Confessions of a Blogging Skeptic: Part II

June 2nd, 2005 by Bob Bly

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog, I recently signed a contract with a major publisher to write a book titled ?My Year in the Blogosphere: Confessions of a Blogging Skeptic? — and I?m hoping you can help me with it.

My question has to do with why you visit, read, and leave posts on blogs (like this one).

There are so many other sources of information available on the topics you are interested in: Web sites, articles, books.

Most of these sources are (in my opinion) better written, better researched, more authoritative, and more thought out than blogs. Do you agree?

So why not just read books, periodicals, and Web sites? Why do you read blogs ? and bother writing posts on them?

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46 responses about “Confessions of a Blogging Skeptic: Part II”

  1. Alexey V. said:

    it is a people-to-people communication. it is personal

  2. Eric said:

    I do read books, periodicals, and web sites. I just add blogs to the list as another source. It’s also nice to read material that is relatively unedited. It gives you a quicker insight into a person’s thought processes or personality to read text that hasn’t gone through the PR-speak. Unsanitized reading material?

  3. Derek Scruggs said:

    For certain arcane topics like search engine optimization, blogs offer more late-breaking news and insight than the trade pubs that would normally cover that kind of thing. I’d rather read the thoughts of someone who’s an actual SEO expert, not the summary of those thoughts from a reporter for a DM magazine.

    I personally am less interested in political blogs because most of what’s “reported” on these blogs is just commentary in response to news from the mainstream media. I subscribed to quite a few of them before the election, but I unsubscribed afterwards because I got burned out on it.

    Also, I read some blogs, like Little Yellow Different (http://www.littleyellowdifferent.com) for entertainment. I don’t think of that as a blog so much as the web site of a pretty funny guy. Ditto for Chickenhead.com – I subscribe to their feed to stay in touch with their latest jokes.

    As for why I post here: honestly, a big part of it is to attract readers to my own blog. :)

  4. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Bob, I think self-expression plays a big role in why people blog. A bigger role, in fact, than most people (like me) care to admit to. If you removed the feature on your blog that allowed people to include their names with their posts, I suspect that participation would take a serious nosedive.

  5. Joel Heffner said:

    Many decades ago, Molly Goldberg started her television program with, “Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Bloom” and everyone knew there was going to be some friendly gossip between neighbors. Today’s friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) conversation has moved, at least for some, onto blogs. For many, I think, that’s why they read blogs and add their own comments. Others provide useful information that may help fellow blog readers. Some include comments with links to their own sites hoping that search engines will pick up the links and benefit their own site’s rankings as well as get some visitors.

    Joel

  6. Jacob Willard said:

    I do it because I’m a lazy procrastonating idiot… When I should be writing and being more productive doing researcher I turn into a search happy person and waste time

  7. Donald Baker said:

    Most blogs are just more accessible than straight news reports. You get to know the blogger’s interests and biases more surely than in a straight-news publication, and a blog’s informality makes it a lot easier to get information across.

  8. Jim Logan said:

    I own a few of the books you’ve written. I like them. One in particular has helped me in my career. I thought of writing you in thanks, but never did. I always thought you were too busy or must be receiving unsolicited input all the time. In short, I always thought I’d be a bother.

    Then you started to blog and as such, I had an easy means to reach you. You opened a dialogue and I can communicate with you as easy as leaving this comment. Since then, you’ve emailed me a few times in acknowledgement of comments on your blog. We even had a short conversation on the phone. All because you blog.

    Why visit your blog? You are very good at offering insght and opinion – opening a conversation. Books, magazines, newsletters and such are often better thought, more informative, and better written than blogs I read…but I never “met” you until you blogged. You’re better here than in your books. You’re human, one of “us.” You lead and participate in the conversation. That’s why I read and comment on your blog.

    I blog because it makes me think. I learn from what excites people, what gets them talking, and what leaves me speaking in the “dark.” I’ve met and joined in conversations with people across continents, and have learned from comments left on my blog.

    Blogging makes me better at my profession – that’s why I blog.

  9. TonyD said:

    When I’m going into a company to talk about working with them, I do a Technorati search to find out what people are saying about them. If I just read the company’s Web site, I get a lot of information, but it’s hard to sort what’s really relevant. Blogs let me see what kind of interest the company is generating in the world. It gives me a glimps of where their communications are working and where they are not. Sometimes I even learn things that might be hard to get out of the customer if I don’t know what questions to ask, like did they make a blunder recently that they need to recover from.

    Steve is also right. Self expression is huge. When I talk to people about business blogging, we start talking about business benefits, but I’ve found that it’s the desire for successful self expression that keeps people blogging and makes them blog well.

