Saturday, May 14, 2005

Blogging as business

It always amazes me that there are people who still don’t know about blogging. Inevitably, when I ask someone, “are you familiar with blogging”, at least 75 percent of the time I’m met with an odd look of confusion. I guess I should understand that there will always be people behind the technological curve—I mean there are those who are still using rotary dial phones and can’t program a VCR. Yet, with the discovery of blogging by the mainstream and everyone from talk show hosts, to corporate CEO’s now maintaining their own blogs, blogging has acquired a certain portent, even with establishment types.

What I find most interesting about the amount of ink and discussion given to blogging, is how lame much of the analysis and even the uses of the platform are. I don’t necessarily think that blogging and staid corporate communication are necessarily a partnership worth undertaking.

In my own area, a Friday column by business writer Eric Blom in the Portland Press Herald on the future of blogging and the continuous emails for seminars by a local entrepreneur indicate to me that blogging is here to stay—at least for awhile longer.

Interestingly, in the same way that traditional media and business communication tends to make conversation boring and misses the real issues, so does blogging done by those who are interested only in how much commerce it can bring their way. A CEO who uses a blog to continue to communicate in his traditional dysfunctional way—hiding behind a veil of power and control with the object being to manipulate and even intimidate—will achieve nothing from maintaining a blog.

Media personalities such as Arianna Huffington and her cast of elites at Huffington Post are betraying the true intention of what makes blogging unique. Given the democratic nature of the platform and the freeform (and even open source) connotations inherent in it, I don’t think it’s a tool that will work unless traditional models of communication are thrown out the window. I’m not talking about discarding grammatical constructs or basic spelling, but I am talking about using blogging to spin lies and obfuscation more favorably. I despise those who use their blog as just another tool to market and manipulate.

A perfect local example of how traditional techniques and staid business practices are beginning to invade the blogosphere involved a local entrepreneur who I’ve written favorably about. She had a profile done on her product that one could argue was unfavorable and even unfair. Some communication passed back and forth amongst several parties and I weighed in on the matter. This entrepreneur posted about it on her blog and then, about a week later, the original post, as well as comments I had posted had mysteriously disappeard. She had obviously taken the original entry down and I surmise that our local blogging “guru” and web design pro (the guy conducting the business seminars, who also btw designed her blog) advised her to not use her blog and engage in “controversy”.

Personally, I don’t care what anyone does with their blogs. I’m a perfect example of someone who uses both of mine to do things that I wouldn’t expect anyone else to embrace. I mean posting material that is sure to inflame, incense, and generally piss off half of your potential readers (and possible customers) isn’t necessarily a model for business success. At the same time, I want to be seen as a writer who is willing to take risks, look at issues with a perspective markedly different than mainstream journalists and others seeking to perpetuate the same old tired status quo, and generally position myself away from the pack. Interestingly, for all the material I write that might put people off, I’ve also written articles and features for mainstream publications that falls within the parameters of mainstream journalism.

For good or for bad, I’ve used my blogs to build some type of (dare I say it?) branding. If you are looking for polite takes and knee-jerk responses to the news, politics, culture, music and sports, then this ain’t the place to be getting your material. But if you want some analysis that’s thoughtful, researched, even if it isn’t always easy to digest, then I think I can help you out in that area.

Blogging gives voice to many (like me) that don’t always have easy access to the controls of communication. I hope that this domain doesn’t become polluted by those who have no intention of utilizing it for anything other than their latest advertising strategy.

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