Are weblogs legitimate business tools? No

While Weblogs are an increasingly popular tool, they're not nearly as transformative as some people think. Based on my three years of writing Good Experience,  a newsletter and blog, my conclusion is that the blog has limited value as a business tool. I will grant that blogs are here to stay because they make it easy for almost anyone to publish online. But most blogs are just that: random people posting their random opinions, for anyone who cares to read them. Many blogs dispense trivia from the author's personal life - pets, friends, favorite TV shows - while others are somewhat more intelligent, discussing books, articles and other blogs. There are thousands of blogs out there, making it a constant question of what (if anything) is worth reading day to day.

This reality doesn't match the recent hype about blogs. Some proponents have suggested that blogs will transform the corporate world by ushering in an era of openness. Get the engineer to write his honest thoughts about the product in his blog, and he'll bypass those marketing pinheads to deliver the truth straight to the customer.

So far, it hasn't happened like that. There are a few blogs aimed at a business audience, but they're written mainly by technology journalists and commentators looking for a venue, free of any editors, in which to publish their views. This is an interesting development for journalism, but it's limited in scope (how many journalists have the time and interest to write a second column?) and, of course, limited to journalists. There's little effect on the corporation.

There's nothing inherent in blog technology that will transform a business. A page of online posts, sorted reverse chronologically, just doesn't by itself change a corporation. If anything, the blog is inherently less effective than a more popular tool that companies have used for years: the e-mail newsletter.


The other side: Blogs have many uses in today's business environments.Forum: Share your thoughts on the issue.


As with other Internet-based tools, ease of use determines the winner. Newsletters come straight to the user's in-box, while blogs require users to remember a URL and take the initiative to go to the page.

Proponents also claim blogs can create a community of people interested in a particular topic. Once again, the blog is trumped by an older, established tool: Usenet. These online discussion groups, which have been in use since the birth of the 'Net, are not dependent on one author making updates, and now are searchable on Google.

How can blogs compete?

True believers of blogs have forgotten the lesson of the past two years: Don't overstate the potential of a new technology, especially when it has "Web" in its name. I am trying to be a bit more realistic.

Hurst is founder of Creative Good, a New York Internet consultancy, and writes the "Good Experience" newsletter. He can be reached at mark@creativegood.com.

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