What’s a Blog?

What's a blog?

As we get settled into 2008, I’m really looking forward to see how things evolve in the world of blogging. Just in the two years that Copyblogger has been live, things have changed a lot.

And yet, we’re barely into the new year and I have repeatedly bumped up against old school bloggers who are still spouting the same dogma from circa 2004. What’s scary is that these blogging “experts” are in the marketing and public relations field, and should be a bit more in tune with what’s happening now and what’s coming next.

Even scarier, these “experts” purport to advise the Fortune 500. These are the people Hugh MacLeod says are serving meatball sundaes to the clueless corporate crowd.

You’ve heard the old saws before:

  • Blog posts should never be over 350 words
  • If you want to post articles, you should move to another format
  • You must post every day

Hey, I’ve certainly got no problem with blogging advice, but I’d certainly like it to reflect the current state of the art. And when it comes to things like post length and frequency, what ever happened to it depends?

It depends on your audience, your goals, your resources, and what works… right? And if we listen to these time warp pundits, how would we ever create anything remarkable when we’re all cookie-cutter blogging?

When it comes to blogging advice, I try to stick to fundamentals of solid writing. Ultimately, blogging is just a platform that doesn’t alter the basics. You’re either writing something compelling that resonates with readers, or you’re not.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where blogging is going lately. And I think I’ve got a decent grasp on where it’s at today.

But what do you think?

What’s a blog?

Since some corporate blogging consultants seem to be not paying attention, what have you noticed that’s changed over the years?

Where do you think blogging is going?

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  1. I think it’s important – whether you blog, write articles, or write books – to never let your predecessors or the “norm” define your style.

    If everybody on the planet is writing >350 word blog posts every day and you’re throwing out a 2000 word blog post every week that is packed with interesting material, then you’ll probably stand out and grab hold of an audience that wasn’t being satisfied by other blogs.

    While there are certainly mainstream ways to be successful, it is never the only way to do things.

  2. I see two different targets for the blogs …

    1.- Microblogging, tracking back to the past, with no more than 400 words per post, Twitter style
    2.- Inspired articles= new journalism, as the new media representation, with insider views of reality thats surround us

    I’m on the “long” side :D

  3. The more “rules” we put around blogging, the more intimidating it will be to individuals and businesses alike, and the fewer unique opinions and insights we’ll have across the Web. That would be a shame.

    Plenty of individuals and businesses don’t yet have the time or resources to blog every day, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something interesting to add to the conversation.

    There will likely always be a blogosphere heirarchy – the Seth Godins and Steve Rubels will be top-tier because they blog frequently and are incredibly smart & insightful. But the long-tail online has plenty of room for those who blog far less frequently, and aren’t quite as earth-shatteringly brilliant in each and every post.

  4. I like what is being said here. The free-form, freestyle, or “it depends” way of blogging is appealing to the masses. In my opinion, it’s all the small, niche bloggers (the long tail) that matter when defining a medium. The internet and the restrictions of technology themselves put plenty of parameters on what blogging can and cannot be. I think it’s up to bloggers to define the next style of online communication, invent the next genre of writing style. My opinion: please leave out the strict rules and definitions of blogging–let the individual create. If you’re not the creative type, however, there will always be bloggers who will give you their opinion and personal set of rules.

  5. It is interesting that there was an unofficial 350 word limit. Making a distinction between Blogs and Articles.

    Now that is no longer the case as blogs have become so mainstream and influential.

    Looking at the Technorati 100 and top corporate blogs – they can be:
    advertising resources,
    multimedia,
    online magazines with comments and shorter articles, political advocacy writings to garner support for issues,
    product / service updates by executives
    etc.

    They can often be a thousand of more words and be constantly updated 24/7 due to competition for eyeballs.

    In the beginning it was just an easier outlet to get something off your chest – now it is much more commercial.

    Never before in history could one comment DIRECTLY to the CEO of SUN of a high official in Google or product marketing heads in large corporations.

  6. I think folks are starting to realise that the idea of making a full time living from blogging is a pipe-dream. Blogging should be an attraction strategy for other products or services (as you mention in your report) or for fun, or for both :-) ~ James

  7. I’ve never actually counted how many words are in ANY of my posts, or anyone else’s for that matter.

    Good blog formatting certainly helps for reading, but in the end, as many have said, “Content is King.”

    It seems that blogging, in time, may become the next huge medium (or perhaps it already has), to be mentioned in the same breath as “print, radio, and television”.

    That may mean that blogging can manipulate the masses just the same as those big three.

    At the same time, with the difference being that anyone can start a blog (at low cost), perhaps that low barrier of entry will ensure a type of democracy on the web (with social sites “voting” who deserves to be heard, etc., and yet even non-voted voices can still be found).

    Interesting times, we live in.

  8. Well why would you want to follow rules about blogging? Why would you want to put rules down for blogging. To be brutaly honest, people are regulated to much already. To be original and “fresh” you need to think outside the box. Because everything thats in the box has already been done or is known. Outside the box is either new or forgotten.

  9. From a blog reading newbie: RSS and Readers negates the need to post everyday. I would rather read a GREAT new post every couple of weeks than MEDIOCRE daily posts.

  10. I heard at a committee meeting yesterday that blogging is dead. Passe, old school… you could hear the sigh of relief from those who have resisted…It was a technology committee meeting.

    I think it may have been sort of tongue in cheek.

  11. I think that you’re right, but I can’t say for certain it’s because I want you to be right.

    Jakob Nielsen caught some flak a couple of months ago for advising his friend, in his friend’s situation, to write articles, not a blog.

    I don’t see why a blog can’t be articles and articles can’t be on a blog platform. As you say, it depends.

