Whether You Call it Blogging or Not, Online Content Still Rules

What if most of the business world stopped blogging tomorrow?

Would you stop as well?

No, if that happened, you’d find yourself sitting on the opportunity of a lifetime. Social networking sites would explode with likes and retweets and pins and +1s of your original content all day long.

This is why the annual “blogging is dead” claim is so dumb. Even if it were true, your continued content production would dominate the web in every way.

So, instead of worrying about the latest claimed trend or alarming decline of the moment, stay the course.

Original content creation is the present — and the future — of online marketing.

In this episode, Brian Clark and I discuss:

  • Has blogging peaked?
  • The clear future of online marketing
  • What Twitter wants, and how to give it
  • Is the online playing field really even?
  • Why it doesn’t matter (at all) if “blogging” dies
  • What even the major brands are focusing on right now

Hit the flash player below to listen now:

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Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

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Robert:This is Internet Marketing for Smart People Radio. I am Robert Bruce here with Brian Clark.

This radio show is brought to you by Internet Marketing for Smart People, which if you haven’t heard yet, is our online marketing course that we deliver straight to your email inbox. The course contains 20 highly useful emails covering everything from content marketing, to email marketing, to the basics of good phone etiquette on podcasts (laughs, home phone is ringing).

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Is blogging dead… again?

Robert: Brian let me read you a little something as we get into the show today. And I quote, “The use of blogging may have peaked as a primary social media tool in the US business world. The new data shows adoption of blogging is declining for the first time since 2007, among the Inc. 500 companies.”

That is from Nora Barnes, a University of Massachusetts, a Dartmouth researcher, from a new study looking at the online activities of Inc. 500 Companies. In a nutshell, the study basically states that more and more of these larger companies are abandoning their own online real estate, their own websites and/or blogs, in favor of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. What do you think about this?

Brian: I think that’s a leap. It’s interesting, I read about this study yesterday, which would be Tuesday, and I didn’t think much of it because I’d learned about the study from a very well-balanced and analytical article that really dug into what was being said and the reality of it and then I was like “Okay, no big deal.”

The next day everyone is up in arms about it. ReadWriteWeb basically just published those assertions, no one else’s, with no questioning. And I like ReadWriteWeb, so I was a little dismayed especially since they happen to also be a blog.

Then the other people are blogging and the advocates are firing back saying this and that, some of it kind of good and humorous, but here is the thing, and I’ll see if I can find that article because I don’t even remember where I read it at this point, the Inc. 500 changes every year.

It’s not just the same 500 companies year to year, it changes actually much more then you might think. That was the first thing that was pointed out, that you are not comparing apples to apples because it’s not the same companies, so you can only say, “Of these companies, less are doing corporate blogging” not that others have abandoned it. That’s important.

The second thing is that the study even points out that certain companies just aren’t going to blog, like government service companies and construction companies. That would be ridiculous, right? Government service companies get a government contracts that’s their business model and again, the article pointed out that, due to Obama’s economic stimulus plan, the inclusion of more government service companies in the Inc. 500 was a natural result.

So companies that don’t need to blog are more prominent in the 500 this year. If you look at it that way, I am not sure that the study really says anything at all about corporate blogging.

Robert: You are saying 1) this is not a static, the Inc. 500 is not a static list. New companies are coming in all the time for various reasons and 2) this shouldn’t be a worry, because, as you say, with a lot of these companies there is not necessarily a need for … well there is a need for content marketing, but they are not concerned about it.

The clear future of online marketing

Brian: Certain companies just don’t have the need. I’ve got a buddy from high school who manufactures these giant springs for heavy machinery, it’s the most horribly boring business ever, but they get these huge government contracts and he’s doing very well. He’s not going to blog. He doesn’t even understand what I do. That’s not the issue because there are lots of companies that can benefit from it.

But you really bring up the important thing, which is that it’s not about corporate blogging. Most corporate blogs are horrible because on one hand, they are corporate, and on the other hand, the idea of what the C-level people thought the blog was suppose to be ended up, in most cases, being really bad. The blog became press releases and dry dribble about the company instead of being focused on prospective customers or whatever the business model is.

You are hearing a completely different story about content itself and I am talking about web content. Last time we addressed the “blogging is dead” thing I just said

“Look, okay, we’ll just call it content marketing, is that better? Okay good. Now keep using WordPress and keep doing what you are doing, you just don’t have to call it blogging”.

