Corporate-style blogs

Enrique Dans. Professor. Instituto de Empresa

1 February 2005

A thumbnail sketch of blogs and the blogosphere – something all companies need to know.

A blog is a personal or collective web page that is regularly updated, where the posts to the page are set out in inverted chronological order. My first article on blogs appeared in Feb. 2003. Although the phenomenon wasn’t very well known at the time, Google’s then recent purchase of Blogger, the most popular blogs construction kit, augured well for its growth and development. Almost two years later, blogs proved to be the most influential medium in the North American general elections. They brought about the resignation of one of the world’s most famous news anchors, Dan Rather of CBS. They have forced the media to correct itself and have become the electronic version of the Greek agora. They are now the source of entertainment for a large sector of web surfers who dedicate most of their online time to writing and posting their comments on blogs.

Every day, thousands of pages are added to the blogosphere. Though many lose their momentum quickly, others become a reference-point for non-mass audiences who remain faithful and are prepared to read the posts, enriching them with their own comments. Think about your company, your sector or your products: it is almost certain that someone, somewhere will be writing about them.

How many sources of information do you use? One or two national dailies? A local paper? A financial sheet? A sports paper with your coffee? TV news? The car radio? All of them have one thing in common: they are all mass media. Since the Internet gave people the possibility of expressing their opinions in a simple way, other complementary sources have also appeared. Not including the blogosphere in your information sources implies not listening to customers, critics or workers. It is a luxury companies cannot afford.

To consult a large number of media sources in one day - blogs, newsletters, forums, etc. – we have the so-called RSS feed readers or aggregators. Each information provider can produce an RSS feed, or a file format with its contents. Users decide which feeds they want to subscribe to, and combine them with their aggregator to read them all in one format, accessing the original page corresponding to the medium with just a single click. For the user, the sensation is like reading under the effect of amphetamines.

In fact, one of the first aggregators to appear is called AmphetaDesk. My aggregator, Bloglines, is always open on-screen, providing me with news from six newspapers, four magazines, two newsletters, 38 blogs, two confidential feeds, plus one for jokes. I can peruse all these media in a shorter time than when I used to browse through a couple of newspapers. It’s like having more eyes and ears. It’s listening to the blogosphere.

For some companies it is like taking news clippings. Others share interests and sources. Blogs can be very powerful tools. They increase internal communication, coordinate work groups and comment on the news. Others speak about themselves without using the usual empty corporate rhetoric. A blog is a conversation with the world. For grandiloquent visions and missions, use a leaflet.

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