  10. Nuno Andrade said:

    Being a blogging skeptic is like being skeptical of the printing press or the television. What is there to be skeptic about? It’s just a medium. Although it’s over-hyped (mostly by the people doing it – c’mon, you have to be a little self-centered to be doing it – I know I am) it’s still just a means of exchanging information and ideas. I think bloggers getting so much press in the mainstream media is really a silly idea. At some point, hopefully in the near future, we’ll stop judging people by the medium in which they operate and more by the content of their words. Bloggers need to get over themselves (have you heard of Blogebrity? More than a little self-indulgent don’t you think). Likewise, critics need to admit that the reason they dislike blogging is that they fear losing the aristocratic sense of superiority that mainstream media such as books and television lends them. What are your credentials? You’re a TV reporter? So what?

  11. prabhjot said:

    I read your blog on outsourcing. I have found it quite informative, interested and also helpful in sharing knowledge resources.

    http://www.offshoreoutsourcingworld.com

  12. Patrice Robertie said:

    < < Quote >>
    “You’re better here than in your books.”

    Gotta’ say, I disagree with this.
    I have also read your books and I like that you’re exactly the same here, there and on the AWAI calls as well. Your character, intelligence, decency and curious nature shine through. So, all of the mediums become all of a piece.

    The problem with blogs, it seems to me, is that they presume that the reader can & will make time to check them out regularly. (I check in here about once a week.) But how many blogs can any individual hope to follow and still get their work done and have an offline life?

    Am I the only one out here who is actually starting to limit the time they spend online? I mean, it’s so easy to think, “It’ll just be five minutes,” and then you see almost an hour has gone by. And it’s s-o m-u-c-h more fun to be doing this – exprssing myself! – than writing copy!

    The Wall Street Journal had an article the other day about companies starting to hire people to write blogs for them. Hopeless!

  13. Yvonne DiVita said:

    I visit and read blogs to meet people. You’re right — all blogs are not created equal(ly). But, there are dozens, probably hundreds, that are written by intelligent and thoughtful folk, by experts willing to share (you qualify there) and by average citizens who help me in my work by providing free comments to my writing. I read industry publications — that’s a requirement for not only writing a good blog, but for qualifying the ones you read. But, I’ve met some absolutely terrific folks — like you — that I would not have met otherwise. It’s just more personal, albeit, in a virtual world.

  14. RichW said:

    My industry (trade shows) doesn’t have a “newspaper of record”. While there are three monthlies and a (very expensive) weekly, there are no recognized forums for opinion. So I (try to) provide that by starting conversations that I think my colleagues will find interesting. In particular, conversations on marketing and social networking that I think will impact my industry. So to be able to point to other blog posts on those topics is, I believe, much better than simply linking to a book title or a promotional web page. And to try to engage the authors of those blogs in conversation about my industry’s relevance through posting there is something I believe to be beneficial.

    Certainly there is some self-gratification involved. I don’t have a huge readership, but the people who do read my blog are regulars. And it’s sort of nice when I’m introducing myself to someone at a conference whom I don’t know and they respond with, “Oh, you’re the guy with the blog.”

    I’ve cut way back on the number of blogs I read regularly. But when the ones I respect most recommend following a link to another blog, I’m usually there.

    As to your blog specifically, why would I want to wait until next year to read your opinions on the blogsphere’s impact on direct marketing when I can get your feed? Your posts are generally insightful, enjoyable and often timely. Plus you can get into things here that your editors might delete. So in some regards this forum offers more than your books. Of which I own three, all of them good, but static.

  15. John Keehler said:

    Here’s a great explanation from the Long Tail blog: http://longtail.typepad.com/the_long_tail/2005/06/careerending_po.html

    The entry is titled: “Six reasons why I prefer good blogs to most traditional journalism”

  16. Jill said:

    Why people read and comment on blogs seems to be a complex equation. It’s about how much time a person has, how open they are, how easily they come into contact with interesting blogs and so on.

    I can tell you why I am commenting… I picked up your book Secrets of a Freelance Writer. I picked it up because I was already interested in writing professionally for a company, but almost never do I find such job openings like “Internal Company Newsletter Editor” or “Company Proposel Writer” available. Not to mention such jobs want people with high degrees not to mention years and years of experience. Recently, I am having a hard time finding a new job and the one I currently have is abusing me. I decided to take a step towards working for myself by taking up Freelance Writing. At least I can work on this while I still have my day job. Not many careers can start that way.

