Bad News for Blogging Evangelists?

May 30th, 2007 by Bob Bly

According to an article in Internet Marketing Report (5/25/07), 52% of U.S. adults never read a blog, and 16% don’t even know what a blog is.

The article concludes that investing a lot of your marketing budget in blogging “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Do you agree with that conclusion? Disagree? Why?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 at 3:23 pm and is filed under General, Online Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

49 responses about “Bad News for Blogging Evangelists?”

  1. Brent Goodman said:

    I agree that investing “a lot” of your marketing budget in blogging doesn’t make a lot of sense. Corporate blogging is primarily a very low budget way to boost your e-comerce site’s search ranking score through increased inbound links, while potentially sparking a viral buzz about your product or service. I don’t discount the value of blogs whatsoever based those statistics, but they’re not worth investing so much in creating that you torpedo your ROI.

  2. Don Marti said:

    I’m in the IT media, and I’m more likely to see something new on a blog than in a press release. If the reporters who cover your industry frequently use quotes from blogs, consider starting one. (livejournal.com is a good site for a low-budget blogger — easy to use, good comment functionality, and free of spam.)

    Starting a blog doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Doc Searls once told me that his blog was “answering email in public” — if you write some mail that you wouldn’t mind making public, it’s quick and cheap to paste it into a blog too.

  3. Jean Biri said:

    1) I think that more people read blogs but because they do not know the difference between a “normal” website and a blog, they say that they do not read them.

    2) Blogging is not even 10 years old. It’s a new way of corporate communication so it will be a while before it becomes part of everyday life.

    Those who prepare now, will reap the benefits later as once everybody gets on the blogging bandwagon only those who are known (by building a brand and we all know that time is a crucial component of brand building) will stand out, ie: be read

    I am actually convinced that in a few years, business who do not have a blog will come across as suspicious.

  4. John Platt said:

    Disagree, because “blogging” is now just a publishing platform. The word “blog” will fade away and it will all just be words. (This from a guy who writes something called “Extinction Blog.”)

  5. Jim Logan said:

    I wonder how the 16% who don’t know what a blog is are sure they aren’t reading one…and how many of the 52% who never read one don’t realize they are.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of the personal finance, weight loss, and hobby websites visited routinely by the people polled people in the survey are in fact blogs.

  6. Tim King said:

    Hi, Bob. I haven’t read the IMR article–and maybe you could help me here. If 16% don’t know what a “blog” is, how many of the rest define “blog” differently than I do?

    I’d like to see a more thorough study where respondents were polled and then sit down in front of a web browser with an information-gathering task. Then the researcher observes how he finds the information he needs and what websites he reads. Then poll him again, asking whether he read any “blogs.”

    I’d speculate most people do read blogs, but they just don’t know it. If you ask them, they think they just read valuable information from a credible website. They aren’t aware that the publisher is using a blogging platform and don’t care. But they don’t associate it with “blogging,” because they think blogging means low-quality content. So whenever they run across high-quality content, by definition, it can’t be a “blog.”

    For my bets, using a blogging platform buys you way more than using a static website, and at about the same cost.

    -TimK

  7. Susan Getgood said:

    The bottom line: if your customers are there, you should be. Sure, not everyone reads blogs, but as an earlier commenter pointed out, many blogs don’t “look like” blogs anymore. They look like Web sites, which is of course what they are.

    And for those segments where blogging is pretty big — I can think of six off the top of my head: politics, tech, moms, pr/marketing, milblogs and foodies — if you aren’t thinking about it, you aren’t thinking. IMNSHO.

  8. Robert Kopacz said:

    A blog is nothing more than a column. The blogger is like a columnist. The “post” is the weekly article, the “comments” are like letters to the editor about the article. The only difference is that it is published in a different way. In order for it to work as a marketing tool, it has to have all the qualities of a published column piece ie it must be interesting and informative. It can be a useful marketing tool for those who have used columns as marketing tools (Jeff Gitomer comes immediately to mind).

    If your target market is computer and internet literate, then chances are they will find it and read it, and if it provides useful information or otherwise arouses curiosity and interest, then they will continue to read it and it will be useful as one of several marketing tools. If it is poorly written and erratic (as most blogs are), then the readers will stop reading it.