    In my case, we have a collection of articles and short blog posts, depending on the very things you mention… time, resources, goals, etc.

  12. I am sure there will be a few blogs that become social media platforms, and become a profit center ! I am retired and 71 years old and blogging keeps me in touch with many avenues of information ! I have a masters degree in Semantic Jazz, and just keep playing my tunes ! Copy-blogger gives me well written content to read !

  13. Gee, Brian; that photo up there looks like my very first post from 1-1/2 years ago! How’d you know? :-D

    I’ve found that whatever length it takes to say what has to be said is the correct length. If you can do it in 300 words, great! If it takes 2000 words – but is still just as rich in content and rewarding to read – go for it!

    Over time, my particular style has developed into an average of about 1,000 words per article. But it’s not “set in stone”; it’s just where I usually happen to finish what I’m trying to say!

    Although 1,000 words sounds like a lot, it only takes a few minutes for the average person to read. Not really that long. The key question, though, is: can I keep someone’s attention that long? If so, then I consider my writing to be successful!

  14. HA HA HA.

    I write in my blog (in spanish, http://www.BlogoscopioSociatico.com) about the idea of a company becoming an organic organization, so it will adapt faster, get new customers more easily and have their workers happier. A blog definetely needs to stay ORGANIC, which means, it needs to ADAPT to the changes.

    We are trying to play with the new toys using the old rules.

    Nacho

  15. I enjoy reading the posts here from everyone. Blogging as a small business owner and author, I like to hear that we can use creativity and feed back from our audience to determine our content. I feel that the best way to deliver content is to form a strong relationship with your readership. Of course for us that are new to blogging it is a mysterious challenge to find and create a loyal readership. It seems that in our society today, most people are busy and have little time to read and respond. I will keep dropping by in hopes of finding a magic formula for creating my niche, forming lasting relationships, and empowering them to speak up and join in a meaningful conversation.

  16. When I’m asked what a blog is I just say, an easy to update website.

    Whilst the easy is important, the update bit is key, however often you do so just make sure it is useful stuff for your readership.

    I remember being in a talk where I was told the most popular page on an internal wiki was how to dial an outside line, it was written up in a couple of paragraphs but useful to many.

  17. A blog is a platform

  18. I think this is an interesting subject, because I often get “you’re not a blog” when people see my website. I break most of the rules: I don’t post the whole article on the main page, I don’t “look” like traditional blogs, my articles are usually longer 300 words. I’ve even been refused by some blog directories because I don’t “look like a blog”.

    I think that notion is changing though as blogs evolve and become more mainstream. The distinction between media outlet and blog is becomming blurred, and I think that scares many people. Many feel blogs should look and act like blogs, so it is easier to classify the website.

    I think that the definitions stifle creativity. Maybe we should drop the term “blog” and just go back to “website”. :)

  19. Great stuff here, Brian.

    Re the post lengths, I tend to be wordy on my posts because it’s my style. I do agree that there are folks that won’t take the time to read it, though, if it’s too long.

    With respect to posts longer than 1000 words, I agree that 1000 isn’t huge. But it’s also the equivalent of four typed pages. Most people that I know – even the lawyers – don’t take the time out of their day to read that much content unless it’s excellent. And we all know that there is a lot of content out there that’s, er, not excellent.

    Writing frequently can be a good way to feed lots of information quickly – and that’s why a lot of people surf the net. My readers want to know what’s going on in small chunks of info. I write about tax, which can be difficult sometimes. My readers don’t want a lengthy analysis of the economic stimulus plan – they want to know what it means for them.

    Identify your readers and know they are a part of your community. Find your voice. Hopefully those things are symbiotic.

  20. No rules, Brian. Set your goals. Blog to your audience. And see what happens (measure success). Really. Harald

  21. Blogging has continued to evolve into a communication method that people enjoy. I think the “standards” that Brian points out that have been laid out by others are not truly standards and those dispensing the advice should be more focused on blogs of value. I know in the blogs that my brother and I advise on or operate we can’t always post 1 a day but we do try to focus on making quality posts as Brian has said to do time and again. I think it is important that bloggers focus on making sure that they deliver value not just content as we have seen some do. I would rather read 1 good post a week from someone than see 7 posts that aren’t worth reading.

  22. I don’t think blogging is going anywhere, but just like so many Internet marketing tactics I see a lot of people starting blogs that really shouldn’t. Whenever the focus is on driving traffic to a web site and not on providing value to the readers you end up with garbage. If you’ve got nothing remarkable to say, nothing worth reading, blogging is an utter waste of your time.

    As far as where blogging is going, I’d say that the general format of the blog isn’t going anywhere. However, what I think is still on the rise is the blog as a means of conversation. More often than not the comments are just as valuable as the post itself if not more so. Whether or not there is a better way to hold these discussions than the current post/comment model I don’t know – but I have found myself more and more inclined to spend time in the comments section in search of valuable opinions, observations and resources.

  23. I’m very sorry to inform you, Brian..and I’m sure you will hate to read this. But this is *not* a blog. And you are not a *blogger*.

    I can tell you what most people think a blog is. A blog is a little sister posting about the latest lolcat image she found on digg through her sidekick.

    This, in contrast, is a daily creativity and writing seminar published by an expert in his field.

    Don’t believe me? Ask around. It’s a word with negative connotations already associated with it.

    This is not a blog. And I hate the word blog.

    So, where do I think it’s going? I think ‘lolcats’ is a good way to answer that.

    Please do me a favor. Use your undoubted clout in the blogging world to find a new, professional word that more accurately describes the immense benefit your writing delivers. Even eZine is better….-ugh- Then get your friends to start using that word as well.