    I hope that in an effort to write this next book you stop by my blog. It is currently the haven of a friendly story writer who offers lots of helpful links and posts to other writers, but soon it’ll be changing to reflect my move to Commercial Writing. I hope it becomes a better outlet for marketing myself.

    Thanks for reading. I hope to see you around.

  17. zapseo said:

    There are the 3I’s of blogging:
    Immediacy: when something is happening, I can read what people are thinking and saying, people who I “know” — either through their other writings, or just through their blog. Note that, unlike a book, or even a newspaper–there isn’t an editor who is intervening (generally)!
    Interaction: I can communicate with the blogger; this is, indeed, exciting. I have a chance to interact with people I never thought I’d interact with (you, Suzette Hayden Elgin)
    Intimacy: unlike forums, which might provide me with both immediacy and interaction–this is a communication with you as the central communicator. Reading your blog, even if I did not know you from some other context, I could get to know you from reading what you’ve written, and how you’ve interacted with other folks. It’s a folksy chat–unlike a forum, where the conversations are topic-related.

    zapseo, AWAI copywriting student

  18. Susan Getgood said:

    I’m in it for the conversation!

    I started blogging during a period of significant transition in my professional life. After working in the corporate world for 20+ years, I decided to hang out my shingle as a strategic marketing consultant.

    Blogging does two really important things for me. First, I no longer have a staff to mentor and share what I have learned in my career. My blog gives me an outlet for these ideas. Second, blogging (in my blog and commenting on others) has put me in touch with a worldwide community of my peers — really smart marketing and business people whom I NEVER would have met without blogging.

    For me, it is all about the conversation, which is why I do all three important blogersation things: I write on my own blog frequently; I refer and link to others in my posts A LOT; and I leave comments on other blogs (like bly.com) when I have something to add but don’t intend to blog the topic myself.

    I know for a fact that I have met a number of people through this blog, so skeptic or not, Bob, you have probably increased quite a few people’s networks.

  19. Jeff Barry said:

    People write because they have something to say. Now, whether it should be said is a different matter. You read something, it strikes a chord, and you respond. This medium makes it just too easy to do that.

    The blogs I read are mostly ones that provide information that I cannot easily obtain in print or some other source, such as topics on technology & travel. But, I also read some literary blogs because I love to read books and am interested in hearing what others have to say. BTW, I don’t distinguish anymore between a blog and a traditional web site. The latter isn’t necessarily more valid in terms of the quality of information.

    Now, Bob, why am I’m reading your blog. I’m not going to flatter you by saying I brought and loved one of your books. Actually, I never heard of you before tonight when I saw this entry referenced on another blog. But, it peaked my interest. And I’m adding you to my bloglines.

    As for posting a comment, it goes back to having something to say.

    But, to be skeptical, I suspect that some people who post comments are doing so with hopes that the links back to their own blogs will drive up traffic to their own sites. Afterall, isn’t that what blog consultants recommend. I’m not talking about comment spam here but about legitimate, thoughtful comments that, still, are posted with the underlying notion of some return traffic. Nothing wrong with it since it’s an inherent part of the system, but I wonder how much of a motivating factor it is in encouraging comment posts. I admire Derek, comment poster #3, for admitting that.

  20. Debbie Weil said:

    Great comments above. I love the themes in why people leave comments: to connect, to be heard, to see their own words and name in print. Yeah, all of the above for me. Congrats on the new book, Bob!

  21. Cary said:

    Excellent post : ) For me, it is human interaction that makes blogging so much more fulfilling than just cruising the web, or breezing through the newspaper. From having traveled extensively in some less developed countries, I have a theory (as I’m sure many people share,) that once the developed world lost it’s “village-type” or “small town” structure, it began to lose some of it’s soul…not in the sense that development is necessarily bad, but in the sense that human beings absolutely require social interaction in a way that our modern lives aren’t all that capable of fulfilling.

    In many parts of the United States, where I reside, a sense of community is totally lacking, and there is no real central place to convene (think this might be why Starbucks are everywhere ; ) ) I am sad to say that at least here in the States, many, many people choose not to even meet their next-door neighbors. Crazy. The internet has made it a lot easier for like-minded people to communicate, and for those of us lucky enough to have computers, I think it will go a long way towards solving this problem. Blogging is living! Blogging is throwing a BBQ & meeting your neighbors on a global scale.

  22. Anonymous said:

    I like reading blogs because they give me hope. Every time I feel a little anxious about the future of copywriting as a career choice, I browse some blogs and am immediately reminded of how many people really can’t write, but attempt to do it anyway.

