The word ‘blog’ comes from the running together of the words ‘web’ and ‘log’ to form ‘weblog’ or ‘blog’, for short. But just what is a blog?
A blog is a website which allows individuals, groups, businesses (basically anyone) to write articles – known as ‘posts’ – and publish them on the web.
There are over 70 million blogs on the web today covering a huge range of subjects. You name it, there will someone blogging about it. But it’s not just a one-way street. The blogger shares information and allows others to read it and comment on it right there on the web page. If enough readers add their respective comments, a discussion often ensues with readers commenting on other people’s comments. The original article plus the comments often represents a more rounded treatment of the original subject matter.
In the news at the time I wrote this post (March 2010): travelling with your smart-phone in the EU could land you a huge bill for data downloads (a cap will apply after 1st July 2010); Opera browser downloads are up by 130% after Microsoft gives us ‘browser choice’; HSBC Switzerland admits losing 24,000 customer records after security breach; 1 in 4 British youngsters have tried to hack into their friends’ Facebook accounts; Gordon Brown to promise ‘super-fast’ broadband for all by 2020; the Wiltshire town of Highworth is first to install a ‘wi-fi cloud’ providing all residents with free wireless Internet access; you can now play chess on Twitter.
Information wants to be free
A blog is very often linked to other blogs with the same area of interest or expertise. In so doing, communities of interest are quickly forged and the volume of shared knowledge increases accordingly. Best of all, anyone, from anywhere, can participate. This level of participation is far, far removed from traditional print media like newspapers, where you might get a letters page with a couple of ‘handpicked’ (by the editor) submissions dealing with subjects which appeared in the paper days or weeks ago.
Blogs are started predominantly by individuals who have a burning desire to share information freely about their chosen subject, hobby or field of expertise. It’s only relatively recently that businesses have seen the value of blogging as a way of presenting a ‘less corporate’ image. TV and online newspapers are now continually inviting us to ‘get involved’ by submitting our comments on news stories via email, text message and the ubiquitous comment forms which appear beneath the news articles. Imagine that. They want to know what we think.
Cynically, one might say that the only reason they invite us mere mortals to comment is that some administrator somewhere needs to let the managers know whether anyone is actually watching/reading what they’re putting out. Rather like a local radio station phone-in about whether clothing for pets is cruel, is actually a ruse to assess listener numbers.
The balance of publishing power is shifting
But I think it’s way more significant than that. You see social media outlets like Blogger and Twitter have represented a shift in the balance of news-reporting and news-making power away from the established media interests. Because ordinary people throughout the world now have the power to publish their news immediately, you’ll get to hear about things that matter to you much more quickly on the blogosphere or on Twitter. The tables have turned and I really don’t think they saw it coming – and now they’re jumping around on the touch-line with their best smiles on shouting “can I play too, oh please, oh please, oh please!”.
Google loves blogs
It’s a fact that Google loves blogs. Why? Because it knows that the information contained in a blog is likely to be fresh, current, updated regularly and relevant to the subject matter it deals with. So, adding a blog to your website can be a very effective way of getting more visitors.
Do some people make a living from blogging? Hell yeah!
Professional bloggers do exist. They are usually individuals who establish themselves, via their blog, as an authority in their field. If they are good enough, the audience is hooked and will keep coming back for more. High visitor rates attract advertisers who buy space on the blog to advertise their products. The blog owner derives an income from this. The more visitors the higher the income.
This model is quite interesting as it suggests that customers interested in a particular subject will allow a blog to steer them towards a product rather than go directly to the manufacturer’s website. A good blogger, therefore, is often better at marketing than the manufacturer!
Can you start a blog? Why not? Everyone knows something about something, or other. Gardening tips, family recipes, genealogy, ferret-charming. The list is endless, but the rules are simple: make it interesting, keep it current and enjoy the power of publishing.