    I would be thankful.

    And for the record, this is the first time I’ve seen the site in months. I love the daily delivery of articles to my email. So far, it’s only you and http://www.freelanceswitch.com in there.

  24. Blogging is independent voice, a format. The mechanics of it do determine distribution, but content is king. In a creative culture, resonating content will always succeed. Confusing the medium with the message is a mistake. Thinking somehow craftsmanship and elegance has to be reinvented is also a mistake. Underestimating the intelligence of one’s audience, yep, mistake. What isn’t a mistake is consideration of authentic voice. Of bringing value to the exchange…rules? Basics are pretty solid: Form and function+ authentic voice= staying power IMO.
    The rest is tech.
    All best, Jan

  25. For me, a good blog is simply a succesful one. In order to be succesful, it only has to convince its target audience, whatever it is. People may have opinions on how to attain this goal, but these are just opinions as there are many, many kinds of audiences…
    I think a blog is nothing more than a publishing tool, it is not a “genre” by itself. In other words, a blog is just a website powered by a simplified CMS. Period. Need a slogan? “No rules, great blogs”… :)

  26. Watching my blog-reading habits, I find that over-posting saps my interest proportionately. I’d far rather read a great post once a week, than a bustled-together so-so post every 1-3 days. Examples of infrequent posters whose content you can rely on: Coding Horror, The Jem Report, ToDoOrElse.

  27. A blog is just a chronologically ordered website.

    Other than that, there really shouldn’t be any rules. Everyone speaks with their own individual style, and the same thing is true of blogging. I’d hope that more people might consider spellchecks and cutting down on 100s of widgets – but it’s down to me to just stop visiting any blogs I don’t enjoy or agree with.

    And @bluesquare I totally disagree. Seminar or e-zine conjures up paying money to read something which I’ve usually already discovered for myself, or could have researched in a few minutes. There shouldn’t be any more negative connotation to blog than there should be to CMS, website, or book.
    A blog is a valid genre of website, the same as an autobiography is a valid genre of book. And the intellectual heavyweights and trashy sit alongside each other.
    Maybe another post on your own blog after four years might help you enjoy blogs more…

  28. Blogging is ceratinly nothing new for sure. However, the application for providing ‘recency’ to an audience is an ever-evolving task.

  29. It’s whatever jazzes you and your readers. My blog is intended as a peek inside my brain – which I hope will be both fun and educational (most days anyway). That may be a 15 word post or a 150 word post…or 650. I do try to keep it short so people can grok the idea and get on with their lives. But, that doesn’t mean people should never ever write a long post. It’s whatever works for you and your readers.

  30. I use blogs as connections. I actually prefer reading blogs that update once or twice weekly. As busy as I am, I don’t want to constantly filter through my RSS reader to find good content. I want to hear what you have to say when it is significant without extra noise.

    Blogs are simply a platform just like paper. Frequency and length of content can fluctuate depending on who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to provide. In the age of RSS readers, I don’t need an update everyday to know that your site is still alive.

  31. Brian, I hear what you’re saying. It seems that people just get stuck at a certain time period and have hard time learning anything new after that.

    Business blogs are especially problematic, for the reasons you specified (consultants still living in the past) but also for another very important reason: even the best current advice and rule-breaking for blogs is NOT often correct for a business blog.

    There are tremendous gaps in how we should conceive and manage business blogs. If you follow typical blogging advice, however good, you will wind up with a successful blog that does not further the business and which in fact may be a drain on business resources. This is why business people are so concerned about the ROI of blogging… they should be.

    What you do here on Copyblogger is wonderful–you actually show people the exact how of creating compelling content. What we’re trying to do over at Gateway Blogging is this very thing, but for business blogs, and starting earlier in the process of the business itself.

    Business blogging is still in its infancy. We think there are better ways to do it than what we’ve been shown so far.

    I think 2008 is going to really big for business blogging.

  32. It is interesting to me how many people still freak out over the word “blog.” When I mention I have a blog to non-wired people, they say “I don’t know how to read those. Is it hard to set up?”

    These are people who use email and buy from Amazon and send cards on Blue Mountain and sell their old crap on eBay. But blogs (and Digg, Stumble etc. even more so) are still uncharted territory to them, thus full of dragons and sea monsters.

    Folks who read blogs would be amazed at how many people think you need special software to read them, or who think it’s something technical or complicated, or who associate the word with anything they’re afraid of in that weird Internet place.

    OTOH, since I’m trying to get a job as a Social Media expert, and to create information products for people who want to know more, this is good news for me. The greater the cluelessness at large, the more opportunities for explanation and clarification.

  33. Last year I gave up blogs for lent (among other things) and then caught up on them through a few marathon reading sessions post-Easter Sunday. I came away strangely disappointed and blogged about it, and felt my basic thoughts meshed with Brian’s a little bit. If you think about it, a new reader to your blog will experience things similarly to my marathon reading sessions. Check it out, if you’re interested.

  34. I find “blog” a really crappy descriptor. Its defined differently by everyone.

    For me.. they are all still just websites.

  35. Blogging, like all things we do in life, needs to be practiced reflexively. We need to be flexible enough to adapt to new innovations within the medium, and we need to stop imposing restrictions and strict rules pertaining to ‘good practice’ on those who are just beginning their blogging adventure. I think the future for blogging, and Web 2.0 in general, looks vibrant, and I also think that one of the directions in which blogs will move this year is towards greater integration in lifestreaming. I think a lot of what David Gelernter says in his manifesto is finally going to come to fruition in 2008. Exciting times ahead!

