Say “Blog” 10 Times Over and Tell Me It’s Not a Funny Word

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Don’t worry, I did it too. And I think you’ll agree, it is a funny word indeed.

I’m probably showing evidence of living under a rock, but I didn’t even realize “blog” was short for “web log” until the readings this week (thank you Jackson, Waine, & Hutchinson, 2015).

Blogging is the topic du jour for the week, which is ironic, since I’m writing one and you may be actually reading it (statistics say you’re really skimming it, but I’ll count that as a win). None the less, it seems like every week the topics related to communication are massive. Blogging is no exception. In all honesty, I for one, was skeptical about whether blogs carry any credibility, are worth the time and effort, and had any impact on the greater good.

Courtesy Shoeboxblog.com

After reading up on the subject of blogging this week, I’ve come to the conclusion, as with most things, it depends. You may be thinking that’s an easy out not to take a side one way or the other, and you’re partially right, but I truly believe like beauty, a blog’s relevance is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, I put forth a blog’s relevance is determined by 1) the writer’s goal for writing, and 2) the reader’s goal for seeking the information.

Let’s start with some scope on the blogosphere.

A quick Google search revealed no set answer on the approximate number of blogs that exist in the world. Understandable as they often come and go. One site estimated 152 million blogs in 2013. I have no way to substantiate that number, so let’s just agree that it’s a heck of a lot.

So how important is blogging to business? Here are some interesting statistics I came across this week:

Look how cute!

 

  • Companies with blogs receive 97% more inbound links to their website
  • Blogs with graphics get 94% more views (see cute goat photo…just trying to increase my views!)
  • Websites that blog average 434% more indexed pages (Sukhraj, 2017)
And yet there is more…
  • Bloggers who post daily receive 5x more traffic than those who don’t
  • Google loves blog content for website ratings
  • Blogs generate B2B leads (McCoy, 2017)

You may be thinking, “Stoll, you’re crazy! Don’t you realize the useless junk that’s out there in the blogosphere?!” Yes, yes I do. In a platform where anyone can contribute content, how do we sift through the clutter? I mean, there is a blog for ugly Renaissance babies, one for cats with their faces in pieces of bread, one for awkward iStock photos, and another for moustair (trust me, I CANNOT make this up. Check out 10 Weird Blogs on Tumblr).

Case in point: Breadedcats.com. What??
Even more ironic here is that 81% of consumers say blogs are a trusted sources, in fact, the 5th most trusted source for accurate information (McCoy, 2017). SAY WHAT? The absurdity!
This is a good sag-way into my two points above about the relevance of blogs.
You see, the great thing about blogging is anyone can do it. A double-edged sword no doubt. But each blogger’s purpose for writing is different. The blogosphere creates room for the whims of anyone (insert goats in PJs). I’m likely not looking for a blog related to photos of individual Cheetos on the ground around the world (reference #9 in the link 10 Weird Blogs link above), but someone may. The intent of that blogger may be to provide levity to readers. In which case, if you are a reader looking for humor, maybe you found it with the secret life of the abandoned Cheetos.

Many people blog to share *relevant* information. The relevancy is in the eye of the reader. If purpose for writing and purpose for reading align, then a synergy is met. The goal for bloggers is to cater their message accordingly for their audience, or vice versa, find an audience that wants to hear their message. It reminds me of the old eBay commercials about finding whatever “It” is to you. (By the way, does eBay still exist?)

When synergies exist among blogging content and consumption desires, the results can lead to increased credibility, business and status as an influencer (McCoy, 2017). We spent a lot of time discussing the role of influencers in last week’s Stoll on Sports related to social media, and how they can filter our consumption. Same principle here.

One author from this week’s readings noted that blogs are like the original newspapers, upon their emergence, people were uncertain of their trustworthiness. No different than pamphlets that were produced 250 years ago during the height of the American Revolution (King, 2016).
When we look at conveying news information through blogs, we have to mention the rise of citizen journalism. Basically, citizen journalism is where Joe Public contributes to news. Traditionalist journalist recognize the evident lack in journalistic rigor in this content, and argue it’s diluting true, accurate journalism with biased, inaccurate, low-quality content (Wall, 2102). My untrained eye, however, does not always catch the nuances.
I’m not doubting this assertion of quality sacrifice is likely true, but as a non-School of Journalism major, I’m probably going to ruffle some feathers here when I say “so what?”
See that in the rear view? It’s the tipping point for citizen journalism.

