn’t even have comics.