  36. Random thoughts…latest funny video to share…and, yes, also a useful marketing tool.

    That IS what a blog is, and so much more!

    Actually, a blog – like any other tool – is what you make of it.

    In comparison: You could give 3 people a pencil and each would use it in a different way:

    1. Doodle or draw sketch art
    2. Write a great story
    3. Nervously bite on it and get nothing done (other than creating teethmarks on wood)

    So, where are blogs headed? You decide!

    Here are some unique ways I have suggested my clients use their blogs:

    FAQs: Each time a client or prospect calls and asks you a question that you have heard a million times before, go to your blog and write up the answer as a post entry – not only can you direct people there in the future, it will help visitors who are searching your site (and maybe even help to increase search engine rankings)

    NEWSLETTERS:
    1. Take your complete newsletter and post it on your blog for those who don’t want to sign up for your email – I know, some people are saying, “But then why would anyone sign up for my newsletter?” Well…to be sure to get notification of the latest issue, of course (for those who don’t understand RSS feeds) I had one small client do this and increase their mailing list from 178 to 1028 email subscribers in just a couple of months.
    2. OK, you don’t want to post the whole newsletter (for some odd reason), so create several teasers in your newsletter leading people back to your blog to read the full content of the feature article for instance (also have notes on the blog post telling people they get more content from signing up for the whole newsletter)
    3. Let Your Posts Dictate Your Newsletter – once a month collect several of your personal favorites and send out a newsletter (with teasers directing people back to your blog). This is especially helpful for that part of your audience who are old school and don’t understand RSS Feeds

    There are a ton of unique ways to use blogs and the beauty of is you get to decide exactly how ‘you’ choose to use them. But again, you need to take action and ‘use them’ for them to work.

    Hopefully, your choice won’t be to nervously bite at the corner of your keyboard and instead you’ll find fun and unique ways to get your info out.

    Focusing on the many possibilities…
    Bethany

  37. If anyone needs a “corporate blogging consultant” my advice is – stay away, don’t even think of starting!

  38. The question is: What’s a blog? Not how many ways can I peripherally promote my own blog through CopyBlogger comments.

    I respect Michael A. Stelzner for many reasons: Beyond his contributions as a white paper writer and coach, his brevity of comment on this blog.

    I’d like to piggy back on his answer “A blog is a platform”. It is that, indeed. I might call it a “channel”. One of many used to reach your audience.

    A blog is a channel.

  39. 326 words, I think you’re doing fine! :)

  40. The whole point of a blog is that you set your own rules.

    If people are interested, people will read your blog.

    If they’re really interested, maybe they’ll come back.

    I’m pretty new to the game. I’m a copywriter by trade but, when it comes to my blog, I try not to worry about the rules.

    And neither should you.

    Your blog’s somewhere where you’re free to write about whatever you want. If you want to draw thousands of readers, that’s up to you. But you don’t have to bust a gut. You can just have fun, too.

  41. I think it’s a moving target, but for most folks it’s a forum to post your thoughts on personal or business issues. Unfortunately, it has increasingly become the playground of FLAKs who spout press releases ad nauseum.
    For others, it may be a way to easily and effectively design a content-driven site. This is what I’m trying to iterate to my mom, who owns an independent bookstore and has no interest in creating a website. A Blog would fit her just fine, since she can update “weekly specials” and invite intelligent conversation from members and guests.

    A Blog is what you put into it.

  42. I think that you’re spot on Brian. That said, I do think that traditional writing paradigms need to be [re]evaluated for modern readers. Microcontent is the new black. The attention demands on readers today are stretched. Many online readers engage in a continuous flow of conversation and consume content in smaller chunks on smaller spaces. The emergence of microformats such as Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce and Facebook demonstrate the shift from long form to short.

    But, to reiterate what you proposed in this post, some content demands a longer form. I discussed this not too long ago in my post How to Adapt Content for Skimming Eyes on Smaller Spaces

  43. Weird timing! I have been in the planning phases of offering training modules on my blog but have been torn as to whether to give them away for free or charge for them.

    Then, last night I came across your ebook and soaked it all up. I am seriously considering purchasing your teaching sells program to help me decide the next steps.

    So to me, blogging is the ultimate brand awareness mechanism known to man kind allowing you to take things in any direction you choose.

  44. The emergence of microformats such as Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce and Facebook demonstrate the shift from long form to short.

    That would be a great sentence if you ended it with “for some people.” The biggest mistake I see over and over in new media is people assuming that others share their personal consumption preferences.

  45. A shift is a shift, whether it is for a few or many.

  46. Well sure, but it you discuss a shift without qualification, isn’t that somewhat like saying “never post over 350 words?”

    Some people love Twitter, but some don’t. In fact, Twitter is virtually unknown outside of our little social media echo chamber.

    All I’m saying is don’t follow the herd and you might just come up with something cool. There are vast numbers of people online that can become part of your audience, but if you are drinking too much Twitter kool-aid (for example) you might make an incorrect assumption about what “normal” people want or prefer.

  47. Sure, it’s not a bad idea to keep posts relatively short, but if what you have to say requires more than 350 words, it’s better to cover your ground than to leave important points out of your message. I think a post full of holes is more detrimental than one that takes an extra couple of minutes to read.

  48. “A blog is a platform”

    See, this I like. This thing I started almost a year and a half ago… it’s sort of a fiction publication/it’s sort of a weblog/it’s sort of a… no idea. Mainly, I use the weblog software/framework to publish it. Where’s the line? Does it somehow become “not a weblog” if it doesn’t follow certain rules? Can anything that uses the platform count as a weblog?

