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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Blogging Is Dead? Far From It!

Cow-writers-block

Thanks to blogs + Google Reader + iPhone, lines in the store no longer phase me, ever. I can flip through any number of subscriptions quickly, change them up on the fly, and find out what's going on. Amazing.

Over the past few years I've discovered all kinds of useful feeds - ranging from news, to technology, to government and politics, feminism , spirituality and commentary on the Jewish faith. Mostly they're the voices of bloggers. Strong, opinionated voices. Usually not selling anything, but they do promote a point of view and a product when it's useful.

One thing I've noticed is that blogs are a lot more interesting than the mainstream news media. To be blunt, this is because they're honest. You know who's talking, you get that they have a definite point of view, you see the same research they see, because they post it (usually, unless they've promised confidentiality.)

When there was only "regular" news it was intimidating to challenge whatever was out there as the standard line. Now it's practically a given that what the media offers is only a starting point, for the audience to deconstruct, analyze, make fun of, compare with other sources, and generally take issue with.

Are you a fan of Gawker.com? It's news headlines, sort of; entertainment, sort of; commentary, sort of; and so funny. I laugh pretty much every time I click on a link.

According to Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2011 bloggers have significant influence on public discourse. Great summary at Blogworld notes that:

"Blogs outpaced other media for inspiration, product information, and opinion. They won out over traditional media in all categories except news information."

In other words, people don't get their news from blogs, but their values and opinions are influenced by them.

Bloggers themselves are educated, dedicated, and generally unpaid for what they do:

* 79% have college degrees

* Most bloggers run an average of 3 blogs and 50% have been blogging for more than 4 years

* The #1 metric for bloggers overall is personal satisfaction (more than 60%); see here for detail

* 66% of bloggers blog about brands, including reviews and experiences with the brand and its representatives; in 2011, 25% of bloggers "encouraged readers to boycott brands"

* Most bloggers are not paid - only 14% receive a salary and of the 6% who write "sponsored posts" they generally make less than $50

* 86% of bloggers disclose "when a post was sponsored or paid" and 58% disclose "when they receive a product for review" (The FTC requires disclosure.)

As of August 2010, eMarketer forecasted blog readership to continue rising from 45% in 2008 to 60% in 2012.

If blogs are so influential why aren't they more visible in mainstream conversations about what's going on in the news? I rarely see them brought on TV, for examples, as news commentators, and when they are it's always the same select few that seem to have gained "credibility" even if their views are somewhat extreme.

Essentially, the problem with bloggers is the same thing that makes them (us) so appealing and trustworthy to the public: Their influence can't easily be measured and reported upon. Thus the 2012 prediction for social media marketers that in the coming year, metrics are going to become more important. For example, the MarketingSherpa "2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report" (Nov. 2011) had 64% of marketing agencies/consultancies committed to "social marketing," (i.e. marketing through social media), albeit on a "conservative" basis until the return on investment could be more clearly demonstrated.

As a blogger myself and one who follows other bloggers, I don't really need metrics to see how influential they are. All of the stories I've seen blogs focus on intensely over the past year or two - TSA privacy issues, the Fast & Furious issue, the rise and fall of Herman Cain and Anthony Weiner, the Toyota safety issue, the BP oil spill, pedophilia and coverup in various trusted institutions, including the religious community - and on and on - have gone mainstream.

Others have documented how blogs' influence goes far and wide, even as far as the Supreme Court and Congress: "the blogosphere has a much stronger voice being heard by legislators than previously considered." Of course, blogs (and other forms of social media) also influence purchase decisions: 42% of respondents to an April 2011 study said blogs "somewhat" influence their decision to buy.

So I don't believe the kinds of headlines that scream "Blogs Are Dead" because people no longer possess an attention span. The reality is that blogs are very much alive. They've helped me grow both personally and professionally, and through blogging I have found and celebrated my own unique identity and voice.

If you're reading this and haven't started blogging yet, I hope that you will consider it. It's a great hobby that can benefit your life in so many ways. And the world wants to hear from you.

Have a great day everyone, and good luck!

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