    I am always amused by the back-and-forth between those who try to create “revolutionary” hype around an innovation, and those who try to knock it down. The same thing happened in “Web 1.0″. The truth and the business / marketing opportunity exists somewhere in the middle, as it always does.

  9. Gloria Hildebrandt said:

    I wonder if it might not be even more important to budget time to comment on other people’s blogs than to focus solely on your own.
    I ghostwrote a blog for a client who got minimal response to it. Had the client followed advice to post relevent comments on other blogs that discussed his area of expertise, he would have generated more awareness of his site and services.
    I myself have a blog on my site, although it’s of my novel and so is not directly related to my communications services, and while it is giving me some attention, I believe I am getting better exposure by folowing and commenting on several other people’s blogs.
    It’s important to remember the other end of blogging: spreading the word through thoughtful comments.

  10. Michael said:

    Blogging isn’t new. We “blogged” in the mid-80s, but we called it BBS-ing. I was a Sysop. All the same rules apply. Someone posts a topic, everyone can see it, everyone can comment, and everyone can see the comments.

    As to the comments wondering whether people who said they never read blogs would recognize one if they saw one, I’d say they could—easily. It isn’t hard to figure out. Besides, people polled could have been shown examples of blogs and non-blogs and then been asked whether they read them. Or, they could have been given a description of a blog and asked it they read anything online that fits the description. It would be pretty foolish to poll people on whether they read blogs solely by asking them “Do you ever read blogs?”

    I think blogangelists simply don’t want to accept that most people don’t consider blogging “all that and a serving of potato chips.”

  11. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob–

    As you know, I come out of a direct marketing background. Hey, let’s call a spade a spade: I’m a mail order and junk mail junkie. So I do know that response and ROI are the bottom line.

    But sometimes to get there you need to take a circuitous route.

    I spoke on a panel yesterday at PMA University http://www.pma-online.org/pmau2007/5.cfm together with Steve O’Keefe and Penny Sansevieri. We spoke about author tours, blog PR and other edgy Internet publicity tactics. It was clear from the discussion that blog readership studies only show the tip of the iceberg. The real value of using blogs for PR is in targeting your niche. And, even more important, getting to the right blogs helps you reach influencers: (pick your own metaphor) Powerful Sneezers; Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen; Network Hubs or Experts… who can spread the word-of-mouth to others.

    Yes, blogs are overrated. But they’re also underused.

    Morty

  12. Michael A. Stelzner said:

    Bob – Is this a trick question? Blogging doesn’t take any of the budget? – Mike

  13. Susan Martin said:

    I agree with Tim, Robert and Jean. It’s likely that many of those who were polled don’t even realize that they have come across blogs when doing an internet search.

    Blogging is kind of like writing a column that’s easily picked up by search engines. By putting yourself, your opinions and observations out there and providing valuable info aimed at your target market; you’re establishing credibility, helping to position yourself or company as experts and increase the chances that your ideal customers can find you.

    And, it doesn’t have to cost a lot!

    What’s wrong with that?

  14. Everett said:

    For something still so relatively new, I’d say 48% of US adults reading one and 84% aware of them sounds pretty *good* to me.

  15. uyved said:

    Very interesting site!

  16. Steve O'Keefe said:

    * 48% of U.S. adults sometimes read a blog. (IMR)

    * 41% of U.S. adults read a daily newspaper (Harris Poll, 2006)

    * 40% of U.S. adults get news online daily (Harris Poll, 2006)

    * 54% of U.S. adults watch TV news daily (Harris Poll, 2006)

    * 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. (JenkinsGroupInc.com)

    * 70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. (JenkinsGroupInc.com)

    Given the stats, it’s reasonable to speculate that blogs are nearly as popular as TV news. I’m pretty sure the CPM to advertise on blogs is far less than for TV news. The ROI is relatively attractive for blog advertising. When you consider the demographics of the two audiences — people who read blogs vs. people who watch TV news — blogs appear to be a cost-effective way to reach certain target markets, especially journalists.

    STEVE O’KEEFE
    V.P., International Association of Online Communicators

  17. Bob Bly said:

    Steve, here is my question: when I advertise in a magazine, I get a circulation audit statement proving how many readers they have. What proof do I have of a blog’s readership?

  18. bill said:

    I agree that most surfers don’t even know when they are on a blog. And so what? Isn’t a blog is just another form of website. If they click to buy my product off some blog, never knew they were on one, and never come back to it, I’ve made my sale.