  49. Very nice…. Great question, “What’s a blog.” It’s strange to see what blogging has become, and more strange to think about where it’s going. Very true that Corporate America looks at blogs to help, or supplement their current marketing efforts… But that almost defeats the purpose of a true Blog, or web blog. I say, everyone who blogs should say what’s on their mind… not what they think their readers want to hear.

  50. Since when have big corporations ever listened to what anyone else has to say? 350 words? Pffft. You say what you have to say and the post ends when it ends.

    Blogging to me is a way to reach out with a little personality to potential clients . We tried the all info short posts in the beginning and after a while, everything was as bland as a no salt diet.

  51. I suppose a blog is a way to share knowledge and make money? But I don´t understand all the things of RSS feeds and all of that stuff. But I suppose I have to learn.

    Best wishes,

  52. I agree Brian. New media (like microformats) are often hyped – even though the majority of the 1 Billion Internet users don’t use them.

    There is no denying though, that the Internet has created a super-voluminous library of content. As a result, sifting through it all requires that we adapt our reading behaviors because (some) of us don’t have the time to digest lengthy posts when searching for relevance.

    To that end, I think that bloggers, emailers and any other modern communicators would be wise to:

    1. Get to the relevant part quickly
    2. Link to more depth when necessary

    That’s not to say that we should stop short of including as much detail as necessary to adequately cover the topic at hand. Just that (some) online content consumers will stop reading after the first paragraph if they don’t find enough relevance to warrant continuing.

    So, while long-form communication shouldn’t be neglected, short-form (microcontent) should be embraced as well. It’s really about breaking stuff up in easily digestible chunks for an online audience.

    In Japan, novels are now being distributed via mobile phones. Personally, I wouldn’t be interested.

  53. Effective communication (online and off – regardless of the platform) requires adherence to one of the oldest tenets: Know your audience.

    Is your audience reading your blog on their mobile phone? Are they getting the RSS feed? Do they print your post to read by the fire on a cold winter’s night?

    I don’t think that you have to sacrifice skimmers for readers. Short for long. You can satisfy both.

    Slice it, dice it, write it, link it.

    As evidenced in my comments, sometimes it’s hard to be brief. For more on the importance of brevity, read my post I Can Convey That Message in Two Notes

  54. The journalists and media houses of tomorrow are the blogger’s of today. Mark my words here this day.

  55. Like anything that is ever published in the name of art or of science, it’s just about end users. That’s the be all and end all. Tom O’Leary put it in simple terms: Know Your Audience.

  56. @Brian, Twitter koolaid? I love that. JC

  57. The definition of a blog must change over the years and adapt to the ever changing world. Like a previous poster said, to him blogs are still just websites, and I think a lot of people view them in such ways.

    But when will they truly become more? Will blogs be transmitted over radio air waives in the future? Will a blog be information that can be downloaded to a memory stick and transferred to car’s CD player or iPod?

    Personally, I think the next move for blogs is to become more mobile and accessible to everyone.

    What do you guys think?

  58. While it’s true that there are standards in blogging, I think that what’s important is that you know what you’re talking about and that you manage to captivate your audience with what you have to say — whether it’s in a witty way or in a matter-of-fact approach. Blogging isn’t solely about trends and stuff. It’s about knowing how to connect with your audience and then keep them.

  59. Rather than conforming our webmastering to any non-natural standard, we should simply do whatever it is that works for us. By this, I mean that if they don’t think it’s blogging, they don’t have to. It’s about the concepts causing the success, not the name of the game.

  60. I break each of the 3 saws ! My last post was about 900 words, I blog only every two weeks in average. I find blog the perfect format for me though. I even break one more: I have disabled comments. Yet I have good feedback from my readers through email.

    I believe it’s like many things in life: a kind of “what should be and how it should be” norm is kind of reassuring. But doing things differently can work a lot better…

  61. I’d agree… It does depend.

    The purpose of my blog and postings have changed and evolved since I started the site. And this is OK.

    And.

    It will continue to evolve and change.

    At this point, I am finding out that people are using my cartoons and blog entries as “conversation starters” with key people in an organization; something I never envisioned when I started this.

    Learning more every day!

    – mike vizdos
    http://www.implementingscrum.com
    http://www.michaelvizdos.com

  62. I still find it incredible how much the WWW has evolved in the last years. Just five years ago I would have never imagined the impact of blogs, and look what happened now.

    Good post, reminds me of how things can change and that one must be aware of changes.

  63. I’ve noticed a trend towards ‘blogs’ with little original content (post after post simply re-directing you to other peoples content).

    I see a trend towards bloggers offering little personal opinion other than of being hip to what is current and showing that they know how to blog.

    Bloggers are becoming timid as they try to cater to a possible audience rather than catering to a specific group. Will they lose a reader if they mention that they like a hiphop group? Will they look foolish if they wax poetic over a videogame they used to love?

    Will they be passed over for that promotion by writing what they really think about the latest company decision? yeah, social networking is drying up the brutal honesty and associated humor that semi-anonymity once offered.

    I see personal blogging being used as a resume rather than as a diary. Sure, we don’t care if blogged your new haircut but at least you wrote something honest. Now your former ‘haircut blog’ is carefully manipulated to show yourself off, gotta mention your awards, name drop and show your stabilityby mentioning the white picket fence and 2.4 kids.

    Now that your boss and co-workers can find your blog, your personal opinions will be as politically correct and bland as the polite conversation you make outside of the circle of friends who really do know you.

