Monday, June 09, 2003

Weblog Business Strategies 2003 III

Michael Gartenberg: Business Weblogs -- Blogging For Fun And Profit

Michael Gartenberg is vice president and research director of Jupiter Research. He helped launch Jupiter's PC and console games service, 80211 mobility service, and Jupiter's analyst Weblogs. Here is a rough transcript of his comments:

This morning I'm going to talk to you a little about what weve done at Jupiter about using Web logs as a business tool. Jupiter was the first major research firm to embrace research analysts to create personal Weblogs. Unfortunately there's not a lot of raw data on Weblogs. But I did want to look at the trends in personal Web sites. People read Web sites created by others, but there's a decline in the creation of personal Web sites. Personal Web sites are not that interesting any more.

The Internet and the Web don't get mentioned in Wired magazine until issue 4. Personal Web sites are not very interesting, but Weblogs themselves are very different. Why Weblogs? Rapid communication, rapid feedback. You're able to get the message across and extend the brand to new audiences. That's what we wanted to do when we started Jupiter Weblogs. They started in November last year. I got some interesting reactions. Yes! We need Weblogs. What's a Weblog?

When we explained what the concept waS: analysts writing without any editing and publishing directly to the Web for access at no charge, people were saying, people pay for that. I said well, it's already being done. We can participate in it or we'll essentially become a dinosaur. Our CEO gave me the green light to go ahead and do it.

We went live Jan. 1. Last time I checked we're getting 4,000 hits a day on the various sites. Clients have renewed on the basis of the Weblogs. The third stage was last winter, when our CEO started his own Weblog.

What are the issues? What's the perception? There's a lack of ethos. Who's writing? Is it good info or bad info? Little value. What's the perceived value of something you're not paying for? Creates Web noise. If you do a Google search for an analyst's page, you'll find a link to their Weblog, not their research. Lastly, it's viewed as ego-driven publishing.

I countered saying that it's first-hand expertise. I can get a direct opinion in their own words. We want analysts to speak in their own voice in a business forum. You know what? Traditional publishing is ego-driven, as well. If you had a position or an opinion on the Microsoft antitrust case, you could write an op-ed piece and send it to the New York Times, but chances are they wouldn't publish it. Thirdly, it's an opportunity for direct contact to the audience. They serve different audiences, they serve different needs. One doesn't mean to subsume the other. Customer-centric communication. I can focus on what my client needs. I should be able to meet my clients needs in a manner that's timely and immediate. It's also truly a no-spin zone.

If I were giving advice to Dustin Hoffman's character in the Graduate, I don't think the word is "plastics" but "Weblogs." There's lots of hype, but that's OK. It's an easy way to get internal visibility. It's also a great way to get external visibility, but be careful: It's a great way to get fired. You've got to be a little bit focused in what you're doing.

Keep it modest at first. Go internal before you go external. You've got to find your voice first before you're ready to communicate. Ask permission, not forgiveness. You're putting yourself out in a public forum, you've got to be prepared to deal with the consequences. If you're a personal Weblogger and your company is not involved, putting a disclaimer at the bottom of the page is not going to save your job. You need to use the same common sense. There are certain things that one does not do.

Who should be blogging at your company? Anyone who's got something to say. You'd be surprised how many people have something to say but don't have the forum in which to say it. Two, blog early and blog often. No one's ever going to say your Weblog has too much information, you update too regularly, I can't keep up. Three, there are differences between corporate Weblogs and personal Weblogs. And keep the cheesecake recipes offline. It's not where the medium belongs.

What project timeline do we suggest? Beta internally. Commit a core group of bloggers. Love is a better master than duty. People have got to want to do this. Get at least a week's worth of material. Don't go live until you have maybe even more than that. Open it up for internal review, get some feedback, and blog some more. Repeat this three times and then go live to an external audience.

Weblogs are an extremely powerful form of communication. It is not something just for enthusiasts, but a powerful vehicle businesses can use. If you're looking at this from an enterprise perspective, now is the time to seize control because if you don't, you will cede control.

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