Bloggers once again entered the news this week as part of the CBS document flap. As of this writing, the morning of 9/11/04, we haven’t yet seen the results of the case, but the implications for those who blog have already begun to emerge.
The field is expanding again.
More people will be reading blogs, no matter how CBS comes out of this, because the story could not have come about without alert bloggers raising questions of the documents’ authenticity. As most of you who’ve been reading blogs for a while realize, blogs are like potato chips – you can’t read just one. It won’t be long now before the public at large realizes that blogs are much more than political commentary. Those of us with apolitical blogs on any of a gazillion topics will soon benefit from the increased traffic, so maybe it’s time to think about sprucing up the house a little for those new visitors.
After you’ve been reading a lot of blogs for some time in an aggregator, you tend not to think too much about the blogrolls or other kinds of content that may appear on the blog’s main page. I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers link to inactive blogs or error pages, and that can be frustrating for newbies surfing around for things that interest them. I’ve been just as guilty of that as anyone, because just as you don’t often call yourself on the phone, you don’t visit your own blog. I’ve come across some links on mine that really make me wonder how long it’s been since I took a critical look at my front pages.
Quality is going to be as important as ever, and to that I would add that focus is going to be more important than ever. Last year about this time, I saw some bloggers trying to take advantage of the increased interest in bizblogs by linking to their personal journals from their commercial sites. That was a mistake, as I’m sure most of those who tried it have discovered. This year I’ve seen otherwise good bizblogs attempting to add political material to capitalize on that interest, which in my opinion is also a mistake. Your international readers won’t care much about the American presidential election, and those Americans on the opposing side could begin to view your other content in light of your political statements. This election has become highly charged with sometimes irrational feelings, and you could find yourself inadvertently making enemies of potential customers. It’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon, but only you can decide whether that action could come back to haunt you.
The old saw, “write what you know,” is always a good principle to follow. After all, you may have a good number of readers who come to your blog to escape the election rhetoric. In another eight weeks, we’ll be back to business as usual, to a point, anyway. At least we (probably) won’t have politics uppermost in the general discussion everywhere.
I expect there will be a lot more new blogs as well as new readers. I’m sure there will be a new bandwagon also coming down the pike. There will be blogs that come and go, because there is still (and maybe always will be) that little expectation lurking below the surface in many non-writer’s minds that somehow the technology will do the writing for them. Nobody really wants to admit it, but it’s been there with each new advance, from typewriters to word processors to computers.
One thing that I hope won’t change is the fact that blog technology has a way of encouraging new writers, and experienced writers from other fields to join in. There’s room here for everybody!