    Prove me wrong…

  64. So ‘blogging is just a platform’, eh? Actually I think blogging is a whole train station. I’ll explain the metaphor. In the very early days of rail, no one knew what a train station was supposed to look like, because none had ever existed before. The earliest surviving station, from 1830, looks like a row of Georgian houses. Quite quickly, though, station design settled down because it was becoming clearer what a station ‘ought’ to look like. There were really only two main approaches. One was that of Liverpool Street Station in Manchester – the Georgian house row – which said ‘I may be new technology, but I look just like the old and I fit into your expectations without disruption’. The opposite approach was to go for ostentation. Many of the major city stations say ‘Look at me! Now you’ve really arrived!’ What’s interesting is that in both cases the designs of the past were shamelessly copied and recycled. The main stations of Paris, for example, tend to look like French Chateaux. St Pancras in London is a serious neo-Gothic landmark. This is ironic because it housed cutting edge technology – the largest single span roof in the world and the world’s longest continuous passenger train run (all of 97 miles!). At first sight, however, George Gilbert Scott’s station frontage looked like a painting by John Ruskin of a centuries old Italian palace. So here comes the analogy. Blogs are new tech, but the temptation is to dress them up as old tech. They can easily look like journal entries, newspaper articles, letters, bibliographies, book chapters, transcripts and so on, if you want. People do this because either a) old is the only thing they can do, b) they just copy what everyone else does, or c) it’s a deliberate subterfuge. The alternative is to do something new. I mean really new. For my money, the new thing is not the literary form as such but the connectivity, the scaleability, the instantaneousness. In a way, the blog format has the potential to be like St Pancras Station. From the outside it looks a lot like an old fashioned 19th century pile, but when you get into it it has a brand new state of the art high speed link to Europe inside.

  65. Content is what keeps me coming back. Help me learn and you will have my attention.

  66. Some major blogs are turning into magazines. I’ve seen several blogs over the last couple of month change their theme from the the classic 2 column style to a magazine styled theme (including my own).

    I guess we’ll start calling ourselves conversation architect at some point too ;)

  67. Blogs are an ill-defined format. Hence, blog content is ill-defined.

    Blogs have different flavors: there are journals, clip books, soap boxes, photo logs, rant repositories, news nexuses, absolute garbage, columns, and others.

    And, like a well-cooked dish, blogs can mix flavors.

    Copyblogger: you write columns.
    ICANHAZCHEESBURGER: you are a droll photo log.
    PerezHilton: you write an absolute garbage blog construed as news.
    etc.

    Unfortunately, most bloggers aren’t chefs (to continue with the metaphor). The flavors are jumbled, like a Meatball Sundae (to invoke Seth Godin’s metaphor, but with a quite literal meaning). They are Subway “Sandwich Artists”– assembly line workers who use the ingredients but rarely produce anything palatable.

    Keep the chefs in the kitchen and force everyone else out.

    – Stop Blogging
    thisisironic.blogspot.com

  68. It’s always easy to flame, when you do not reveal your own name. Someone might return the favor, mr. Stop Blogging.

    Anyway, ofcourse a blog is an ill defined format, just like a website is. It’s a platform where people litterally spam their ideas on subjects they choose. You are not going to tell me your ideas are all instant gold. But some of them might. Maybe not now, but later. It’s always easy to say something is shit and worth nothing because it doesnt fit into the format. But that crap just might be gold some day.

  69. I’m a big believer in Content is King. I don’t care what the so-called experts say, as I do things MY way.

    Some posts/articles are on the shorter side, while other strategically targeted ones are quite a bit longer, but not so long that someone wouldn’t want to continue reading all the way to the end.

    I am by no means a follower, but I make my own rules and see what works and what does not and go from there. Experience is the best teacher.

  70. Great premise!

    For me, when I started blogging (two unrelated industries), I thought I would be posting 4-5 times a week. I soon found that quality over quantity was far more important, and well received.

    There may be some weeks I post 6 or 7 times, but those are the exception, and driven by events, usually.

    I am continually inspired by Seth Godin’s posts because they are often short and sweet. It is the point-of-view that causes a person to think that is most provocative.

    Because starting a blog has a low threshold of entry, the medium has attracted lots of activity, much of which has gone cold.

    Those bloggers that present helpful and interesting ideas and information, on a regular basis, will attract loyal readers and have a huge public relations tool.

    I have a friend and business associate who launched a business blog a year ago. He has made just three posts. The last one in July 2007. I’ve urged him to take down his blog, because its inactivity is embarrassing.

    As I’ve begun to hit my stride, I’m enjoying the writing more and more.

    Andy

  71. A blog by any other name – that can pull 70 comments in short period – would s(m)ell as sweet. A blog is compelling sustainably renewed content using all the resources that the internet makes available to contemporary senders and receivers. A digital wateringhole.

  72. I think blogging will become a big business. More and more people will be making money from their blogs. I just realized that the most valuable commodity at the moment is ‘traffic’, or ‘attention’. If you have a blog that is read by a million people per day, you’ve found yourself a goldmine!

  73. Such an interesting debate… Working in a Mental Health University Institute in Montreal (Canada) and having recently launched blogs for our experts (researchers, psychologists, social workers, etc.), I can tell that blogs are for us a wonderful way of transferring knowledge, educate people and sensitize the public on mental health issues (and therefore trying to destigmatize them). At the beginning, the experts that accepted my invitation of having a blog, barely knew what a blog was, and they are still a thousand miles from the world of social media. But as they were already good writers, passionate professors and lecturers I thought that a blog could be an excellent tool or “channel” to spread knowledge in a broader scale.
    One of our bloggers, a researcher and associate professor in neuroscience, explains in his first post why he choses to start blogging. He says: “I know that I won’t be able to see any real sparkles or smiles, hear any oooh and ahhs, from your side of the world-wide-web, blogging is not the same as lecturing. But sparkles and smiles are really just one form of communication; questions and commentary, discussion and dialog are possible through the blog. And if I receive feedback in this format, well then, in my mind’s eye, that constitutes a “virtual” smile (…) What I hope to do in this blog is to intiate discussion and debate. (…) Whether we agree or disagree, the point is that we have a mechanism that can encourage us think about issues in ways that we may not have done in the past.” You could read the entire post in http://www.blog.douglas.qc.ca/therochfordfiles.