I don’t think a lot of people call it blogging anymore and WordPress is a more functional full CMS. We build all our sites out of it whether there is a blog involved or not.

Let’s look at another report that was issued yesterday about the concerns of CMO’s, Chief Marketing Officers, when it comes to digital growth. Among many interesting points, the number one thing that they need in order to grow in the online world is sharable content.

Bingo!

So far this year, I have been spending a ton of time talking to the agency and consulting folks, the people that are on the front lines with all the big brands and content marketing is all the rage. They get it now.

Again, it’s a whole mix of things, but it’s primarily about content that is spread through social media, and then of course you get the longer-term benefits of search engine rankings.
Google has made that quite clear that the social signals are more important than ever. So the story that you hear from this “corporate blogging is dying” report, might actually be accurate because they are not talking about blogging but they are talking about building content focused websites. So it’s just nomenclature really.

Why major brands are acting like media companies

Copyblogger doesn’t look like a blog to some people, right?

Really, what’s happening here are that the big brands are building stand alone content sites, many times on WordPress because that’s what the agency people will tell them to adopt. They are finally thinking and acting like media companies.

Talking about companies that you would never expect, like Procter & Gamble, of course we know they’ve always been into content. What about Clorox and Tide and Coca-Cola who we profiled during their big move into content marketing? But that’s because it’s what works and they don’t think about slapping a blog onto their corporate site, although Clorox for example does have an entire section of blogs, not one blog, not a corporate blog, but consumer focused content, and they are done as blogs.

It doesn’t have to be, Procter & Gamble doesn’t even have anything really about them other than as a sponsor on their “Man of the House” site. It’s a standalone content site that happens to be produced by Procter & Gamble.

So that’s what you are seeing. Some companies are building individual media assets often many of them 10, 20 some companies, you’d be surprised like in the travel space, have hundreds of niche sites that they own.

Is the online playing field really even?

Robert: We talked briefly about this a while ago and it’s one of my favorite stories, but just to give people some context, let’s talk for just a second about Procter & Gamble. In the past, you could call it their content marketing of the past and what they are doing a little bit in the future or doing now and into the future. This is a company that has millions and millions of dollars that they could pour into traditional advertising with all kinds of media and they still do.

But they are also, and I am torn here because I really want to talk about Coca-Cola going all in as we were discussing a few weeks back, great article, but Procter & Gamble just the short version if you will. What was the old decision they made decades ago and then what does it look like now that they are doing today? Just to give people an idea of what this looks like in the real world.

Brian: I mean we’ve talked about it on the show before, but they invented the soap opera on radio as a way to reach depression era housewives and they did it through serial drama, you know, show up every week, find out what happens, cliff hangers, family drama, all that kind of stuff.

Then obviously with the advent of television they made that move, by the 70’s soap operas were the most lucrative form of television on the planet, and two of the most popular shows were actually produced by Procter & Gamble by a separate division called Procter & Gamble Productions.

Most of what happened from those early days, that changed and you didn’t have companies producing their own content, they just went with advertising. During the golden age of advertising, people who spent the most money just literally crushed it and Procter & Gamble did that too.

But they were really taking from both sides; they were going direct to their target audience with soap operas using new mediums like radio and television. Of course, then they were brand advertising out the wazoo, as well, because they were masters at that game.

But we’re living in a different world now, so now Procter & Gamble’s out of soap operas, which were declining in popularity, now they build niche content sites in this case, for men not housewives, housemen. House husbands, whatever you want to call it. It’s an interesting adaptation with the times, right?

Robert: Those content sites, those niche sites they look a lot like what we’re doing, not in content obviously, but in terms of the structure and in terms of how they are producing it and putting it out there.

Brian: Oh sure, I mean, mainstream media sites are all social now and a lot of blogs have transformed themselves into something bigger, if the business dictates it.

I mean everything from Mashable which is an amazing story, a blog started by a 23-year old, now a major media company. So things are evolving to where there is not really old media and new media, there is just a big mess of media.
The cool thing is that I can build a site that builds a business just as much as Proctor & Gamble can, just as much as Time Warner can. We are all media now.

Why it doesn’t matter (at all) if “blogging” dies

Robert: If some of these companies don’t want to go to the effort to create great content, what do you say to them?

