FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Blogging for Business

BusinessWeek made blogs the topic of its cover story this week. Its message: beyond the hype and silliness often associated with blogging, businesses had better start taking the blogosphere seriously if they want to stay competitive.

How does business change when everyone is a potential publisher? A vast new stretch of the information world opens up. For now, it's a digital hinterland. The laws and norms covering fairness, advertising, and libel? They don't exist, not yet anyway. But one thing is clear: Companies over the past few centuries have gotten used to shaping their message. Now they're losing control of it.

The article profiles a lot of names and blog-related ventures that are familiar to blogging veterans. Aside from being a good "blogging for dummies" piece, the article offers some interesting insights of its own:

[B]logs could end up providing the perfect response to mass media's core concern: the splintering of its audience. Advertisers desperate to reach us need to tap niches (because we get together only once a year to watch the Super Bowl). By piggybacking on blogs, they can start working that vast blogocafé, table by table. Smart ones will get feedback, links to individuals -- and their friends. That's every marketer's dream.

The big companies have what the bloggers lack. Scale, relations with advertisers, and large sales forces. They can use these forces to sell across all media, from general audience to bloggy niches. Already, Yahoo and Microsoft have been investing heavily to position themselves for niche advertising. And in February, the New York Times laid down $410 million for About Inc., a collection of 500 specialized Web sites that smell strongly of blogs. "What's to stop them from turning those 500 sites into 5,000?" says Dave Morgan, founder of TACODA Systems, an Internet advertising company.

Okay, so that probably won't shock anyone. But the BusinessWeek piece is one more layer of legitimization for blogs, and one more form of power. So this week, if your boss, or your boss's boss, approaches you asking about this blog stuff and how it can help the business, you'll know why.

RELATED: BuzzMachine suggests, only half jokingly, that CNN's ratings are catching up to those of Fox News because of CNN's recent focus on blogs' take on the news.