    And I would be glad to have your comments since it is the first time we do such initiative,

    Best,
    Marie-Gabrielle

  74. a blog is (pick any or all from the list below, must not exclude number 4)

    1. Your Online address
    2. Your Online shop
    3. Your Online fan club
    4. Your Online image

  75. I have to agree that content is much more important than frequency. Nevertheless, there has to be minimum frequency. It doesn’t sell if you are posting once every other month. Perhaps once or twice a week and regularly on that schedule will do.

    The problem with blogging as with all information content on the web is that since it is open to anyone who wants to try, there is no control over quality and consequently, the qualities levels of the information out there have eroded significantly. What we need are content experts who can act as filters so that we are guaranteed a certain minimum of quality.

    Would we allow anyone to teach our kids in school? So why are we allowing everyone to put on the web the information that teaches us and our kids.

  76. You said it best when you said: “Ultimately, blogging is just a platform that doesn’t alter the basics. You’re either writing something compelling that resonates with readers, or you’re not.”

    Blogging is an ongoing conversation between you and your targeted audience.

    It has to be rich, vivacious, and keep the conversation moving.

    Finding an engaging blogger is akin to finding that engaging conversationalist at the office party – you just don’t want to let her out of your site, for you know, she’ll always find a compelling way to mesmerize you and draw you in.

    Thanks Brian, for keeping it engaging enough to make me look forward to tuning into you everyday!

  77. A blog is what you make of it.

  78. good thoughts! i think these two posts are really key to where blogging needs to go (and where it is successful right now):

    http://shawnblanc.net/2007/content-please/

    http://eyesandwings.wordpress.com/2007/12/14/whats-missing-in-blogging-is-boldness/

  79. James Considine :

    It’s all over, now that the pundits have descended!

    Actually, I find the pundits very useful in pointing out what not to do, think, say, or believe.

    Thank you to all for this valuable public service.

  80. WOW….lot’s of response on this article. I guess it is for sure a hot topic for so many people to feel they want to respond.

    In my business, blogging is representing the next step to differentiate myself from other realtors. Every one knows about the local ad space, the color brochures, caravans, open houses, CMA’s etc. I think it is more and more important to show your clients that you are invloved with the online world and not just a static template site with static info. Exposure is the key and the web provides numerous tools for this.

    Blogging allows for soft initial contact which naturally is preferred by most people. Non-aggressive at your own pace, you take what you want.

    I am excited about where blogging will go and what it can do to help my business as a real estate agent in Santa Barbara.

    take care

  81. I’ve been laboring over this very same topic for weeks. Since I’ve been unable to come up with a concrete, gut feeling, I’ve got one foot in Brian Gardner’s http://www.RevolutionTheme.com (magazine style blog/website/magazine), One in DoshDosh’s-Prosense Blog and one on Seth Godin’s Squidoo.

    No one egg in any one basket. I just keep feeling like somebody is going to surprise me with something great that I havent imagined yet! If you hear about it let me know!

  82. What’s a blog? What’s a blog? My semi-savvy online readership asks. Is that one of those online diary thingys…

    A Blog is JUST a platform – forget about it … revel in the amazing content I’m delivering to you – now what else would you like me to write about? How can we build a better community? How can we get more “social”?

    Oh and BTW I’m doing all this on something called a blog – it’s just a platform, boring as batshit … but seeing you asked. :-)

  83. Interesting post, Brian. Most people are skimmers. They skim an article for pertinent information and only dig in if the information meets their needs.

    Given this, I think it is more important to have a good layout with headings, bullets, or call-outs throughout the post. It is also really important to have pictures or graphics that will draw users in.

    My posts tend to be about 800 words in length, which is about a 5-7 minute speech if spoken. I do notice that traffic picks up slightly if I post everyday.

    If I had to limit my posts to three hundred words I wouldn’t be able to get my complete point or idea across.

    The most important thing to me is to make it interesting and to give readers something of value.

    John

  84. A blog is YOU.

    Unpolished, uncensored, imperfect, whimsical YOU.

    Whether you’re a solo pro or a big ‘n clunky corporate entity, your blog reveals all.

    It’s your representative at the cocktail party of life.

    So, are you…

    1) The Stuffed Shirt, with that uncomfortable-sounding fake laugh, boring people to tears because you love the sound of your own voice talking about snoozer items in your intellectual comfort zone?

    2) The Resident Flirt, smiling and touching arms and throwing your head back in provocative ways so as to make everyone feel like you want to sleep with them?

    3) The Delightful Mingler, listening more than talking, sharing interesting stories and opinions, and making everyone who interacts with you feel just a little bit better for having made your acquaintance?

    Be real. Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. And don’t stuff rules where they don’t belong, man. Like in the blogosphere.
    -LV

  85. I suppose a blog is anything the owner wants it to be. It’s really about personality and how much you are able to connect with an audience. Of course connecting with an audience isn’t easy, but the key i think is to always be yourself. If people are exposed to your blog and the come back, it’s probably because they like what you have to say. Which incidentally is why my feedburner counter is still at 0. But there you go

  86. I have actually used the blogging platform to keep in touch with friends. I have gotten super annoyed and sick of facebook and their intrusive nature.