Brian: I don’t care. From what I am hearing, there is enough exceptional momentum out there with content marketing that there’s an entire industry that’s being built around it and it’s not going away. It’s just not.

Social media itself is just the internet and sooner or later, we’ll stop talking about it as a distinction, right? Content is what works so Lisa Barone wrote a responsive post to the ReadWriteWeb article and basically that was her angle, she like “you don’t want to blog, who cares, here’s what you are missing out on if you don’t” and she just ran through ten of the biggest benefits. People share content.

Another report that just came out found the best way to use to Twitter is sharing content. Basically, what that means is that the content creators get the most benefit even though others are curators and the sharers. Basically her argument was “fine, don’t blog, I don’t care” and I agree with her in that there are enough people who get the content thing whether you call it blogging or not, that it just doesn’t matter.

There are companies who are Facebook only; good for you. When Zuckerberg cashes out and they change the rules on you again, have fun, I’ve got my site and if anyone is going to screw that up it’ll be me, not Zuckerberg.

The opportunity for small businesses

Robert: Yes and this creates quite a hole for maybe smaller business to run through right? To create great content, to reach those customers and reach those people through content marketing.

Brian: I mean the people who do, will have outsized results, they will own the search results, they will have much bigger social networks because every time someone shares your content, it’s being exposed to that entire person’s network and they may or may not already know you.

If all you’ve got is a Facebook strategy, all you are doing is attracting the people you already do business with or already know you.

So for some huge brands maybe they think that’s fine, what’s amazing about content marketing with social media, one of the points Sonia made in her 10 Content Marketing Goals post, is that it’s consistently creating awareness among people who might not know who you are. Obviously with the small business that can have an amazing impact, and literally build the company like it did with Copyblogger. The big companies are clearly getting in on it.

What Twitter wants

Robert: You brought up this, we’re running short on time here, but you brought up this new Carnegie Mellon Study which highlights what we’ve been saying for years about exclusive use of these social networking sites and the quote that you pulled out on Twitter was that the Twitter ecosystem values learning about new content, and this goes directly to the heart of one of the core principals of Copyblogger which is, don’t be a digital sharecropper.

Brian: Sure, like I mentioned just a second ago, Twitter is the greatest content distribution network out there for people who create content. Everyone gets that. Twitter didn’t start out with that idea, but that’s what it became because they kind of stepped back and let us use it the way we wanted to, what choice did they really have?

It’s interesting that Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter came out and said that Twitter was not a media company because they don’t create content. Which is interesting because a lot of these user generated content companies do present themselves as media companies.

So I don’t know, if you’re a content distribution platform, aren’t you still a media company? But he just kind of rephrased it as “we’re in the media business because, of course, we sell advertising”. Interesting distinction, but yes. It’s the content that people value on Twitter, it’s the information, it’s about finding out news, it’s about finding out useful things about their interest, their industry, whatever.

So that’s why you produce content, because those people want to share it, they want to read it and then you can establish that direct relationship with it.

Robert: A distribution system is nothing without something to distribute.

Brian: Exactly.

How building an audience can build your business

Robert: You’ve talked before about using content, but also the reason to build an audience and using content in the context of building an audience. How does that apply to this stuff that we are talking about today?

Brian: Going back to Sonia’s post of this week that talked about the goals, everything from lead generation, establishing trust and rapport and stuff that used to be traditional advertising or copywriting like overcoming objections and expressing benefits, all of that can be done in a much more friendly and useful way over time with content.

But the one she focused on at point nine, “developing new business ideas”, I am going to be talking about this in detail, because again that’s how we built the company. We had an audience first, and then we listened to the audience, we watched, we didn’t necessarily survey or ask, but we watched and then time after time after time, we figured out what people wanted and would actually pay for because it solved a problem.

That is my project for this year, you’ll be hearing about it more, is that cryptic enough?

Robert: I am interested.

Brian: Well you kind of have an unfair position.

Robert: I’ll get a little inside look before you make it public, right?

Brian: Sure!

What this means for you

Robert: So what’s a good take away for all of this? For somebody who is looking at these articles and these studies, they are doing content marketing, they’re blogging, they’re putting content on their websites, what does it mean for them?