To me, citizen journalism is past the point of no return. Does it have inaccuracies, potentially low-quality, and a bias? You bet. How is that different from much of our content from traditional outlets today? I’m not always sure. Do citizen journalists lack the formal training and academic prowess of traditional journalists? Likely. But is there a filter on who can push out content and when? That’s a hard no.

I once heard a media person criticize an agency representative for breaking their own news. It blew my mind as the agency can put forth information that is 100% accurate, vetted, timely and first-hand. And remind me, who doesn’t want that? While it might be a major inconvenience for media outlets, it is the way of the world today, and as blunt as it is, shaking a fist at bloggers or content developers is not going to change anything.

In week one, we learned about the difficulty traditional media is having staying ahead of the curve (see my first blog post on the topic). The fact is, citizen journalism is on the rise, and if there is an audience for it, then it’s going to continue to increase. And some of its content, just might be better than regular journalism.

IMAGE SOURCE: maichimai2611.wordpress.com

That being said, it is the burden of the reader to become well-enough informed to substantiate content being consumed. The very nature of mass-producer content dictates so. Remember Shirkey’s (2009) TED talk highlighting as such from last week? Media has flipped from single producer/mass-audience, to mass-producer/mass-audience. Although it is the burden of the reader, we should not confuse the fact many readers have no desire to critically analyze content. As we select what views we want to populate on our social feeds, the same can be said for blogs.

I do want to add one more point to this discussion. That is, as many ridiculous blogs as there are, and rightful head-shaking content, there are also many fantastic blogs containing a plethora of information, put forth by extremely knowledgeable people. These blogs can be hugely informative for any person or industry.

Some of my favorites are:

  1. Scott Stratten’s UnMarketing
  2. Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership
  3. John Maxwell’s leadership blog
  4. And my good friend, Jon Schmieder’s Monday Morning Huddle Up blog on Sports Tourism

So you see, it’s not all bleak, useless information put forth by people lacking credibility. If you take the time as a consumer to sift through and make your consumption choices wisely, you can find some really thought provoking, well-informed content floating in the blogosphere.

Just to touch on sports briefly, the same elements hold true. Content on sports is rampant, and as we know, content is king (McCoy, 2017). And like any other topic or industry, sports blogs can increase or decrease credibility.

SportsGeek put out a list of the 30 sports blogs you should be reading. Truth is, I only read about one of them! The point is, that no matter the industry, blogging, content, citizen journalism, and deciphering accuracy are all tantamount objectives that must not be overlooked by those charged with strategic communication.

My mom has always told us – her three girls – never to confuse education with intelligence (thanks Mom!). I think this holds very true in the blogosphere today. While I’m not bashing education (after all, I’m writing this as a requirement for my doctorate), I am saying that many people have a wealth of knowledge stored up on an unbelievably diverse range of topics, and it is worth our while to let them share it so we can learn from it. But let’s not be foolish…we must also do our homework to substantiate what we read. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover who is actually dropping those Cheetos around the world! (My money is on the blogger!)

Another edition of Stoll on Sports in the books. As always, I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts on this subject, so feel free to humor me with comments.

References

Jackson, D., Waine, M. L., & Hutchinson, M. (2015). Blogs as a way to elicit feedback on research and engage stakeholders. Nurse Researcher, 22(3), 41-47.
King, R. S. (October 2016). Americans have been ‘blogging’ about politics for 250 years: What today’s Facebookers can learn from the pamphleteers. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/10/31/americans-have-been-blogging-about-politics-for-250-years/?utm_term=.1804880a8bf3
McCoy, J. (April 2017). 52 incredible blogging statistics to inspire you to blog. Retrieved from https://expresswriters.com/blogging-statistics/
Shirky, C. (June 2009). How social media can make history. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history
Sukhraj, R. (January 2017). 24 little-known blogging statistics to help you shape your strategy in 2017. Retrieved from https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/25-little-known-blogging-statistics-to-boost-your-strategy-in-2016
Wall, M. (2012). Citizen Journalism: Valuable, Useless or Dangerous? New York: International Debate Education Association.  doi:10.1177/1077699013519908

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