Blogs: The new magic formula for corporate communications?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Opinion is divided over the validity of blogs as a new communication channel for business. In this Deutsche Bank Research paper, Norbert Walter investigates the appeal of blogs for initiators and users, and examines the reasons why they have succeeded to reach such a broad readership.

A weblog, or blog, a combination of “web” and “logbook”, is a website in the form of a diary with pithy, frequently updated entries that are posted regularly. Additionally, they often contain links to other websites and blogs so the reader can quickly find blocks of news, information and opinions on a specific topic. A blog can be kept by an individual or by a group of people. All weblogs taken together make up the blogosphere. 

The debate that has flared up recently over the significance of weblogs in corporate communications is reminiscent of the hype surrounding the launch of the internet.  Initially, many believed the increasingly widespread use of the internet signified a revolution in communication and business models. Now opinion is divided once again, over blogs: the spectrum of views ranges from their being irrelevant to their heralding a new communication channel for business. 

The communication form represented by blogs is, fundamentally, nothing new. But unlike chatrooms or newsgroups, blogs are showing booming growth rates and are in the process of becoming a mass medium. Their main element: a very personal style. Readers see the blog as a point of reference in a flood of information. Blogs put news items – agency reports for instance – into context, as they are commented, interpreted and assessed, but often in a biased fashion. In the USA, blogs are considered to be a new form of grassroots journalism that provides counterpublicity to the mainstream media, which are felt to be biased. The US presidential election campaign in 2004 accelerated the spread of blogs in America, for example. Authors are usually freelancers who work in internet-related professions or keep a blog as a hobby. In a very few exceptional cases, a blog is fully financed through advertisements. The commercialisation of blogs is regarded with criticism in the blog scene, since this undermines the credibility of the author. 

Blogs achieve a mass-media effect through: 

  • the high degree of networking in the blogosphere, in which news spreads very rapidly (blog swarm), and 
  • pronounced search engine friendliness that ensures blogs are displayed near the top of results lists. 
  • Moreover, journalists from conventional media frequently use blogs as a research source. 

The pronounced network effect that is generated through these mechanisms enables individuals to reach a broad public and, ideally, the traditional mass media – a channel that so far has been reserved mainly for journalists and public figures. From the viewpoint of companies, too, blogs offer a technically inexpensive way of obtaining direct access to a specific target group and responding quickly to news reports. The comment function makes blogs a dialogue-based medium with personal character (unfiltered communication). So blogs ultimately help to change the underlying conditions in communications between parties.

To read the full Deutsche Bank Research paper please click here.

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