    Bob, studies like this seem pointless. What if they’re correct? They come out about book sales every year or so–and the numbers are going down, down, down. Does that stop you from writing books?

    As for investment, I have a pretty neat blog. I don’t use it properly (yet) but it’s there, in the garage, so to speak, ready to rumble when I am. And it didn’t cost me a cent (I had already paid for the graphics; all I had to do was Jimmy around a little with a WordPress template.)

    So I don’t see much of an issue, practically speaking. Especially since blogs (or whatever you call them) won’t be going away anytime this century.

  19. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob, I’m with Steve on this one. And I’ll take it a bit further. I don’t think readership stats are as important as responsiveness.

    We’re talking about more than just placing ads. We’re talking about engaging an audience. Blog readers are actively — and interactively — involved in the process. I’ll spare you the Cluetrain “conversation” mantra. But how about what Gary Halbert (bless his soul) used to say: “The only advantage I want, is a Starving Crowd!” That’s the kind of audience that I want to talk — and sell — to!

    Morty

  20. Michael said:

    The “So what?” aspect is that you can’t track sales from a blog unless a purchaser leaves a comment saying “Hey, I went out and bought your book.” And, that by itself is a pretty poor tracking mechanism. With a Website, there’s generally a mechanism to track click-thrus, sales, etc. You may have technically made a sale if someone buys your product after reading about it on your blog, but how would you ever know? And, if your intention is to build sales from your blog, there’s no way to determine if your efforts are paying off. The book sales analogy doesn’t fit. Book sales can be tracked. I wouldn’t call a blog an investment. With a real investment, I can track the ROI—I can see numbers that directly translate into sales and dollars, and whether various efforts are paying off or not. If someone buys something I’m hawking on my blog, I don’t know it unless they tell me.

  21. Bob Bly said:

    Michael: Is “hawking” or selling on a blog acceptable today? Or will a commercial pitch turn off readers?

  22. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob Bly wonders, “Does blog marketing make sense?”

    Copywriting maestro Bob Bly has long been skeptical about the marketing value of blogs. Even on his own blog! Now he brings Bad News for Bad News for Blogging Evangelists….
    ….But can the value of blogging be measured purely in numbers of reader…

  23. Lyndon Antcliff said:

    I use a Blog as a communication tool. It reaches exactly who I need it to reach.

    It is 100 percent on target.

    The fact that millions of people roam the Earth ignorant of blogging affects me not one jot.

  24. Ted Demopoulos said:

    Blogging is a fad.
    Just like the Internet.
    Just like “moving pictures”
    Just like pants

  25. Michael said:

    You mean “not” like a fad, don’t you, Ted? because the Internet, whatever moving pictures are, and pants (trousers?) didn’t turn out to be fads.

  26. Steve O'Keefe said:

    Bob, in answer to your question about audited numbers, I don’t think it’s much of an issue. Hits to a blog can be tracked just as closely as periodical circulation. There have been many problems with newspapers and magazines “cooking the books” on their circulation numbers. The issue of “readers” vs. “subscribers” comes to mind, too. Whereas the technology of measuring web traffic is fairly accurate (although “hits” are subject to click fraud). In fact, I think a better case can be made that people are moving too much money into online advertising, not because the results are better, but because they are trackable. I do believe we are sacrificing results for trackability — but that’s another blog post. Thanks for the consistently stimulating discussion.

    STEVE

  27. Don Roy said:

    Using blogs as a marketing communication vehicle is a matter of whether a marketer wants to reach a large audience or the right audience. Other mediums may provide greater reach, but if a particular blog is read by an audience that either buys your product or influences buying behavior of others, then it is a great communication platform. We should not be surprised that a large percentage of consumers do not read blogs or do not know what a blog is. Blogs are yet another driver of media fragmentation. We have many choices for media consumption, but we still have only 24 hours in a day to consume! Blogs may never attain mass media status, but their low cost and potential to deliver high frequency mean they will likely become a mainstay in many firms’ marketing communication mix.

  28. Bob Bly said:

    Steve O’Keefe: If blogging ROI is not trackable, how do you know whether it is worthwhile? With my e-mail marketing, I can tell you the sales generated by every e-mail we send out down to the penny. What metrics, if any, can one use to measure blogging effectiveness?

