Tuesday, 7 August 2012

What is blogging?

The Prince Charles Cinema, London (still standing),
featured on my London Cheapskate site (RIP)

What is a blog?
Let's kick this post with the usual Wikipedia quoteA blog (a portmanteau of the term web log) is a discussion or information site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Until 2009 blogs were usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often were themed on a single subject. More recently "multi-author blogs" (MABs) have developed...

I started blogging in 2005 for professional rather than personal reasons. The internet was transforming the magazine publishing industry and I needed online experience. It wasn’t my first online writing experience as I had started a listing website called London Cheapskate in 2001 to share my knowledge of free/cheap leisure and entertainment in the capital. In its first year, it won a web award for its content, despite being a very basic site (you guessed, I was the designer too). It’s still listed on some London sites, although it closed down in 2009 when Geocities was scrapped.

My first blog (of five and half, since having an account on Twitter is classed as microblogging) was in the same vein and was originally called London Cheapskate. It was still London Cheapskate when I moved to Rugby and it changed to Cambridge Ecothrifter (we’re a bit posher and more eco friendly around here) in 2009. I blogged about my interests and posted mini features nobody would commission me to write. As I got enough digital writing experience to switch to web copywriting/journalism, the blogs became a more personal outlet, yet still a place for features nobody would commission me to write. This is the case of my 1930s house blog, where I tackle interiors, gardening and DIY. I haven’t got as many makeovers as I’d like there, but give me time... It's not my day job and it doesn't pay the mortgage.

Moving away from the personal to the general, blogging is a different thing to different people. It could be a personal diary to share with family and friends, a place to showcase visual creativity (from hobbies through crafts to fine art), a writer’s treasury (fiction, non fiction, journalism, random witty rants), an activist weapon (campaigning, highlighting injustice, criticising the powers-that-be), an education instrument (edublogs) and a business/marketing tool.

The beauty of blogs is that they are interactive as they allow readers to leave a comment. So it's not surprising to read in various ebooks that blogging is an effective form of social media and a strong promotion tool for brands (big and small). Plus, it's seotastic: ask any SEO practitioner and they will tell you that having a blog helps to achieve good ranking for your website. 

A blog works its magic even if it's light on words: it can be just images, a curated list of web links, music/audio files (think mp3 and podcast) and even videos (in which case you can call it a vlog). A blog can showcase expertise and talent in a powerful way so it's a great inexpensive marketing gimmick for any budding artist. You can embed those youtube videos, show pictures of your art, post a poem or two. 

Businesswise, a blog is an inexpensive way to achieve online authority, if you can write, that is. If you can't write, you can outsource to a professional writer and if you can't edit it yourself, do hire a copyeditor. Using cheap talent to run a business blog is a bad idea, a blog is like your business card, you wouldn't design it yourself and print it on photocopy paper using an inkjet printer, would you? Yet some businesses head for peanutsforhour (thanks Sookio for that moniker) and hope to find the hidden gem (a poorly paid genius writer). Good luck and goodbye, we don't champion cheap labour here. 

Blogging in numbers

I can imagine the bean counters are now thinking: "Hey, less rambling and more figures, please."  According to Royal Pingdom, here is a snapshot of blogging in numbers:

·  39 million – The number of Tumblr blogs by the end of 2011.
·  70 million – Total number of WordPress blogs by the end of 2011
    ??million    total number of Blogger blogs (no idea, they are not mentioned). If you know, feel free to leave a comment and enlighten me.

Have a mull and leave a comment if you wish. If you are interested in some blogging infographics for 2012, visit Jeff Bullas's blog. I will talk about blogging in future posts. At present I'm getting my head round a public talk I'm giving about the weird and wonderful (and useful) world of the web.