Monday, May 09, 2005

Blog revolution? “Give me a break” says Nick Denton

A pretty controversial but thoroughly enjoyable interview with Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media is being widely reported because of his blog hype bashing. See the article on CNET.

Let's add more oil to the fire by commenting on some of these statements:

Nick says that a blog is "much better at tearing things down--people, careers, brands--than it is at building them up".

While I agree with the subversive impact of blogging and the fact that blogs, more often than not make the headlines by getting people fired or landing companies in reputational limbos, one has to look at how successfully companies like GM or have integrated blogs as part of their communication drive. This is hardly about bringing a brand down. Instead, blogs act as a catalyst to foster better and more open relations between a brand and its stakeholders. Scobleizer is a perfect example on how blogs have helped put a human face on an otherwise often decried corporation and gave another dimension (positive) to a brand. But this doesn’t get the same amount of coverage that the scare stories of course.

Nick says that "The hype comes from unemployed or partially employed marketing professionals and people who never made it as journalists wanting to believe (…) They want to believe there's going to be this new revolution and their lives are going to be changed." (…) "If you take the amount of attention that has been devoted in the last year to Web logs as a business and something that's going to change business and compare that with the real effect and the real money, it's totally disproportionate."

Blogs reflect fundamental changes in the way we consume media and the way we engage with society at large. Too much attention is better than none if it put pressure on companies to understand that. Yet, I too think that there is too much hype over blogs and that could be damaging.

First, the flipside of overplaying blogs’ potential as reputation breakers leads to many companies have difficulties seeing how they could use blogs in a constructive manner.

Second, adding a blog to the mix could creates more damages than good if communication strategy, guidelines and infrastructure is not reviewed in accordance beforehand. HP David Gee's story on the vanishing comment is a good example. Anyone who sees blog as the only answer to all communication problems has way too much vested interest in the industry.

Finally, the share of attention vs. share of wallet brings the welcome issue of blogs ROI. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence I think that the real metrics are still in the making. It’s easy to measure popularity but much harder to measure influence.

Nick says "There are too many people looking at blogs as being some magic bullet for every company's marketing problem, and they're not," (…) "It's Internet media. It's just the latest iteration of Internet media."

It’s Internet and there is no denying that a media ( r ) evolution is happening. The hype could contribute to make it a self fulfilling prophecy and that wouldn’t be a bad thing after all. What strikes me is that it took so long for it to materialise.

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