It’s good to talk (1)

5 Feb

Naked_conversations I’ve just received my long-awaited copy of Naked Converstations from Amazon UK. Rather than write a review once I’ve finished reading it (the conventional, offline approach) I thought I’d attempt a blogger’s review of a blogging book. So the review will appear incrementally as I have time and something worth adding to the debate.

The authors (Robert Scoble and Shel Israel) are smart. They address some of the possible criticisms of their project up front. Thus they acknowledge that while blogging helped propel Firefox and Skype to success, the blogging noise around the Howard Dean election campaign was just that. Noise. They’ve not yet established whether blogs are a more suitable promotional vehicle for technology products than for others (I suspect they’re going to challenge this assumption), though they suggest that blogging word of mouth recommendation works best when the product is free (and, I’d add, digital).

This book plugs into the debate around the challenges confronting conventional big marketing. This argument has many cheerleaders and they credit the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell among them. Public relations fits well with this discussion: is it a top-down communication channel designed to control thought, or a process for welcoming debate and ‘engineering consent’? (This discussion long-predated the internet, note.)

Yet why write a book at all? And why offer it only in print? Why don’t the authors practice what they preach by offering free distribution online (as with Cluetrain, and the approach adopted by Dan Gillmor and his publishers in 2004, when We the Media was simultaneously made available free online and for a price in print). I like books; I’m willing to pay for books; books can be passed on and lent to others; I don’t like reading more than short chunks of text on screen. So I have no problem with the book in principle, only with the authors (as advocates of blogging) not offering an up-front defence of why, in this case, a book is better than a blog. And they have a great story to tell: the book was in part drafted in public view and amended as a result of comments and contributions to the Naked Conversations blog.

One Response to “It’s good to talk (1)”

  1. Shel Israel 11/02/2006 at 6:20 pm #

    Richard,
    You raise some thoughtful points here. I’d like to address a couple of them. First, business blogging today, as you point out, is most effective inside the technology community. In fact, that’s where most tech adoption–PCs, the Internet etc. has always started. But when the tech is good it always spreads far beyond tech. As the book points out, Nissan, General Motors, local restaurants, dental clinics, French distributors, t-shrt makers are all proving how powerful blogging really is. Second, as my friends at Cluetrain and Dan Gillmor will tell you, people–yourself inclded–don’t often read entire chapters onlne. We published early versions of every chapter, and those chapters were not as well read at our blog as was most f the other content. Besides our book is not for geeks and blog enthusiasts. It is for the mainstream business and professional reader, many of whom have not yet dabbled a toe into the blogosphere and the best way to reach them is through, real books.

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