    Just kidding – sort of. :)

  23. roze albina shepard said:

    I read your blog, now, because I saw your blog address in my writers digest magazine, the April issue. I see now, that you are a very interesting and successful writer, and a very informative one. I admire your accomplishments. You’re an author of 60 books; I have to sigh, and contiue to dream on, that one day, I too, will be a published author of my book. I truly respect your views and comments and input. Thank you.

  24. michael d. pollock said:

    why I write a blog:

    1. it’s a simple means to initiate a conversation with people, either in a commercial or non-commercial context, and that’s always fun.

    2. it’s nice to know your ideas have an audience, and that’s a nice occasional ego boost (it can also go the other way when your ideas get hammered).

    3. it helps me hone and develop ideas further. i probably don’t need to say how much one’s creativity is stimulated by others in their community.

    4. it helps me develop personally. putting your ideas out for the whole world to see is a great way to better understand your own values and beliefs.

    5. it provides an outlet to express my creativity.

    why i read blogs:

    1. jim logan said it well. it’s nice to have a dialogue with those you respect and admire.

    2. i do read books and magazines, but the blogosphere provides such a smorgasbord (sp?) of information, cool tips, hacks, personalities, etc. it’s a little like visiting manhattan for me. there’s so much energy and humanity, and it’s all right here for me. i dare say it’s practically a spiritual experience for me.

    3. i dig all the authentic human expression going on. like any other medium, there’s certainly a commercial component to the blogosphere, but authentic non-commercial communication is really the cornerstone. that’s incredibly refreshing.

    4. i’m an information junkie. there, i said it.

  25. Kevin Stirtz said:

    Bob, as usual, you’ve done a good job getting people to open-up and share their thoughts with you (and the rest of your readers). And that is why I read blogs and why I write and comment in the blogosphere.

    Like Jim Logan mentions above, I read your books (some of the best written business books available, BTW) but prior to blogging I never would have entertained the silly idea of conversing with you. Your blog enables, even encourages, such discourse. We may never meet but I still enjoy the benefit of ‘connecting’ with you in this small way. Old media simply cannot compete with this interactive medium.

  26. LeoS said:

    Besides all that has been said, blogging is something new and historical. It’s kind of the same reason why so many people bought computers when they were almost useless (and many other tech toys). And it is the same reason why I see people going to see Star War the midnight it opened up, and why so many people bought the latest Harry Potter book, even before it’s out. I’m not sure why mob like events catches our imagination, but I for one thrive on it.

  27. Milton Drepaul said:

    Blogging gives insights into the person behind the blog. It’s almost like a conversation. You get a sense of where a person’s thinking is going.
    I’d compare it to a reading a diary or a journal.
    People are blogging I think because it gives them a forum.
    It’s like their own personal media site.
    Here’s what I posted recently on my site
    “Saturday, 18 June 2005
    Changing World

    Years ago when we felt strongly about some issue we might have been moved to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. However, we had to write well and be good at summarising to get past editors into print. Also there was no instant gratification.

    Talk radio made it a bit easier to get our views heard but we still could be censored. There was screening of calls,time delay and you had to wait to get on air.Then came email and things like faxblast.But there was still someone screening you.

    Now blogs and sites like flickr offer new and relatively easy ways to get instant gratification that your views are out there. Maybe only your family and friends will see it. But it’s out there,in the ethers,and who knows who will see it somewhere in blogsphere.”

    Finally ,Bob I would read your blog because you’re an expert and it is a relatively easy way to learn from you.

    Thanks for your writing.

  28. Dawney said:

    I read blogs for information.

    I write a blog because I have tidbits to share with my column readers, but the tidbits don’t rate a full article. (I write a monthly column for newbies in my field.)

  29. Shirazi said:

    Have you done the book on this wonderful topic yet?

  30. Phil Dunn said:

    You may have answered your question in the format of your own post.
    Blogging is a conversation. You don’t get that with newspapers, mags, etc.

  31. Jay Hepner said:

    Most of these sources are (in my opinion) better written, better researched, more authoritative, and more thought out than blogs. Do you agree?

    I absolutely agree. To prove my point, this is the absolute first time I’ve ever posted to a blog. To further prove it, I’ve read three of your books, and my participation in yesterday’s (7/20) teleconference and your followup email is the only reason I’m responding here.

    That said and having read some of the earlier comments, you do sound the same here as in other venues. If the blog is of someone you know and trust, there’s reason to read and respond. Finding a community of like spirits to respond to and with is stimulating. Lastly, the point that “blogs” are flavor of the month “stories,” is valid. It’s all about the source and how valuable it is to the individual.
    I think I’m now starting something.

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