Sometimes it seems like we’re running out of juicy debates in the blogosphere.
We used to have endless back and forth conversations about a few pet topics. Long posts versus short. How-to posts versus introspection. Professionalism versus authenticity. Ginger versus Mary Ann.
We never had a debate about bullet points, mind you. Everyone knows bullet points are good.
As those debates quiet down, some truths are coming to light.
We know that content is still (yes, even after it’s been said so often it’s become a cliché) king. We know that there isn’t a single “right” way to blog. We know that no matter how sick you are of list posts, they are going to keep working forever.
That doesn’t mean the debates are over, of course. We’ve just moved on to more subtle topics.
People will always like to take sides on what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong. We like to think about what’s ethical, what’s proper, what’s good, what’s professional.
So here are some interesting up-and-coming debates I see rising up around blogging:
1. Should blogs remain free?
When a blog is born, it makes sense that it’s free. No one knows if the content is any good yet.
It’s a bit like giving away free consultations if you’re just starting out as a consultant. You get experience, your subject gets a free consult, and gradually you develop enough expertise to command a reasonable price for your services.
So far, we haven’t seen that evolution happen with blogs. They get stuck on “free,” no matter how elite or expert their content.
The debate is whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Maybe blogs are best used the way they mostly are today, as one of the best marketing strategies out there. After all, they cost practically nothing, and they can generate a huge audience for whatever you’re selling.
Or maybe bloggers are getting hosed.
Or maybe it depends on what kind of blog you have.
That’s all part of the debate.
2. Is it okay to hire a ghostwriter for a non-corporate blog?
Many companies hire out blogging to professionals. They see blogging as a way to generate credibility, rather than a way to create personal relationships with their readers. They’re hoping for search engine traffic and impressed potential buyers, not pals.
(There’s a sub-debate in there for you — would companies be better served by becoming pals with their customers?)
This means that companies don’t think twice about outsourcing their blog content. They treat their blog as just more web copy.
I’ve talked to a few individual bloggers, though, who find the practice of ghostwriting abhorrent. To them, blogging is all about creating a personal relationship. If the name at the top of the post is the CEO of the company, they become very upset when they find out the post was really written by a copywriter.
This is an interesting debate, and it’s one that’s only just starting to make its presence heard. Should bloggers be like newspaper columnists, with a byline at the top of each post? In that scenario, companies could get a big credibility boost from being able to hire and keep a prestigious name.
Or is writing a blog just another kind of copywriting? One that doesn’t need a byline any more than a brochure or sales letter does?
3. Should your identity remain private?
Everyone has had to suffer the troll. The guy who shows up, leaves a nasty anonymous comment, and then goes scampering away again. We all know these guys are cowards. Most of them would never say such a thing if they actually had to face you on the street.
So should we make sure they have to show their faces?
There’s some talk about creating online identities so that you’ll always be able to tell who’s commenting. We’re probably not talking about giving out their home address, but at least their name, maybe their website.
Now this might seem like a pretty good idea, especially if you’ve recently been flamed by some anonymous yahoo. But it may not be so simple.
Would you want every comment you make on a political website to be traced back to you? Every comment about a sensitive topic? Every pointed remark about your mother-in-law? Even if each of those comments is polite and reasonable, you may not want everyone in your neighborhood knowing you made them.
These aren’t the only debates out there. But I think they’re more interesting than whether or not we should use action words in our headlines.
(We should. That debate’s over. Next subject.)
What are the debates you’ve noticed happening around blogging? And what are your opinions on the ones I’ve mentioned here?