Blogging Backlash? What Blogging Backlash? Oh, That Blogging Backlash!

by John Adams

A recent article--well, it was recent at the time--argues that backlash is coming for the bloggers. Graeme Thickens claims blogging is business-unfriendly and that it'll not permeate the corporate world. David Weinberg disagrees.

Are either of them right? Not totally, but there's heft to their arguments, and they're both worth reading.

Over at Darwin Magazine, Graeme Thickins has quite a bit to say about "Why Business and Blogs Are Like Oil and Water". He's got a ten-point list, but I found this paragraph to be the most interesting thing in his article:
Sure, many of the bloggers themselves could be considered small businesses. But most are tiny often one-person shops, such as independent contractors, consultants, freelancers and the unemployed. You wouldn’t be wrong if you assumed that most of these people either (a) have too much time on their hands, or (b) are always looking for another attention-getting promotional vehicle so they can get some paying work.

He forgot to add "or both", but that's otherwise an accurate, if incomplete, observation. He also neglected to add the faint praise of "And there's nothing wrong with that", but had he done so, the incompleteness would have shown through. After all, a small business is no less a business than a large business. If weblogging effectively markets oneself or one's small business, then why not? Especially in that copious spare time.

(I also liked his bio:

Graeme Thickins is a 25-year marketing and public relations professional based in Minneapolis. He’s focused in the technology field and has been an early adopter of most everything until now. [emphasis added])

I find many of Thickins' arguments compelling--David Weinberger finds them less so. Don't miss Weinberger's final paragraph--both his points there are quite good, and address points which Thickins misses. On the other hand, Weinberger's refutations of four of Thickins' ten points is less convincing. This one isn't the most important one, but it's the one that caught my eye:
"Businesses don't do passion." True, but employees do. And employees, not businesses. write blogs.

True, but irrelevant, and Thickins pre-refuted it:
On the contrary, business is about logic, predictability, executing a strategy, even-temperedness, a steady hand – and, yes, earning a profit (something absent in the field of blogging).

I've got a serious argument with one part of Thickins' piece. When he says:
Several firms have had to fire bloggers, either for what they’ve said on their corporate blogs, or for what some have said about their employers on their personal blogs. The known list of such companies was recently reported at more than 25, though the actual number may be much higher. The list includes big names like Google, Wells Fargo, Starbucks and Harvard University, according to a “blogger’s rights” blog that tracks these firings (characterizing them as a virtual affront to humanity, I might add). [emphasis added]

he makes two serious errors.
  1. He conflates problems with things said on corporate blogs with problems with things said on personal blogs. The first is exactly what he's talking about in his article. The second is just a new face on an old occurrence.

  2. He doesn't link to the blog he mocks with the clever phrase "characterizing them as a virtual affront to humanity"? While the use of 'virtual' made me chuckle, I'd like to look at the blog in question and judge for myself.

Yes, I took my own sweet time post this--there was a second part that I never wrote. Do any of the three of us still make sense a few months later?


2005-09-19 14:41:33
It's a little strange to me that people writing for newspapers and magazines find issues with the whole blogging "phenomenon".

After all, newspapers and magazines themselves owe their existence entirely to broadsides, libels, and pamphlets. All of these formats were the predecessors of modern print media, and they functioned like blogs for their day and age.

For example, let's say that you were a Royalist/Tory/Jacobite in early 18th century England. If you had the resources - and lots of poeople did - you would handwrite a libel or bill with your opinion on that dirty Hanoverian George and his German-speaking family, deliver it to a printer, get yourself a few thousand bills and then pay someone to post them all over London.

All the newspapers of the time - and London was really the birth of the modern newspaper as we know it, with reporters, editors and publishing schedules - grew out of this sort of DIY publishing environment.

Now that a re-occurence of that similar environment has surfaced, those people in the print media can't stomach the fact that all of a sudden you can publish to the world - and be more widely read in many cases than traditional media - withouth having to go to all the trouble of getting a journalism degree, being hired on as the gopher at some small-town paper, and putting in a solid 10 years of plugging away before going to a larger operation.

I'm not discounting traditional media. I think they have their place. However, I also believe that there are a lot of journalistic nooks and crannies that traditional media has abandoned, or never wanted to cover, and I think that blogs and whatever they evolve into are around to stay.