  29. Ted Demopoulos said:

    Bob, I’m not Steve, but. . .
    Blog metrics exist and are useful but not as “hard” or absolute as say email marketing metrics.
    Sure, I can track readers, page views, etc., but it’s really money that matters. 10,000 passive readers may make me feel good, but don’t pay the mortgage.

    That said, I have a newsletter signup on my blog. I can track signups. I can track the % of subscribers that somehow generate revenue. I can track the average lifetime value of a subscriber and customer.

    I also ask new customers where they came from. Often they say they found me through my blog. Sometimes they say my blog was the differentiating factor. I had book me for a keynote last week, and already prepay half my fee, and they stately clearly that my blog distinguished me from my closest competitors. That money is already in the bank.

    I’ve got a salespage up and can track where clickthroughs come from. Do they come from my Web site or blog or elsewhere? What’s the conversion rate? Is it better or worse from Web site/blog/Google/etc? Maybe I should (or should not) test and optimize the salespage for each.

    Plenty of metrics are available. They are certainly not as deterministic as from e-mail marketing, but worth tracking. So what do I track?? — admittedly not enough!

  30. Blogging for Business said:

    Blogs and Marketing: Do they work and what about metrics?

    Bob Bly has a great conversation on Blogs and how well do they work for marketing on his blog. My favorite comment is from Morty Schiller, and I agree:Yes, blogs are overrated. But they’re also underused.I’ve got a couple of

  31. Bob Bly said:

    Ted: my concern with blogging evangelists is that the metrics they quote are always the things you mention: readers, page views, Google rankings, impressions — never, as you put it,the things that matters: money. I’m not saying that if a marketing tool isn’t trackable, you shouldn’t use it. But if it’s not trackable, how do you really know it works?

  32. Steve O'Keefe said:

    Bob, now we are getting into some really juicy issues. I never said you can’t track blogging ROI. I have anecdotal evidence from several book publishing clients that the display ads they’ve been buying on select blogs return a handsome profit. This news has made the rounds, and the result is an explosion of book display ads on top blogs. You can see what advertisers are hawking on blogs by looking at BlogAds.com. These advertisers aren’t fools — the results are trackable and the track is good so far, in my opinion due to the low CPM.

    The same clients are reporting that initial enthusiasm for search advertising has given way to disappointment with click fraud. The Wall Street Journal has run a number of interesting articles on problems with click fraud. Blogs are not immune to click fraud, so I expect to see softening in the ROI on blog display ads. One reason I think they work better than search advertising is that publishers in general spend a lot of money on a book’s cover, and the artwork appeals to blog readers.

    Other interesting related issues include the different ways ads are priced. In print and broadcast, advertisers pay for exposure — CPM — the number of times an ad is shown. Online, pricing is often according to clickthrough. I have placed search ads for clients designed to *minimize* clickthrough because that minimizes cost. That way, you can afford to bid higher, maximizing the ratio of exposures to cost (minimizing CPM). It’s great for branding, but Google got wise and started penalizing ads that don’t maximize Google’s revenue.

    Another issue is what you consider the “results” of blogging to be. Sales is not the only metric. If I am spending a thousand dollars a month on SEO, and I learn that through blog posts or advertising, I can generate the same search engine rank at half the cost, then getting onto blogs saves money. There’s more than one way to skin this cat.

    Devil’s Flack,
    STEVE O’KEEFE

  33. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob, What is the ROI of having an article published? Or a letter to the editor?

    A long, long time ago, I learned from you and Milt Pierce the value of getting the right exposure to establish expertise. Today, getting quoted (or even attacked!) on the right blog can send up sales of a book on Amazon.com or help pave the way to speaking engagements and new clients. And it doesn’t necessarily cost anything. I would call that a pretty good ROI!

    Morty

  34. Alexey Novikov said:

    Good News for Blogging Evangelists!

