Blogging isn’t dead, influence contests should be, and hyperlinks rock.

My belated wishes for the media in the New Year:

Please stop making generalized statements that “bloggers” are ____.

Blogs, whether they’re written by members of the media, business people or “average” citizens matter in 2011. A blog is a platform. All kinds of people use them. Some are more popular than others. Some are written by subject matter experts. Given the adoption of blogging software at the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and New York Times, the term “blogger” is is more a term of derision that an accurate classification.

The distinction of “blog” versus mainstream publication online has increasingly blurred to become nearly unrecognizable. Go back and read Nick Denton’s post on why Gawker is moving beyond the blog and consider his plan for new media in 2011.

Please stop writing headlines that “[X] is dead” or about “wars” between companies.

Exception: foreign correspondents and war journalists, both of whom exist in decreasing numbers these days. If you’re not covering an actual war, stop using the metaphor. Seriously.

For instance, blogs aren’t dead, though some of the activity and conversation that existed there in 2006 has moved in Facebook or Twitter in 2011. If you go with such a headline, steel yourself for a critical response.

Please link to the outlet and the journalist that broke a story, whether it’s “old media” or a blog.

Hyperlinks are the dendrites of the Internet. Hyperlinks are like a retweet on Twitter: they’re both social currency. Linking up the source for news story or fact with a link is like footnoting a research paper, except that it both helps the reader learn more and provides credit and authority to the site linked. Neither mainstream media nor blogs should be lifting stories without linking in 2011. So stop.

Please stop disparaging the influence of “bloggers.” Or talking about their pajamas.

It really doesn’t matter what I’m wearing when I file, though these days it’s a suit more often than shorts or pajamas.

The argument that one irate customer taking the Internet won’t matter is passe in 2011, as many publicly traded companies have found during online backlashes. A powerful short video and a post can and will go viral online, particularly if it’s a customer service or product issue that resonates widely.

That’s even more true so for blogs and writers at the top of an industry vertical, although Consumer Reports still has plenty of clout. When experts share their views online, they gain algorithmic authority online, which over time leads to influence over a given community. If Louis Gray or Robert Scoble or Mike Arrington cover a startup, it can put them on the map.

There’s no need to ask media critics like Brian Stelter, Felix Salmon, Ken Doctor, David Carr, David Folkenflik or Jay Rosen if they read blogs: they do. So do more “mainstream media influencers” like Katie Couric or the Sunday talk show hosts, along do the top editors of every publication I’ve talked to last year. The Pulitzer Prize now includes online organizations.

Please stop hosting influence contests. Lift up new voices.

Sure, an influence project might have sounded like a good idea in 2010. Many people disagreed. Strongly. Despite the backlash, new social media contests are still coming online for people to game. Predictably, strong critiques emerged, including those that focus on a different kind of digital divide. There is an emerging industry of analytics services that crunch big data and social recommendations to determine online influence or grade social media accounts, although they all have a long journey yet to evolve.

Instead of encouraging a community to engage in a popularity contest, considering using the power of an established media platform to empower new voices, highlighting what’s unique about an area and connect neighbors who might not know one another.


Filed under blogging, journalism, social media, technology, Twitter

15 responses to “Blogging isn’t dead, influence contests should be, and hyperlinks rock.

  1. Meg Biallas

    Well said.

  2. Wow!

    Okay, I completely agree. I just had this conversation with my wife moments ago. It’s a SoapBox world. Stand on it and profess.

    The problem I keep running into is that it appears to be the same people over and over. What disturbs me is that it is very intimidating for an outsider.

    What I find lacking is the collective. I may not have “influence” but I should still “count.” A perfect example is Quora. The concept is intriguing, but it lacks the ability to make the average anyone feel as if their opinion matters. I want to see and hear what the masses say. Not only that, I want to be able to hear from a very select subset of the masses, perhaps people who are very much like me.

