The Death of Blogs?

In case you missed it last week, Gawker Media (home of Gawker, Deadspin, Jezebel, Lifehacker and Gizmodo) announced they are restructuring their sites effective January 1st, to make them look less like a blog and more like a news magazine.  The Wall Street Journal quoted Gawker founder Nick Denton as saying “I’m out of blogs…I don’t want to be the No. 1 blog network anymore.  That’s like being king of the playground.”

Some would argue that Gawker legitimized blogs as a form of journalism. So if their founder is arguing that he no longer wants to be in the blog business, does this signal the death of blogging as we know it?According to Denton, Gawker’s main beef is that the format of blogs is too restrictive, where content is generally sorted in a reverse chronological order or posts. Their new format is already in beta and adopts a design where editors can control the layout and promotion of one story over another. And users no longer scroll through chronological posts, but instead see a layout of content in an article-like fashion.

Ironically, while Gawker is adopting a layout more akin to a traditional news site, some news sites like Newsweek are doing just the opposite, transforming their home pages into more of a traditional blog layout.

So are blogs dead/dying?  I believe that blogs are far from dead. But I do believe that the continued categorization of “articles” on the web as blogs versus online articles is outdated. With traditional online publications starting to adopt layouts traditionally used by blogs, and traditional blogs adopting layouts used by online publications, the lines of distinction between the two is becoming more and more blurred.

When online media first came about, there was a real need for those of us in marketing to separate old and new media. To keep our sanity, we then further sub-classified media into buckets — online portals, blogs, microblogs/social media, etc. This structure kept communications between marketers neat and clean and allowed anyone in PR to clearly communicate with their clients – especially those who were struggling with the separation and demarcation of print versus “digital”.

However, as we near 2011, I contend that the need for and usefulness of these silos is quickly declining. The time has come to instead start focusing on the voices in the “media” across the Internet based on their capability to be heard and to move their audiences to take action. This principle is being debated in marketing circles today and is most commonly referred to as “Influence” – that is, identifying who has the ability to influence a market to take action based on what they say. And I think it’s a very fair and interesting debate.

As a marketer, do I really care whether the person most likely to get customers to buy my product is on Twitter, a blog, or an online portal of a major publication? Not really. What’s more important to me is discovering who the most relevant Influencers are for my market (regardless of their outlet), identifying their authority, and then engaging with them. And in a world where the discovery of these voices is more commonly done via RSS feeds, Tweets, aggregators and other online software tools, a web site’s physical layout (i.e., blog format versus more traditional news publication) is less about the distribution of content, and more about engaging with the reader once he or she is drawn to the site.

Journalist Andrew Marr of the BBC recently dismissed bloggers as “inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting.”  To him, and to other journalists who assert that bloggers are “not going to replace journalism”, I challenge them to stop thinking about “new media” as new or second-class any longer. The majority of potential customers, employees and investors are seeking opinions and information from a wide variety of sources across the web and they are entertaining thoughts and opinions from far more than just traditional print publications and their online versions.  These audiences don’t necessary care about the layout of a site – but they do care about what is being said to them and by whom.

“The Influencers” are no longer a privileged and elite group of professional journalists. Today’s Influencers are a diverse mix of journalists and includes those who write what we today label as blogs, articles and social media.

It’s time for marketers to shift paradigms so they actively find, listen to, and understand these sources across all forms of media, identify who the real Influencers of their market are, and then engage with a mix of key individuals who will best help tell their story to their target market.

It’s time to drop the labels and start looking for the key Influencers amongst all the voices that are really moving the market – no matter what their title or outlet. Continuing to put all online sources into the buckets of “blog”, “micro-blog” and “online journalism” serves little purpose; and is irrelevant to successfully marketing in the digital and social media age.

About Gary Lee

Gary Lee is Chief Executive Officer of mBLAST. Lee has over 25 years of experience in high-tech marketing, development and executive management in various global telecom and high-tech companies. His career includes a wide range of technical, marketing and management positions in global companies including Nortel, Sprint and General DataComm.  Gary has served as Chief Executive Officer at FlexLight Networks and President and Chief Operating Officer at Home Wireless Networks, two venture-capital-backed start-ups.

These two companies established business operations in North America, Europe, China and Israel and were backed by close to $100M in investment by Lucent, Telenor, Groupo Carso, BT, Accel Partners, and St. Paul Venture Capital among others. In both startups, Gary took the companies from concept to market launch and revenue.

He also was North American CEO of a global PR & Marketing Services agency, Mi liberty, working with global wireless and telecommunications companies around the globe both for b:b and b:c markets. Gary earned his MBA from Belmont University’s Massey School of Business and his BA in Computer Science from Furman University. For more information on mBlast, please visit http://www.mblast.com.

5 Comments

  1. I believe that readers couldn’t care less whether your on-line format is a traditional blog or more akin to a magazine, they care if your content addresses their need, whether that be for information, opinion or entertainment. When the Europe a la Carte travel blog was given a facelift last year, I initially thought I should go for a magazine style format but stuck with the blog format, mainly because the mag format reduces photos to thumbnails and I like to see larger photos on the blog homepage. I reckoned that as most of the traffic comes in through search engines, with readers going to a specific post, so the homepage layout is not that important.

    As for the journalist vs blogger debate, I’m sick of that, I again say let the reader decide. In my opinion many travel blog posts give a more genuine account of travel/holiday experiences than the travel sections in print publications, which to me, read more like advertorials with very little negativity or constructive criticism.

    BTW Andrew Marr, I’m a middle aged, married woman with 2 grown up sons, working in our spare bedroom.

    I do agree that the term blog does have some negative connotations, perhaps interactive online magazine would be a more accurate term.

  2. I am not a blogger, I am a journalist specializing in travel writing. My platform just happens to be a blog. Like Karen, I don’t think the reader cares whether we have a magazine style format or a traditional blog, as long as it serves their need. But I do agree that the lines are blurring, which is probably what alarms Andrew Marr, and his comments are those of a dinosaur attempting to hold onto a dying planet. I suspect they will come back to haunt him.

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