Each day on the Internet there are around 2m blog posts written, averaging 400 words each. At 800m words a day that’s enough to fill the pages of The Times for 22 years..! If the words written on blogs each day were printed into the format of The Times newspaper the pile of print would be as far as Usain Bolt can run in 10 seconds. It is increasingly hard to imagine the massive amount of content that is being produced every single day. Yet unlike the writers on The Times – or any other newspaper for that matter – most of the online bloggers are untrained in journalism. And therein lies a problem.
Journalists are keenly aware of their readers, listeners or viewers. Indeed they are often so keen to produce content for them that the people who provide them with much of their raw material – public relations professionals, marketing people and publicists – often think the newspaper writers are rude or obnoxious. Some may be, but most are just focused on their audience, the people who consume their content. They are so keen to ensure they provide the right story for their particular readers or listeners that it can seem like they are riding roughshod over the people who provide the stories in the first place.
This is evident in something like the Olympics when a breathless athlete who has just lost the race is asked “how do you feel”. It seems crass and rude, but the journalist is merely trying to get the human emotion of what happened in the race, which audience research consistently shows is what we want as viewers.
The vast and much bigger army of bloggers is not used to being so impertinent. In addition, most of the world’s bloggers do not know the journalistic code of ethics which separates the news supplier from the audience. This means that newspapers do not therefore slavishly report what politicians tell them to print (and they still do think they can do this) but the reporters get the other side of the story and print something which would interest their audience. Similarly, if a business reporter is at some company where they have a lavish product launch, the newspaper writer will get the views of independent experts as well, rather than take what the company says at face value.
Bloggers, though, may not be used to the desire to get balance or to get both sides of the story. Many do, of course, but with 800m words being written each day, there’s the possibility that many will be writing biased material.
That is precisely the problem which a US judge dealt with in a recent case between Google and Oracle where they were ordered to reveal the names of bloggers who had been paid by their company. Transparency is required for a blog reader to be able to make a judgement as to the value of the content. Newspaper journalists do this as a matter of course, but many bloggers are not aware of such protocols.
But there is a deeper issue than this; who is the blog for? If a blogger is willing to write things whilst being paid to write them it is possible that their focus is on making money. Indeed, all across the Internet you can find advice about making sure your business blog makes money. There are tips on using the right keywords to attract the best number of advertising clicks, for instance. Much of the blogging world is focused on creating content that generates cash in some way. This is a completely different focus to the professional journalist who focuses solely on the audience.
Last week I ran a workshop on social media and I spoke about the “audience” for a company blog. One individual challenged me and said that I should not call blog readers “an audience”. He said that to do so meant that I was focused on providing something for THEM whereas a business should be focused on what a blog achieved for the company.
Needless to say, I disagreed. The problem with many of the 800m words a day written online is that they are not written from the perspective of the audience, but from the point of view of the writer who is frequently concerned with earning cash from their writing, rather than service to an audience. Journalists – whatever you may think about their profession – do have one feature in common: their relentless focus on their audience – they let other people in the building worry about the finances.
Maybe that’s what bloggers should do. Focus on the audience and the money will look after itself.
- 5 Things to Know Before Using Bloggers to Grow Your Brand (forbes.com)
- Why Bloggers Should Freelance (problogger.net)
- Blogging Supplanting Science Journalism (scienceandmedia.wordpress.com)