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Blogosphere The Scoop On Blogs

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White paper on Blogs

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  • 1. BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs By Brian S. Harrington November 3, 2005 BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 1 A Designory White Paper
  • 2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This is intended to inform marketing and communications professionals about the who, what, where and how-to of blogging. In simplest terms, a blog is a website, but updated more frequently. There are a lot of similar features between blogs and forums, but the one unique thing that blogs have is the ability to link their blog with other blogs. The blogging market in many ways resembles the mid ’90s when corporate websites were just starting to appear. Standards were unclear, metrics didn’t exist and companies were concerned about what information they should put online. As more blogs appear, the application and readership of blogs will change. Blogs are measurable. Because they exist and thrive on the Internet, online word-of-mouth leaves a “digital trail,” so to speak, allowing its content to be located, categorized, analyzed and understood for basic data, trends and experiences. A poll of corporate marketing and communications professionals found that 55% of corporations are blogging, with 91.4% of those using them for internal communications and 96.6% for external outreach. More than half had launched their blogs within the last year. Companies use external blogs for public relations and marketing (61%) and demonstration of thought leadership (61%). More than 40% of respondents had a blogging CEO. The expected benefits of external blogs include improved brand recognition and external communications, as well as a vehicle for customer feedback. While 20% of respondents expected blogs to generate income, 58% expected them to improve rankings in search engine results. KEY INSIGHTS  50 million U.S. Internet users visited blog sites in the first quarter of 2005. That is 30% of all U.S. Internet users and 1 in 6 of the total U.S. population  As of October 31, 2005, there are ~17.8 million identified blogs with 34,646 created in the last 24 hours and 392,659 posts in the last 24 hours (http://www.blogpulse.com)  Five Blog-hosting services each had more than five million unique visitors in the first quarter of 2005 and four individual blogs had more than one million visitors each  Compared to the average Internet user, blog readers are significantly more likely to live in wealthier households, be younger and connect to the Web on high- speed connections BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 2 A Designory White Paper
  • 3.  Blog readers visit nearly twice as many web pages as the Internet average, and they are much more likely to shop online  Blogads.com found through a survey they conducted that 66.7% of the respondents have clicked a web blog ad and 22.3% purchase the product  Blogs are targeted and opinionated consumers that provide un-biased views about their interaction with various products and services. THE RECOMMENDATION  Blogs provide an advertising agency and their clients with un-biased consumer perceptions that can be evaluated in quantitative and/or qualitative results  An advertising agency can purchase advertising space on blogs for their clients  An advertising agency and their clients should create their own blog that will be written by top management about various topics from the public  Blogs can be measured to indicate a buzz about a product and determine what attributed to the buzz and when (TV Ad, Website, etc.) BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 3 A Designory White Paper
  • 4. WHAT ARE BLOGS Blogs are “web logs” that are updated regularly, usually on a daily basis. They contain information related to a specific topic. In some cases blogs are used as daily diaries about people's personal lives, political views or even as social commentaries. In short, a blog is a website, but updated more frequently. There is usually more content and it allows readers to interact. You might be asking yourself what is the difference between a blog and a forum. Well, a blog has one person talking to the world about whatever they choose and readers can comment only on the stories that are posted, they cannot create new stories. A forum on the other hand has specific topic areas with a bunch of people starting and commentating on topics. There are a lot of similar features between blogs and forums, but the one unique thing that blogs have is the ability to link their blog with other blogs. THE HISTORY OF BLOGS The art of blogging did not take hold until 1999. The original "web-logs" were link-driven sites with personal commentaries. The very first blogs were human-guided Internet web tours.  Dec 1997: Jorn Barger coins the term web log  Early 1999: Peter Merholz coins the term blog after announcing he was going to pronounce web blogs as "wee-blog". This was then shortened to blog  Early 1999: Brigitte Eaton starts the first portal devoted to blogs with about 50 listings  July 1999: Pitas launches the first free build-your-own blog web tool  August 1999: Pyra releases Blogger, which becomes the most popular web-based blogging tool to date and popularizes blogging with mainstream internet users. WHY BLOG A blog gives your company a human voice. It allows information to get out quickly. Just as animated.gifs were once cool, blogging is the trendy thing to do. Content is a necessity for online businesses, both for purposes of being found by search engines, but also because it gives visitors a reason to come back. Blogs serve as communities where information, links, opinions, videos, audio files, photos and other forms of media are easily and frequently shared. Finally, bloggers are speaking and being heard in real time. BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 4 A Designory White Paper
  • 5. THE PROS AND CONS OF BLOGS Pros: 1. The consumer is potentially better informed and this can only be good for the long-term health of businesses 2. Blogs have potential to help the organization develop stronger relationships and brand loyalty with its customers, as they interact with the ‘human face’ of the organization through blogs 3. Blogs, in an intranet environment, can be an excellent way of sharing knowledge within the organization 4. Blogs can be a positive way of getting feedback and keeping your finger on the pulse, as readers react to certain pieces, suggest story ideas, etc. Cons: 1. Most people don’t have very much to say that’s interesting and/or are unable to write down their ideas in a compelling and clear manner 2. The people who have a lot of time to write have least to say and the people who BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 5 A Designory White Paper