    There are indeed very insightful and bright people in this world whose opinions weigh heavily, but just because they’re popular doesn’t mean they are correct, informed, unbiased or intelligent enough to be automatically vaulted to gospel status.

    Perhaps the most powerful voice should be the collective. I believe that the views of the many can far outweigh the views of the few or the one. Indeed history has proven the dangers of succumbing to the few or the one.

    Well done.

  3. Love it! Seen quite a bit of posts on the downward shift of blogging. Don’t buy it for one second. Blogging and creating a hub of valuable information is indeed still relevant.

  4. What’s the update for “from your lips to God’s ear”? From your fingertips to the world’s screens? Anyway: That.

  5. Very interesting article thanks for sharing!

  6. Excellent and timely post, Alex. I truly do hope these points get passed along to at least some of those responsible for continuing these behaviors. I’ve never seen the value in one-time influence contests, other than to promote the contest creator. Longer-term influence around specific domains or within specific communities are much more interesting and useful to understand IMHO, and I hope existing analytics services continue to move in this direction. And I agree, it would be great to see more tools which enable new voices and connect people in new and unique ways. I hear innovative ideas are born when these things happen.

  7. ecairn

    Excellent ! I still don’t understand how people can talk about influence without talking “content” … and blogs.

    On the net, the proven way to become influential is to write and to connect with like minded people. That’s exactly what blogs provide.


  8. It’s time for mutual respect between bloggers and journalists. The first should have the courtesy to include credits and links when information comes from a media outlet. The second should admit that blogging has changed the news business forever, and stop treating all bloggers as clueless amateurs. It may even be time to stop making the distinction. A journalist is a journalist. A pundit is a pundit. The medium is irrelevant.

  9. I agree… We live in an “and…” world not in a black and white binary world.

  10. Pingback: Quick Links | A Blog Around The Clock

  11. Pingback: Blogging Isn’t Dead, Influence Contests Should Be, and Hyperlinks Rock. | Alex Howard | Voices | AllThingsD

  12. Great post. At mBLAST, we agree and even posted a blog similar to this.

    Smart marketing professionals realize all of this. They realize it’s important for them to uncover important voices across online media — whether that’s traditional online journalism at publications, blogs or social media. Continued segmentation into “blogs” versus “articles” is not only wasted effort, but frankly counter-intuitive to how online “publishing” is being received by consumers today.

    Smart marketing professionals are instead focusing on who really matters amongst the voices writing across all forms of media; who has the market’s ear, and who has the authority to move that market. That’s what we at mBLAST are defining as Influence, and it’s based on the things people are saying, where they are saying it, and how much authority they have in saying it.

    Influencer identification is not a contest as you say, nor is it some random score assigned to me that allows me to say I am more influential than someone else without first deciding what topics and markets we’re measuring influence on. It’s something smart marketing professionals have been doing forever by first looking at what voices are moving a market. It’s just a lot harder to do now with all the voices one has to sift through to derive the signals from the noise. New tools are needed to automate that work, and at mBLAST, we’re deep into producing those tools.

    Great blog post. Would welcome digging into this topic further with you and your readers.

    Gary Lee

  13. Amen to all that, and then some.

    Along these lines, dig Tim Hwang’s new Socialbots 2011 project, just announced here.

    Details: “Teams will program bots to control user accounts on Twitter in a brutal, two-week, all-out, no-holds-barred battle to influence an unsuspecting cluster of 500 online users to do their bidding. Points will be given for connections created by the bots and the social behaviors they are able to elicit among the targets. All code to be made open-source under the MIT license. It’s blood sport for internet social science/network analysis nerds. Winner to be rewarded $500, unending fame and glory, and THE SOCIALBOTS CUP.”

    I unpack Tim’s many credentials here.

  14. Steven Mandzik

    Speaking of pajamas. I’ve seen some newspaper journalists do video interviews and they definitely dont look all Brooks Brothers.

  15. Pingback: In the Capital, influence in social media in DC is more than Twitter followers | digiphile

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