Bell tolls for blogging

The New York Times declared this week that blogging is waning (registration required). Citing research from the Pew Research Center, the article stated that 14% of 12-17 year olds are blogging, about half of the blogging percentage in 2006. Additionally, blogging has fallen 2% among 18-33 year olds since 2008. Readers who read deeper into the article, however, actually found that blogging is on the rise among most age segments, as the chart shows.

Pew Research Center shows blogging on the rise among most age segments.

The article (which Mitch Joel called “linkbait”) raises a lot of questions, especially for bloggers like me with (admittedly biased) affection for the medium. Even the title is problematic: Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter. The stats say fewer Millennials are blogging, but are fewer reading blogs? After all, though social media has increased the number of people sharing their opinions online, there are still more consumers than producers. Is a fall in producers among one age segment really the nail in blogging’s coffin?

This bell sounds familiar

Recognize it? This certainly isn’t the first time a medium was prematurely pronounced dead. Record company exec Dick Rowe rang this bell in 1962, when he said of the Beatles, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” 3Com founder Robert Metcalfe rang it in 1995 when he predicted, “the internet will soon go spectacularly supernova, and in 1996, catastrophically collapse.”

Blogs aren’t dead; they’re just not the best publishing tool for everyone, or for every message – is anything? Regardless, businesses worldwide are seeing very real results from blogs, and they’re not going to stop any time soon.

Smart businesses use blogging to…

…share valuable content with customers to deepen their connection with the brand. Blogging, like a lot of social media, offers opportunities to share opinions with your customers that aren’t necessarily about your products. Bazaarvoice doesn’t make blog software, but our audience isn’t just interested in our products. You’re interested in the greater social media landscape – we know because you told us:

Which type of post interests you most?

So, we use Bazaarblog as an outlet to discuss our shared interests.

Marketing is facing a shift, from interrupting consumers (with unwanted ads and commercial breaks) to attracting them with content they seek out and share. Blogging is one way to share information with customers they’re actually interested in: stories, opinions, recipes, how-to guides, industry news, entertainment… the options are limitless. Always think of your blog from the reader’s perspective: why do they care? What’s in it for them if they keep reading?

…communicate with customers in longer formats. How do you share a story that’s too long for Facebook or Twitter? You can pitch it to the press, but that requires getting the press to care, and puts your story at the mercy of reporter spin. Blogs let brands share stories directly with customers, free of middlemen. When negative reviews revealed to our client Rubbermaid that customers were using their Produce Saver product incorrectly, the manufacturer updated packaging to be clearer. It might not have been a press-worthy story, but it was something Rubbermaid and their customers cared about. The company wanted to respond to reviewers in a public way, so they featured the negative reviews on the company blog – explaining the proper way to use the product, and showing customers they were listening.

…build a company voice, and share their side of the story. Obviously companies shouldn’t ignore the press, but recognize that with press, you’re always at the mercy of a third-party storyteller. In what context will they share your statements? Blogs let companies share their side to any story, which can be especially useful when the story could be interpreted negatively. When a false online rumor claimed UPS would provide free shipping to Haiti for earthquake relief – a logistically-impossible pledge – the company faced potential negative backlash for a promise they never even made. UPS addressed the rumor on their blog, and turned a potentially harmful situation into a positive one by directing readers to third-party sites for relief donation.

Blogging may not be the right investment of time and resource for all businesses. And yes, many company blogs fail. But they are absolutely the right medium for the right messages, and businesses will keep on blogging over the clang of that tired, old bell.

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