For all the press – good and bad – about blogs and bloggers (Is there really value to blogs? Is it just all a bunch of noise? Do people really care what you and I think? Is there really value in starting and supporting “conversations?”), it is worth mentioning that blogs have played their part in enriching (dare I say enhancing) our private, social and professional lives. How? Blogsessive’s Alex Cristache gets us started with these five simple yet noteworthy contributions:
1. Blogs gave us back reading:
In a world of television shows, Hollywood movies, adverts, gaming and cheap entertainment, blogging gave back “reading” to people.
Sure, some of us never gave up on reading. Some of us still devour literature, but I’m sure you’ll agree that less and less people still do that. Most reading we do these days is magazines and newspapers, and even those are affected by the low interest in the actual concept of reading.
Even so, blogging stepped in at the right moment, offering a wide range of topics, opinions and voices. Nowadays, we follow hundreds of blogs daily, read enormous amounts of text blocks and continue to train our reading skills.
2. Blogs gave us back writing:
Most of us gave up creative writing back when we finished school, no matter how far we went. With blogging, we (re)discovered skills and interests long forgotten. First, a bit shy, but more concise, meaningful and powerful with each post published.
Sure, we can’t compare to Tolstoy, Voltaire or even modern authors like Stephen King, but we do it.
3. Blogs gave us back thinking:
We’re so caught up in our little “nine to five” worlds that sometimes we even forget to “think”. We’re so caught up in labor that we forget how it is to work. Each morning, the subways are filled with apathy, with people showing little interest in everything else but their own little lives.
Blogging changed that. Blogging gave us back “thinking”. We read and write opinion posts. We’re concerned about our economy, our political system, our finances and ways to improve our status, the global warming, war in the Middle-East and much more. Blogging took as from robots to thinkers.
4. Blogs gave us back evolution:
n a world of huge unemployment rates we’re bound to find success stories in the blogosphere. People that have evolved from zero to hero through their new found passion for blogging. Take Darren Rowse’s evolution for example. When he started blogging, back in 2002, he was a simple part-time minister and casual laborer. His continuous blogging efforts made Darren one of the most notorious bloggers ever, with people only aspiring to his status.
5. Blogs gave us back empathy:
Some would say it sounds cheesy, but that’s what blogging did. We’ve opened up our knowledge for people allover the world to experiment and learn. We listen. We hear about problems and offer solutions. We promote charitable actions. We offer prizes. We understand and help.
And that, my friends, makes us better people.
I have to agree with Alex for the most part. I had just about given up reading by the time the world of blogs came knocking on my door. Reading for fun, that is, or rather reading for myself. Spend enough time reading studies, reports, marketing copy, emails and memos all day, and the last thing you want to do when you get home is crack a book or a newspaper. The occasional magazine (mostly Fast Company, Inc., ID and Dwell) passed through my streams of consciousness, but I certainly had gotten very far from my pre-workforce book-devouring days. Blogging gave me back the convenience and reasons to read volumes on a quasi-daily basis. Added bonus: The blogs I follow and continue to discover have made me much more knowledgeable about Marketing, business, politics, and current events than I ever would have been without them.
Same with writing: Spend 8-10 hours a day writing emails, reports, memos, copy, business plans and proposals, and you aren’t likely to invest what little free time you have writing for yourself. (Big problem for a guy like me who obviously needs an outlet when it comes to the written word.) Sure, writing short stories and working on a half dozen book ideas is nice, but being able to write what essentially consists of a daily column on topics that I am passionate about is pretty amazing. Blogging gave me the opportunity to create the brandbuilder blog, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now I couldn’t imagine my life without this outlet/platform. What would I do with all these words? They would just accumulate in my head… and then what? Scary. Added bonus: Believe it or not, writing about something daily (mostly on the fly) has made me a better writer AND (don’t laugh) helped me shorten my average word count. (If you think this is bad, you should have met me six years ago. Zola and Hugo have nothing on me.)
The thinking thing: The more you read, the more you think about things you normally wouldn’t think about. It isn’t to say I wasn’t already thinking about how broken or misunderstood Marketing is in so many companies, but reading so many different points of view every day sure made me think about the problem a lot more, and more importantly, helped me think a lot more about ways to correct that problem.
The evolution and empathy thing… Eh. Not my experience, but it doesn’t mean those last two points aren’t valid. I’ll let you guys decide how relevant they are to your world.
If anything, I would add a few more:
6. Blogs gave us the ability to create and build communities regardless of geography:
Think about how many people you interact with through blogs. How many peers, thought leaders, and collaborators have you met through blogs (or continued to engage with thanks to blogs)? Most of the members of Marketing profs, Corante and Marketing 2.0 don’t work in the same office building. They’re scattered all around the globe, yet here they are, starting and participating in conversations, sharing experiences, dispensing with advice and insight through this very convenient medium. I probably would have never met Spike Jones, Evan Tishuk, Bear Gautsch, Francois Gossieaux or John Moore had it not been for blogs. I would have never been involved with WOMMA or Corante or Marketing 2.0. Blogs help us connect on a level that no other tool or medium before the advent of blogging came close to.
7. Blogs gave us back the channels:
Before blogs, the only channels open to anyone with an opinion and a desire to help professionals in our industry grow and help improve things were through traditional media platforms: Publishing, TV, radio and industry events. Now, anyone who has something valuable to contribute can do so and be heard. It’s a beautiful thing. Even if you only appeal to a handful of people, that’s pretty wonderful. (Don’t knock the niche. It isn’t always about volume.)
8. Blogs gave us better, faster, more complete journalism:
Sure, you have to take citizen journalism with a grain of salt, but when you incorporate unfiltered eyewitness accounts and videos with the fact-checking litmus test of professional journalism, you have something pretty powerful: 1. As news media become more and more meshed with the corporate entities that own and manage them, street-level journalism helps keep them professional. News items are less likely to be ignored or brushed off. Context is more difficult to tweak. Bloggers help keep news organizations aggressive and honest. 2. If an earthquake rocks Tokyo, I know it within minutes. CNN may not report it for at least an hour. (This actually happened a few months ago: Instant news on Twitter and Buzznet. 49 minutes on the clock before CNN posted the news on its website.)
Update: From Amanda Chapel via Twitter – ““Citizen Journalism is the bastard child of subjectivity in a post post modern world of misinformation.”
Update: Follow the conversation here. (Excellent opinion piece by Jay Rosen)
Update: 9. (Suggested by Patrick) Blogs gave us back accountability:
Whether personal or corporate, accountability wasn’t necessarily front and center of everyone’s M.O. before conversations found a home online. If you had a lousy experience with a car rental company or a restaurant, you were likely to tell a few people in your immediate circle, but that was about it. Impact: Virtually zero. Now that a single blogger (or networks of bloggers) can reach tens of thousands of people, negative/bland/disappointing brand experiences can’t be brushed aside as easily by throwing more messaging at the traditional media channels. With one influential blogger’s bad experience being able to ruin your whole day, smart companies have to a) up their customer satisfaction game a bit, and b) monitor their brand equity in blogtown a little more proactively. Accountability is back.
So what do you think? What other contributions could you add to the list?