Friday, September 21, 2007

Why blogs are better than print (there, I said it)

I’ve tried not to commit the cardinal sin of blogging – which is blogging too much about blogging.

But the other day I was struggling to explain to someone why blogging is such a powerful medium. For instance, yesterday my blog recorded its 35,000th visitor. That's pretty exciting – but it’s small potatoes compared to my average column in PROFIT or MoneySense magazines, which reaches more than 100,000 people. So why does blogging intrigue me so much?

Because reading a column in a magazine is essentially a passive act. The only natural thing to do once you've finished is to turn the page (literally and metaphorically). That's certainly all that the technology encourages you to do.

Reading a blog post, by contrast, is generally a more conscious act – with many more potential outcomes. If you're intrigued by the topic or the writer of a blog you've just read, there are many follow-up steps you can take.

This has huge implications, not just for writers, but for anyone marketing or promoting themselves or their business. So here are 12 reasons why blogs are better than magazines, billboards, newspapers and other media – even those with greater reach:

* people come to blogs because they are interested in the topic – whether they have deliberately targeted your site or arrived by accident through a search engine link
* people usually know how to find a blog again if they want to
* not only can they bookmark blogs they like, they can even subscribe to their favourites so they never miss another update
* people can contact most bloggers directly with questions, comments, requests, and suggestions
* blogs are generally more welcoming of a dialogue than newspapers, ads, columns, etc.
* using standard web analytics, bloggers can see how many people visited the blog, when, and from where (country or city). That makes those readers more “real” to the writer/publisher than the thousands of people who read newspaper articles and ads – but leave no trail behind. And by checking web-search terms, the bloggers know what those people were interested in or looking for.
* blogs often link directly to references, sources of more information, and action steps, providing instant gratification for readers wanting more (e.g., if a blogger mentions a good book, they will often include a link to where you can buy it right now if you wish)
* blogs are generally more timely (no long production or distribution delays), thus of greater perceived impact
* readers can interact with other visitors around specific ideas or topics through comments (and sometimes emails)
* ability to go deeper: if you like this writer or topic, you have instant access to their previous blog posts and can find much more
* ability to copy and paste means you can “own” that information, by printing out or storing it as a digital file (which then becomes searchable on your own computer)
* the blogger often includes links to their other sites, projects or products, enabling interested readers/consumers to pursue deeper relationships with that person or business automatically.

I figure that the difference between blogging and print (or TV, radio, and other one-way media) is comparable to the difference between seeing a billboard with a picture of a dog, and play-wrestling with a golden retriever in your living room .

Which would you rather do?
And which would your customers rather do?

6 comments:

John said...

Hi Rick
I agree with this completely, thanks for the post.

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Anonymous said...

In defence of magazines, I'm a believer that while getting content you want to know about is awesome (Rick, you're on my google homepage via RSS) - the thing that I love about magazines is the ability to draw me into an article or feature on something that I - for lack of better words - didn't know I wanted to know about. It takes a lot for that to happen with blogs and the internet in general. I'm taking the (is it still just a rumoured?) death of Business 2.0 magazine quite hard as I don't go out and search for the information that they are able to put into print each month. I like that it comes to me and I can digest it in whatever time frame I want to and reading articles whose headlines I may skip over if I was online.
It's a fair argument though- and as blogs become a medium unto themselves (and some would argue they already are) they will continue to be strong competition to the print industry.

Brad

Marco Ursi said...

Hi Rick,

As the new editor of Masthead, I feel compelled to chime in.

Many blog features you point to are indeed improvements on older media models, particularly with regards to user interaction.

At the same time, alternative forms of media—both in print and other online models—are better for certain kinds of information, including:

1. Investigative reporting;
2. Long, narrative features;
3. Serious arts writing (here the web reigns supreme, but it's generally writers at online magazines like Pitchfork Media, Television Without Pity and the Onion's AV Club)
4. Providing NEW information, rather than aggregate quotes tied to opinion;
5. Photo essays and photography in general.

Peace,

Marco Ursi

Rick said...

Rick responds...

Brad: I agree with your argument for serendipity. The magazine editor who brings you news and articles you didn't know you were interested in (and would never have thought to search for) is performing a compelling and under-rated (and underpaid) service. Expanding people’s range of interests and stimulating new lines of thought and curiosity are essential tasks in an information-driven society.

Marco: You make some good points, especially regarding the creation of new knowledge. By doing what they do best (popularizing known concepts, expressing new opinions and stimulating discussion), I hope bloggers will free up more newspaper and magazine editors to create the new information, compelling narratives (not “long” for the sake of long) and investigative journalism you speak of. Currently, there is not enough of it.

But I believe photography and photo essays work very well on the Net – better, in fact, than in print, since I see many people sharing photo essays and collages by email.

Although nothing beats cutting out pictures from old National Geographics for school projects.

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Hi Rick,I agree with your argument for serendipity.Very interesting, I enjoy reading this article. Thanks for sharing.