Blogs Are Dead! Long Live Blogging!


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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Recent months have seen a new backlash against blogging. In an October 2008 article titled "Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004," Wired recommends "pulling the plug" on your blog. Other commentators have speculated that the economic downturn will reduce gratuitous blogging. With a new emphasis on keeping (or landing) a job, perhaps bloggers will eschew the luxury of long, diarylike postings for short and sweet content.

Blogging has always been controversial, but the newest critique argues that you should pursue a leaner, sexier alternative: "microblogging." Microblogging can take many forms on the public internet or within the firewall. You can microblog most famously via Twitter "Tweets," Facebook status messages, or various other similar services.

Microblogging is certainly more spontaneous than blogging. The fact that you can Twitter from your mobile phone (while you probably need a proper keyboard to write anything longer) makes it easier for you to send quick updates, and the typical 140-character length limits adopted from the SMS world keeps your Tweets from running on. Also, Twittersphere remains much less commercialized than the public blogosphere.

So, the argument goes, micro-blogging is easier, more efficient, and definitely much more "cool" than blogging.

Well, that’s bull.

Sure, Twitter and Facebook give you the opportunity to push trivia, personal status updates, brief opinions, and ephemera—all in a venue more suitable for those types of information. We’ve certainly enjoyed some good debates and link-sharing on the internal CMS Watch micro-blog.

People also use Twitter to share links, which is sometimes useful. However, if you can’t explain why I should click or if you don’t place a link in some context, the net effect is not really helping to reduce information overload. By putting links in a substantive context, the best blogs can advance a concept and help filter the rest of blogosphere (and indeed the whole web) for us.

There are also some really good reasons to write macro: What if you want to seriously develop an idea rather than pass along a single hyperlink? What if you want to explain or argue for something rather than share what your pet cat just found? One hundred forty characters won’t cut it.

Better still, what if you want your argument to foster a meaningful dialogue or launch a conversation? Not too easy on Twitter. Following a "discussion" on Twitter is like watching two friends at a crowded football game yelling back and forth from separate sections. Blogs may not fully substitute for threaded discussion forums, but at least they can support an authentic conversation, rather than just a rapid exchange of bon mots.

Surely tough economic times call for depth rather than just brevity, not to mention an understanding of complexity, rather than just scattershot opinions. This requires a real narrative. That’s what blogs give us: the time and space to develop a topic.

It’s surely ironic that—after people feared that blogging would "dumb-down" the web—we now hear that blogs have become an excess of richness.

This may speak more to self-indulgence than substance. People tend to microblog about themselves, whereas the best blogs discuss issues and topics in the wider world. My Facebook status box, like yours, defaults to a leading "Tony is ..." A collection of status Tweets, such as "Now I’m leaving for the airport," "Now I’m at the airport," "Now I’m boarding my flight," doth not a narrative make.

If your blog constitutes a personal diary about your life, then sure, switch to Twitter and knock out a few keystrokes that way. Just ask yourself if you are really any more interesting in short form than in long form.

On the other hand, if you are trying to discuss something bigger than yourself, keep blogging. In fact, blogging in the business context has more relevance than ever, in a world where customers want to understand and connect with the firms they patronize.

People complain about marketing shill-blogs, and I hate them too. Remember that yours doesn't have to work that way. Also remember that Twitter and other microblogging sites are being discovered by corporations, so we’ll see as much drivel through those channels as any other.

The fact that blogs are becoming passé among some of the Twitterati suggests to me that blogging has reached a point of real value for the rest of the world. So keep Twittering, but don’t stop posting to your blog either.