    48% of U.S. adults read a blog, and 84% know what a blog is. :-)

  35. Shel Horowitz - Ethical Marketing Expert said:

    I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half, and while I certainly don’t see blogging as the promised land, I do think it has some impact–if nothing else in that it tells the SEs your site is active. In my own blog, at http://principledprofit.com/good-business-blog/ , I “let my hair down” and allow myself to be more opinionated than I do in certain other media–partly because my long-term goal is to use the blog to launch a syndicated column on politics, and I really don’t have another platform to discuss politics. Whereas in my business ethics newsletter, I profile a good company and a good book each month, on the blog I have the freedom to express anger or even contempt. I say that my blog looks at the intersection of ethics, politics, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

    While I personally haven’t had huge luck in attracting huge numbers of visitors, I have discovered that certain influencers *are* in fact reading me–kind of like my website was in 1996 or 1997.

    And as e-zines get less and less effective because of delivry problems, I think it’ll be much more important to be blogging down the road.

  36. Bob Bly said:

    Shel: e-zines still work like gangbusters, but as with everything else, it gets more and more difficult to make it work. Although some of the fall-off is certainly deliverability problems, I believe most of it is simply that there is too much e-mail competing for the user’s limited time and attention.

  37. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob, See this article from Advertising Age yesterday http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=117025

    Steve Rubel writes about how Timothy Ferriss sent his new book “The 4-Hour Workweek” to the best-seller list using essentially nothing more than blogs. His conclusion:
    There are three tangible lessons in Tim’s story: 1) Go where bloggers are. 2) Be there with a message and a story that will appeal to their interests, not yours. 3) Nurture the relationships online and off. Agencies can replicate this success. The challenge is to do so while maintaining margins.

    Morty

  38. Bob Bly said:

    Morty: are you seriously saying that marketers should create a PR campaign aimed at bloggers? Do many PR agencies and corporate PR departments do this? I don’t know–just asking. Seems like most blog success stories are limited to promoting books, speaking, and consulting.

  39. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob: I actually did create and run a PR campaign aimed at bloggers — for John Wiley & Sons. Working with Steve O’Keefe, I pitched Alan Dershowitz’s book “The Case for Peace” to a list of bloggers. You can see more about the campaign at http://wordrider.blogspot.com/2006/02/blog-pr-with-or-without-blog.html

    I know your next question, Bob. Regrettably, Wiley did not share the results of the campaign with me. However, Dershowitz’s book is a niche item, so it may be hard to measure the blip in sales. But a blog PR campaign can make a dramatic difference for a general interest book, as it did for “The 4-Hour Workweek.”

    Morty

  40. Blogs Aren’t For Selling Things; They’re For Building Relationships » B2B MarCom Writer Blog said:

    [...] Bob Bly has a fierce discussion raging at his blog on the measureability of blogs. In one of his comments, Bob states that you can’t measure true ROI with a blog — that is, the number of sales. [...]

  41. Tim King said:

    Bob wrote: “My concern with blogging evangelists is that the metrics they quote… readers, page views, Google rankings, impressions — never, as you put it,the things that matters: money…”

    Shh! Just between us: Anything you can measure with direct mail or with email or on any non-blogging website, you can measure with a blog. Sometimes how you measure is different, but you can still measure. The reason blogging evangelists focus on the wrong metrics is because that’s just what they’re used to measuring. It’s just as easy to focus on the right metrics, as I urge my clients to do. But don’t spread that around, or everyone might start…

    -TimK

  42. Greg Padley said:

    Just like any tool in your marketing tool box, blogs can be effective — but you need to have a strategy, objectives and goals. Too many people jump on the blooging band wagon based on all the talk. Starting a business blog without a real plan is a waste of time and money. I recently came across two articles that would be of interest to participants in this conversation:

    Plan to be Social: Strategies for Implementing Social Media for Enterprises
    http://navigator.cision.com:80/current/Plan_to_be_Social.asp

    New ROI of blogging report from Forrester Research
    http://blogs.forrester.com/charleneli/2007/01/new_roi_of_blog.html

    -Greg

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  44. Bad News for Blogging Evangelists? : My Netrepreneur said:

    [...] Bad News for Blogging Evangelists? According to an article in internet marketing Report (5/25/07), 52% of U.S. adults never read a blog, and 16% don’t even know what a blog is. The article concludes that investing a lot of your marketing budget in blogging “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” Do you agree with that conclusion? Disagree? Why? [...]

  45. Keith said:

    Hi,

    I find it hard to believe 52% of adults never read a blog. I think that most of these 52% don’t know what a blog is and probably read articles from blogs but don’t realize they are reading a blog.

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