Brian: Basically it means that content is the thing, it’s what people want. They don’t want advertising, they want content that solves a problem. This has gotten a lot of very smart people to finally see the light that they, indeed, do need to be digital marketing companies and, in fact, a lot of the big brands are really into that. I mean it’s cool, right? Everyone wants to be their own version of uncle Rupert Murdoch, I guess.

For the little guys, of course, we all enjoy building our businesses, but there are certain side benefits of having an audience, fans, people who look forward to hearing from you instead of turning up their nose when they see another one of your ads.

That’s the deal; this is what works now in online marketing and marketing in general, so get in on it. It’s actually kind of fun. If you are not a writer or a content creator, figure out a way to partner, hire, bribe, whatever, you have got to get a team together and act like a producer.

Robert: I gotta get out of here to get some writing and editing of new content done which will, of course, appear on Copyblogger.com shortly. Thanks for listening everybody and Mr. Clark, as always, save Ferris!

Brian: Please do!!

Other listening options:

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About the Author: Robert Bruce is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter and Resident Recluse.

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Comments

  1. this is so on point! i like to think of blogging in the same way Warren Buffet thinks about investment. it’s a long but pleasurable endurance trek if you know what you’re doing and you just keep at it

  2. Awesome podcast.. I agree 100% that no matter what you call it, blogging or content marketing, the internet only works if information is created and shared. Case n point.

    By the way, I just saw the Eleven40 child theme and couldn’t help myself. It’s so clean and elegant; a site redesign is in the works :)

    Thanks for all you do..
    Hector

  3. Content is obviously important. The question is, though, whether and when the search engines are going to acquire the ability to distinguish good content from bad. The process of learning how to do that is a long and arduous one, and the only thing bloggers can do is continue to produce the best content possible and wait. Thanks for the insights!

  4. Content is the king, but i feel that if you’re not getting the word out there. It’s pretty much useless, i have the tendency to believe blogging is like a deck of cars. Advertising = Ace, Content = King, and all the other card’s are things such as: SEO, Guest blogging, and etc. Anyways, it was really great listening to the audio. Thanks!

  5. Great podcast, guys, really enjoyed it (especially all the references to Ferris!)

    Regarding the topic of the podcast: Whenever I hear that “X Is Dead” in Internet Marketing, I now make it a point to totally tune out anything I hear. I think that most people who make these claims are just struggling for content so they wheel out the good old “The Sales Letter Is Dead” or the “Email Marketing Is Dead” chestnuts.

    Blogging isn’t dead, expect for companies and niches where it was never alive.

  6. What is important is to produce content. That content should add value. It should be directed to your relevant publics.
    The content should be relevant, appropriate: right timing is also crucial. The content should be newsworthy and it should include examples and even case studies. It is also important to remember that perception is reality, so make sure your content is perceived in a positive, constructive light. Readers only value what they perceive speaks to their needs and desires. Too many marketers produce content they think is the Incredible Hulk only to find out that it has fizzled out at the box office. And avoid technical terms and jargon. Instead, be reader-friendly; appeal to emotions.
    Thanks for your work. We appreciate your efforts here. Please keep up the good work. Cheers.

  7. Well said Robert. I hate to sound cliche and beat the content drum (especially as an SEO guy), but the need for great content (read: great bloggers) simply won’t go away. It’s too important to the web ecosystem as a whole. We’ve gotten to a point where the web will never be without great, consistent blogging, There’s always going to be demand.

  8. Sorry I’m just getting around to responding, I’m behind on my podcast listening :(

    We didn’t do much analysis on that because we merely wanted to share the data.  Personally I think there’s a decline there because blogging is difficult and many companies don’t have the resources and/or the inclination to put in the effort.  And, like you said, “most corporate blogs are horrible” so I’m not overly upset to see those blogs decline.  

    ReadWriteWeb doesn’t think blogging is dead, because if so we’re all in trouble. :)

    • Hi Robyn, thanks for the comment. You know, perhaps the study didn’t really merit much analysis. New week, new drama. By the way, I found the Ragan article I talked about in the show that deconstructed the study results. It’s now in the show notes if you’re interested.

  9. I’m kicking myself for not keeping up every week and only just now listening to this episode. This particular episode is so spot-on with my new business. Do you have a policy regarding embedding this on other sites? I’m happy to link here as well….but this is simply something that my audience needs to hear.

  10. Thanks, Brian and Robert, for this great info.
    I’m on the verge of starting my first blog, so this was very helpful.