Blogging Culture

Blogging is a phenomenon that has been around since the late 90’s, but in the past few years it has become a ubiquitous part of cyberspace, and also to corporate blogs. The reason why I feel that blogging is an important part of digital culture is due to its increased popularity and how it allows anyone with access to write. The rapid implementation of different blogging tools and its inclusion into software such as Microsoft Office helped create an easy creation interface for a larger audience.

People started blogging by creating an html page with a dated post, then linked the post by hand to the rest of the posts, but now with tools such as Blogger, WordPress and Facebook, you can blog without knowing html. There are many reasons why blogging is popular, such as getting noticed (becoming a celebrity), sharing information, creating virtual communities, and sharing perspective. And now that corporations are using blogs to communicate with their customers, it is becoming an issue about transparency, in particular why people are blogging and whether blogs fall under the same standards that other mediums have to follow.

Since bloggers are typically amateur writers, should they be accountable for what they write and what they link to? I believe there should be a code of ethics for bloggers, something that is similar to the doctor’s oath, where they must be accountable for what they write, but the writing itself should be qualified through peer review like scholarly articles. Some critics of blogging believe that the quality of writing will decrease because anyone can blog, but I argue that blogging benefits society because it allows anyone with access to share their perspective with a global audience.

Becoming Famous

Some people blog because they enjoy the feedback they get from their readers while others look for community. Much like television or literature, a blog’s popularity isn’t always based on the discussion topic; it is the blogger’s personality that encourages people to engage with the blog.

Initially blogs were meant to be used as online journals or a “log” of a person’s activities, but the purpose for blogging has changed with social networking. Blogs have become a way for people to get noticed, either as an expert (such as writing about celebrities, technology or fashion) or for their writing style. Social networking changed how some people tracked their online activities because Twitter and Facebook allowed people to use a “texting” styled format to update their readers on their activities. For some it was a quick way to update people on what was going on, while others felt that the size limit of the message and the speed it could be displayed took away from the writing style, which was something that offline writers complained about when blogging took hold in cyberspace.

There are many types of topic blogs, such as photologs, personal and corporate blogs, which are some of the more popular types of blogs. The most popular blogs tend to focus on the personality of the blogger, rather than the topic, although topic choice can change the size and type of the audience. Some bloggers choose a popular topic like celebrity gossip to write about, which is a topic that draws a wide audience. An example of a blogger who has become a household name in gossip circles is Perez Hilton. He took that pseudonym because he was a huge fan of Paris Hilton and started posting celebrity gossip on his blog. He has leveraged his access to celebrities and has written a book, as well as working in television spots as a celebrity commentator. Although he has created a high-profile blog, he has received criticism about his methods and others had issue with how he got his content, citing that he didn’t have any ethics because he didn’t cite his online sources for gossip. The citation of sources has been an issue with blogging because it has been difficult to figure out a good way to source information, since the web has the aspect of anonymity and the way sources disappear because a link will change, websites disappear and copyrighted information may force people to stop linking to a source (and taking the material down). Sites like the wayback machine track a website’s changes over time and archive what it can, but pictures and video tend to be lost because the source is no longer available and the internet is too large for one place to archive everything.

I recommend that bloggers consider their sources before they post an article, picture or video to their websites, because copyright laws are still in flux and while posting a funny picture of someone may seem like a good idea, the repercussions of dealing with copyright, ISP Terms of Service and lawyers should not be taken lightly.

Information Sharing

Another popular reason for blogging is to share information. Another reason why people blog is to share information or their personal expertise. There are all types of blogs, such as: Photologs – photography bloggers post pictures that they have taken, it’s a way for people to improve their photography skills, find customers, display their art and share their photos with other people. Personal blogs – people from all stages of life share their daily activities and interests. People used to write to pen pals, sharing their lives with strangers from other places. Now they post their lives online, sharing their lives with a bigger audience and their blog can reach a global audience. It’s also very similar to writing in a personal diary, sharing your feelings about daily life that you wouldn’t share with your closest friends.

Corporate blogs have become a new marketing strategy for companies want to share information about their company, build a connection with their customers (B2C), and even within their company for internal blogging (president blogs about company updates). The reason why blogging seems like a good match for companies because it allows interaction between customers and the company’s representatives. Ideally blogs can create new marketing opportunities for companies if done well, and can also help a company get feedback from people who care about the company. Although there are many reasons why blogs can help a company, there can be consequences if a company is not prepared to deal with the real-time aspects of blogging.

Social networking has changed the way companies relate to their customers, and it also allows the customer (and non-customers) to share information about why they like or dislike a company or its products. Marketing to target markets and creating new opportunities is a good reason for corporate blogging and can help companies learn more about the people who use their products on a personal level. The best corporate blogs share information about their company with their readers, and make them feel like the reader’s opinion is important. Timely blogging also creates a relationship between the company and its readership, because people learn to depend on the company for information, rather than going to other sources. Another positive about blogging is that corporate office can deal with public relations issues quickly, and in a personal way, rather than the typical press release which is more formal and creates distance between customers and the company.