    I created a blog where each of my friends is an editor, and we post funny stories pictures and more, and anyone can comment. It has turned into something I check daily before even email.

    To boot we are also no longer contributing to the growth of facebook, and there is no monetization or interests involved.

    On a side note, funny thing about blogs with a lot of comments, the ones at the end will never get read :)

    PS : Stop Blogging is an idiot and is just trying to piss people off to get traffic and links.

  87. Wow,

    I am learning a lot just from the comments here and appreciate all the different viewpoints and feedback that people have opened my eyes to (thank you!).

    I am seeing a trend (and I am focusing on a niche to a niche, if that is the right word) that if I do multiple postings per week, traffic grows steadily each week. It is a great thing to see; however, getting 80+ comments on a specific topic like this shows me the power that Brian has on his own personal blog (congratulations!) and I learn a lot from him.

    Hmmm… So I guess he is targeting his audience effectively!

    Thank you.

    – mike vizdos (a software geek)
    http://www.implementingscrum.com (comic strips)
    http://www.michaelvizdos.com (personal site, no blog)

  88. Wow, what a great lot of comments going on here. I read each and everyone one of them (and there’s a lot).

    @ Small Fuel – you brought up a good point. Anyone can post content and the quality of information suffers. Would we allow anyone to teach our children in the same way? (shudders) I hope not.

    @ Brian – I can’t stand Twitter or any form of social media. I’m barraged by people telling me to do it. I don’t like it, so why should I? And my blog is still doing just fine without using it.

    Post length: I opt for what works in the most concise yet entertaining manner.

    What’s a blog?: A place I can write and not have to ask my designer to post it for me.

  89. I can’t stand Twitter or any form of social media.

    Aren’t blogs social media? :-)

  90. Shhhhh. You’re ruining my stance.

  91. :)

  92. Hi all,

    A couple months ago, Clive Thompson wrote an article for Wired, “Your Outboard Brain Knows All”:

    http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/15-10/st_thompson

    Brian, here’s the relevant quote your “What’s a blog?” question brought to mind:

    “I’ve been blogging for four years, which means I’ve poured out about a million words’ worth of my thoughts online. This regularly produces the surreal and delightful experience of Googling a topic only to unearth an old post that I don’t even remember writing. The machine helps me rediscover things I’d forgotten I knew — it’s what author Cory Doctorow refers to as an ‘outboard brain.'”

    To me, that’s a third of what a blog is – a tool for capturing the knowledge, experience, emotion, and passion otherwise locked away in your brain.

    The second third is the whole conversation thing, which I won’t belabor.

    The third third is your intent. Win friends? Influence poeple? Sell stuff? The blog is the product of your intention – for good, ill, or anything in between.

    –AV
    “A-Ha Yourself!”

  93. This article has pointed over a serious issue that i was facing.My posts were too short as compared to the required.Posting frequency is an issue that can be resolved.But increasing the post length is something that can be increase by this blog.Nice one dear.

  94. This is one of the few and far between – a blog that’s actually worth reading. What a delight!

  95. *gasp* There are rules??

    Ok, only when I am at work. I write a corporate blog that exists soley to increase search rankings. There is a certain dull formulaic approach. My personal blog is for me though, about what I want to say. The goal for it is to entertain myself, get stuff off my chest, and if possible, connect with others.

  96. I new to blogging, and I love it. However, I do sometimes find it confusing. Everything in the internet sphere seems to move so fast . . .

    It is my belief that, in personal blogging, the best thing you can do is . . .

    *Study master bloggers — decide what you like/dislike
    *Read ‘Copyblogger’
    *Decide what works best for you and your particular blog
    *Then, go for it! Write, and be yourself.

  97. I think that blogging is going wherever creativity is:
    Everywhere.

    There are the straight-edge people, posting about an exact report on their day. The bloggers for money, posting a series of articles then selling advertising. The ranters, the angsty teenagers posting long tirades about this, that, and how themselves are everything and a bag of chips. Then there’s the poets, the prose, the artistic community trying to reach out for one another.

    And, of course, there’s everything in between all of these. :3

  98. Blog for me is the phenomenal things that ever happen in the internet world. You can write anything you want to voice out through blog and make some money from it.

  99. A blog is it’s own interactive medium that has yet to be fully explored.

  100. Why restrict the blog in boundaries.

    Today blog is almost anything you can imagine from journal to CMS.

    There are people who resist change.

    There are people who do not even bother about the dogma.

    Write and publish as you like it.

  101. From a blog reading newbie: RSS and Readers negates the need to post everyday. I would rather read a GREAT new post every couple of weeks than MEDIOCRE daily posts.

  102. Length or frequency of blog posts is a personal rather than general issue. I wouldnt subscribe to a general rule if my objective is to succeed. I have never met one successful person who played by the general rule …success comes from being different and making a difference, and not the other way round!

    PS.
    Im also a newbie, lol.

  103. Wow! What a huge question. What’s a blog? No one seems to have a real answer for it either. It inspires endless debate. People still want to find out. Better yet, you could ponder the question, What’s my blog? What comes from that could really rock your world.

    Blogging is self publishing at its best.

    Other questions for me are, What was blogging supposed to be? And, What has blogging become?

  104. I am trying to find the answer to this question as part of my thesis but here is my (simplistic?) view. I think that a blog can only be described as such if the posts are written in a personal style and not in the third person way. Surely a blog represents the personal view of an individual; their beliefs, thoughts, musings, etc and not just as a commercial for their product or service.

    Blogging has moved on so much and has morphed into something completely different from its original concept that I think there should be a new name for non personal blogs so people know what they are getting when they visit the site.