I think it might be inevitable that in the not-so-distant future almost every company and every individual will have a weblog. We all have email addresses. We all have phone numbers. When this does happen many companies will think that there may be no use to have a weblog anymore. Every company has a website as well, but does that prevent your company from having one?
Having a blog does not mean you are like every other company. Not every website is treated equally and the same holds true with weblogs. If every weblog was the same you wouldn’t have blogging superstars or people making thousands a month from blog advertising. The advantage with companies though is that there aren’t many well-known company blogs. All the popular blogs are part of the independent web with a couple of exceptions here and there and therefore this is a great time for companies to make a name for themselves in this fast-moving medium.
Over time when the number of weblogs continues to grow (currently thought to be around 3 million) it will get tougher to have your blog noticed. Heck, in 1994 you could easily get your website noticed — now you have to put work into them (the way it should be). Weblogs are no different than websites like some people like to believe. They are merely websites with content that is updated daily or semi-daily. You have to do something special to make them standout.
That special “something” isn’t a gimmick. That “something” is content. You wouldn’t buy a book without knowing that the prose inside is worth your time. And at the very least you wouldn’t recommend it for someone else to read. Great content that causes people to link to you is not an easy thing to produce. It takes work. But then again, to win the mindshare of a community that is always what it takes.
Blogs do not take the hardwork out of winning audiences. What they do is provide you with another platform you can utilize. That is another interesting subject that should be touched on, so let’s talk about “people”.
Speaking to People
While earning my Masters I found that there were two types of professors. Those that used Powerpoint slides and spoke as if they were regurgitating a textbook, and those who showed a passion for what they did and taught it like they were your friend and not your superior. Care to guess which method proved to be more effective?
Remember it is quite possible for your voice to become the brand of your company, so would you wish to project a friendly, personable image or one that seems stuffy and cold?
Case Study: WIN vs. Gawker
Let’s ignore all aspects of these two companies’ websites except for the voices of their bloggers. Weblogs, Inc. (WIN) has a business model for its bloggers where they split ad revenues 50/50. Sounds like a good deal if you are capable of generating a significant amount of ad revenue. Of course advertising revenue will be measured by the amount of traffic your blog pulls in. Every site on the network, with the exception of 4, looks the same so if you join the network you are already faced with an uphill battle. Content is the only way to separate yourself from the others.
Now, posting content to a weblog is actually quite simple. Maybe just a bit too simple because too many of them turn into linklogs where people just post links to other blogs and sites. This in itself is obviously useless, but you would be surprised by how many people continue to do so. Many of the blogs on WIN suffer from this fate. There are no voices that standout to me and I do not mean this as an insult to any of the hard workers over there. It’s just the way I see it.
Now if you look at the Gawker Media network of sites you get something completely different, and surprisingly, they do it well with a fixed salary. Every Gawker site comes with a fresh voice tuned into the topic of which they speak. Each site’s writer makes sure to distinguish him/herself from the other sites not just on content, but on their voices and personality as well. It has gotten to the point where many people don’t see Wonkette as being Wonkette, but being the site that Ana Marie Cox writes on.
It could be argued that Denton just had incredibly good timing and got lucky with the whole blog thing, but if that was the case and the writing was atrocious, then you would find that his sites wouldn’t last that long. Web users only have so much time in the day to allocate towards reading. This is why I wouldn’t be surprised to see many of WIN’s sites fall to the wayside unless the voices that power their weblogs become stronger and more unique.