The biggest issue about corporate blogs is that the company doesn’t take into account that a blog is a dynamic area of the website, and the precedent for blogging means that the blogger must maintain and update the blog on a regular basis, whether it is once a day, or once a week. If a company doesn’t have enough content to post once a week, I recommend that they don’t bother with a blog, they should use a mailing list instead. The reason is that there are a lot of companies that latch onto the newest trends without proper planning and follow-through. One of the biggest mistakes that corporate blogs make is to create a blog, then not create content for it or doesn’t set aside a person to work on the blog (Kao, 30).

Another type of corporate blog is the in-house blog, used to communicate with employees and encourage new ideas within the company. Companies are starting to embrace the social networking trend and are trying to facilitate new ideas within their company by allowing employees to share their ideas and provide constructive criticism to their peers. The success of in-house blogs depends on the corporate culture, and how higher management deals with constructive criticism and new ideas. If the company punishes constructive criticism, or ignores the employee’s ideas, the interactions within the blog will diminish. Culhane suggests that acknowledging the current corporate culture and showing that the company is willing to work with employees to change it to a more engaging and committed corporate culture is one way to create change (41).

Virtual Communities

The creation of virtual communities through blogging is another reason blogging has become a ubiquitous part of websites, especially personal blogs, topic blogs, and multiple author blogs. Personal blogs include mommy blogs (child-raising), personalities (people who are famous online, writing about their lives). Topic blogs, such as review sites, food blogs, health blogs and gaming blogs are all examples of a topic blog. All lacquered up is a review blog that discusses the merits of different nail polish brands. Eric Ripert, a famous chef has a food blog that include food photography and recipes that he wanted to share with his readers. Even celebrities are getting into the act, focusing on health and improvement lifestyle blogs. Gaming websites blog about the process of gaming, in particular some discuss the merits of games like a review blog, but also include information about particular games, such as being able to get through difficult parts of a game, or how to improve your gaming experience and even finding other like-minded people who might play similar games. Some of the newer types of virtual communities use multiple authors on a single blog in order to widen the target audience and provide different perspectives in a single format. Some examples of multiple authors in a single blog is Jezebel, Lifehacker and the NY Times.

Overall, the one thing that blogs do in a reader-friendly way is to share your personal perspective. Some perspective blogs are similar to topic blogs, but differ because they focus more on lifestyle topics, and how it influences the writer, as opposed to topic blogs, which focus on topics that influence the reader. By sharing a unique perspective, it causes people to learn something new, or gain understanding about topics that are important to people. Television shows are now including blogs from the writers, directors. Another trend is mommy blogging (sharing tips on childcare, saving money), where women write about their home life, such as child rearing, saving money, dealing with family issues and product blogging (displaying swatches of cosmetics, reviewing products).

Personal blogs are based on writing about unique perspectives such as living with health issues, current lifestyles, and even expatriates. Although personal blogs can also be meshed with topic blogs, their focus is on the writer’s personal life. One element of a good personal blog is the ability to engage the reader with ordinary life issues.

One issue with personal blogs is that the majority of blogs are written by teenagers aged 12-17. Mitchell states in her study about the risk of sexual harassment for youth, she states that approximately one in five teenagers have created an online journal or blog, and 38% have read one (278). Sharing personal information is tricky because online predators can use the anonymity of the internet to create fake profiles and interact with youth, or older bloggers are subject to scrutiny if their company doesn’t approve of their blogs, thus becoming “dooced”. Laff discusses the controversy behind Heather Armstrong’s firing due to her commentary about her company in her blog at Dooce.com (28). Although Armstrong didn’t name her company or co-workers, people were able to figure out her identity and leaked the information to her company, who fired her because of her criticisms. One change that has occurred in the past few years is that companies are paying closer attention to what their employees are doing on company time and also in their personal time. Although blogging is typically a personal pursuit done in an employee’s down time, companies are concerned that the employee’s blog will reflect on the company. Due that issue, many companies are now including blog policies in their hiring contracts, and expect employees to disclose their website before they are hired.

Although blogging has its issues with online safety, privacy and ethics, it has become a part of cyberspace and its popularity has remained steady despite its information-sharing competitors, such as social networking tools like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
Now that it has grown out of its initial growth phase, it will be interesting to see how blogs will continue to evolve as it becomes a part of the mainstream. I believe that over time blogging will probably become more commercial and bloggers will be forced to be more responsible about their actions online because corporations are starting to utilize the blog (and its authors) to expand their market share with consumers. I also believe that laws will be set in place, but the laws will be fragmented across national borders because it is difficult to set rules that will be globally enforceable.

Previously – Ethical Blogging

Currently – Personal Blogging Ethics

Then Corporate Blogging Ethics

Then Blogging Ethics Recommendations

Finally Works Cited

Kuo, Kaiser. “Blogs, Bulletin Boards, and Business.” chinabusinessreview.com. (Jan – Feb 2009). Web. 8 Feb 2010.

Culhane, Diane. “Blog logs a culture change.” Communication World. (Jan – Feb 2008). Web. 8 Feb 2010.

Mitchell, K.J. “Are blogs putting youth at risk for online sexual solicitation or harassment.” Child Abuse & Neglect. 32 (2008) pg 279. Web. 13 April 2010.

Laff, Michael. “Blogging Shines New Light on Corporate Culture.” T + D. (Mar 2007). Web. 8 Feb, 2010.

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