Blogging: a surprising survival

1 Dec

JazzChappellPR Blogging is old. Student essays that claim it as new based on a quotation from a book published five years ago make me smile.

After the peak of expectation in 2003-2005 came the trough of disillusion as first Facebook and then Twitter became the place for short status updates and community conversations.

Yet blogging survived, and in some areas is even seeing a revival.

Here are five reasons for blogging's surprising survival:

  1. Humans have an innate desire to connect and communicate. Blogging is essentially personal publishing, and many will continue to seize the opportunity for creative self-expression. Is there anyone in the world more compellingly readable than Penelope Trunk?
  2. Twitter's strength as a 'push' channel helps drive traffic to sites like blogs with regularly updated content ('hub and spoke' strategy).
  3. Blogging is evolving from personal to professional publishing. Newspapers and magazines are increasingly based on blogging software, a glimpse of the future.
  4. WordPress is one of open source software's greatest hits.
  5. Newer services like Posterous and Tumblr are making blogging much more agile.

And here are five reasons why I still advocate blogs in education:

  1. Open source learning is a powerful concept. Students who connect beyond the classroom are the most employable. 1b: Reaching out to graduates and potential students is good PR for courses and universities. 1c: Some blogs have the potential to become as valuable as academic journals (PR Conversations is an admirable collaborative experiment).
  2. It's a level playing field, and not even limited to current students to participate. (Take a look at this aspiring PR student.) Nor do teachers necessarily have an advantage over their students. Here's one I'm incapable of developing or improving.
  3. There's a place for class blogs and for assessed blogs, but I still favour non-compulsory blogs as a truer and more enduring reflection of a student's interests and personality.
  4. Is there a better way to learn about SEO than to start a blog, get discovered, and learn what makes people visit?
  5. Just because something's unfashionable doesn't make it bad. (Confession: as a student, I was an extra in a film called Chariots of Fire set in the 1920s. The costume team did not even need me to change clothes to look the part.)

Here are five things new (student) bloggers should do:

  1. Link to people you know (start with fellow student bloggers). This helps them to get discovered, and adds value to your blog.
  2. Comment on blogs you read. The author is sure to follow the link back to your blog and so discover you.
  3. Think carefully about the statement you will be making with your blog. Jazz Chappell is ee cummings-like in her conscious use of lower case. Rob Clarke is abrasive: he won't make friends with everyone, but he'll get noticed.
  4. Everyone can start a blog. There's no credit in this. The trick is to find your niche and enjoy what you're doing, like Sabrina Johnson.
  5. Tell others you're blogging (I welcome alerts on Twitter).

6 Responses to “Blogging: a surprising survival”

  1. Penny 01/12/2010 at 1:40 pm #

    Two years after you got me to start my blog as part of your course I’m still blogging and finding the discipline of writing regularly really helpful. Thanks for the nudge that got me started (and thanks for the link to Penelope Trunk, what a great blog).

  2. Richard Bailey 01/12/2010 at 2:56 pm #

    I still follow you blog, Penny.
    Penelope Trunk is certainly special: she’s so honest about work, herself, her marriage etc. Yet I can’t claim her as my ‘find’: she’s been celebrated for a long time.
    You’re right: blogging is a personal challenge. It also pushes me as an educator and it delights me when students take off and soar far higher than I ever could.

  3. Sean Ball 01/12/2010 at 11:15 pm #

    Interesting read .. perhaps blogging qua blogging is not new, but the resurgence in some areas and the influence they can have I think is quite a new concept.
    Many CEOs and simillar figures are still quite sceptical and reluctant to experiment in ‘personal publishing.’ Even PRWeek (5th Nov) had a 4 page spread on the importance and influence of key bloggers.
    Still coming to grips with own, I agree with you and Penny that blogging is quite a ‘personal challenge.’

  4. Rob Francis Clarke 02/12/2010 at 6:52 pm #

    I’m not abrasive, I’m charming and loveable. I swear!
    In seriousness though, I agree that thinking about the ‘statement you are trying to make’ is important for all bloggers, and especially student bloggers.
    Thing is, we’re students, so our experience in the industry is obviously limited. We can’t use our blogs to impart the same sort of knowledge and wisdom that industry people often demonstrate.
    That doesn’t mean our opinions aren’t valid, only that it’s important to give your blog some direction. I think the key is balance. For example, how do you inject personallity into your writing without becoming too personal?
    We know it’s pretty likely our online presence is going to be in the spotlight when applying for jobs. Every little spelling error, every slip of grammar, every omission of fact is going to be immortalised online. It’s powerful, and it’s terrifying.
    It’s something I think about with every post. My language is informal. I swear. I criticise my university. How an employeer is going to take that I have no idea, but when I do get Googled in the future, I’d rather come across as abrasive and opinionated than not be found at all.

  5. Richard Bailey 02/12/2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Thanks for commenting, Rob. That’s exactly my line of thought.
    With everything we say (ie put online) we run a risk; but there’s an even greater risk in not participating and not seizing the opportunities available.
    Best of all, by gauging the reaction to our words we’re learning lessons in SEO and online reputation management.

  6. Greg Smith 13/12/2010 at 5:27 am #

    Ha, Richard. I came across the same thing a few weeks ago (a student saying blogging was new). There’ll always be a place for it, though. It certainly has a place in the adademic environment.

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