  • 6. have most to say don’t have enough time to write it. Thus, the real expertise within the organization lays hidden 3. Like practically everything else on the Internet, blogs are easy to start and hard to maintain. Writing coherently is one of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks for a human being to undertake. So, far from blogs being a cheap strategy, they are a very expensive one, in that they eat up time. As a result, many blogs are not updated, thus damaging rather than enhancing the reputation of the organization 4. Organizations are not democracies. The Internet makes many organizations look like disorganizations, with multiple tones and opinions. Contrary to what some might think, the average customer prefers it if the organization they are about to purchase from is at least somewhat coherent. EXAMPLES OF BLOGS Successful In the months leading up to the debut of "Best Week Ever," a new show in VH-1's lineup that makes a nostalgic nod to our warp-speed culture, executive producer Fred Graver set up an internal blog. He hoped it would be a way for the show's writers to brainstorm commentary about the latest celebrity gaffes and quirky of-the-minute news. But, when the show launched in mid-January, he made the decision to open up the blog to the Internet. Just one week in, more than half the comments posted on the blog were coming from random stopper-bys, giving the writers ideas for show material. Two months later, the blog has taken on a life of its own. Ninety-five other blogs link to it, and nearly every entry as multiple comments — not an easy feat in the blog world. Buzz-Building Bloggers today have buzz because of a few dozen of them, known as the “A-list” or “political blogs”, have been hailed as a new force in national politics. The blog setup for Howard Dean’s campaign was instrumental to its candidate’s rise from obscurity to front- runner for the democratic nomination in 2003. Bloggers also made a mark with Kerry and the Swift Boat issue as well as the Bush/CBS News report on his military service that eventually ended Dan Rather’s career. Blunder Not all ideas for blogs are great and wonderful things, as several agencies and brands BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 6 A Designory White Paper
  • 7. have learned the hard way. Mazda, for example, didn’t fare well in late 2004 with its foray into the Blogosphere. Mazda apparently figured one online format was as good as another, so it launched a blog featuring three 30-second spots for its Mazda 3, apparently assuming that no one would figure out that the blogs—purported to be authored by anonymous bloggers who “found” incredible videos to share—were sponsored by Mazda’s ad agency and that the videos were hosted by an expensive Web-hosting service. That the videos featured Mazda logos only added skepticism to the bloggers’ already skeptical views, causing Rick E. Bruner of Business Blog Consulting to comment on his own blog: “Marketers, please, please get the point: blogs are about building trust, not spinning it.” Mazda totally ignored the importance of ‘transparency.’ Corporate blogs are OK, but they must be labeled and identified as such, because if bloggers are anything at all, they’re savvy, inherently skeptical, defensive of their medium and able to sniff out impostors quickly. And once they do, they let everyone else know. BLOG STATISTICS A survey on Blogads.com indicates that bloggers are opinion-makers. The average amount of blogs visited daily was 5 — with some going to as much as 50. The average amount of hours spent reading blogs in a week is 10 — with some spending upwards of 30. This same survey indicated that 66.7% of the respondents have clicked a web blog ad, with 16.4% saying they discussed the ad with others, 7.4% changed their opinion, 9.4% recommended the product/service, 22.3% purchase the product/service and 10.3% contacted the advertiser. Results from the BlogOn 2005 Social Media Adoption Survey indicates that of the corporations not blogging, 70% felt positive about the idea, with 7% intending to start a blog immediately and 13% intending to start a blog within a year. Only 11% of the total respondents were not blogging today and had no plans to do so. Below are some more relevant statistics about blogs:  BLOG CREATORS o As of October 19, 2005, there are 17.8-million identified blogs, with 34,646 created in the last 24 hours and 392,659 posts in the last 24 hours (http://www.blogpulse.com) BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 7 A Designory White Paper
  • 8. o Most web blogs are updated once a week o According to some estimates, about 20,000 new blogs are created daily and these blogs in turn attract millions of readers  BLOG READERS - 16% of U.S. adults (32 million) are blog readers - 2% of Internet users write in a web blog. 12% of Internet users have posted comments or other material on blogs - Blog readers most frequently visit their family and friends (56%) and strangers (46%) - Blog readership shoots up 58% in 2004. However, 62% of online Americans don’t know what a blog is o In 2004, 27% of internet users say they read blogs, compared to 2003 when only 17% read blogs. This means that by the end of 2004, 32 million Americans will be blog readers  INTERNET USERS - 88% of online Americans say the Internet plays a role in their daily routines. 1/3 say it plays a major role - 92% of users say the Internet is a good place to go for getting everyday information. 85% say it is a good way to communicate or interact with others. 69% say it is a good way to entertain themselves in everyday life o 5% of Internet users say they use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or XML readers to get the news and other information o Some 13% of Internet users have their own website o By 2014, 90% of all Americans will go online from home via high-speed networks that are dramatically faster than today’s high-speed networks BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 8 A Designory White Paper
  • 9. BLOG DEMOGRAPHICS  Age: 31-40 (29.4%)  Gender: Male (79.1%)  HH Income: $60-90K (21.6%)  State of residence: California (14.8%)  Own Blog: Yes (20.3%) The most eager and productive content creators break into three distinct groups:  Power creators are the Internet users who are most enthusiastic about content- creating activities. They are young — their average age is 25 — and they are more likely than other kinds of creators do things like use instant messaging, play games and download music. They are the most likely group to be blogging.  Older creators have an average age of 58 and are experienced Internet users. They are highly educated, like sharing pictures and are the most likely of the creator groups to have built their own websites. They are also the most likely to have used the Internet for genealogical research.  Content omnivores are among the heaviest overall users of the Internet. Most are employed. Most log on frequently and spend considerable time online doing a variety of activities. They are likely to have broadband connections at home. The average age of this group is 40. Content creators are more likely to be urban and suburban than rural, perhaps explained by the greater levels of broadband connectivity in urban centers than in rural areas. Content creators are evenly divided between men and women and show similar racial and ethnic breakdowns as Internet users as a whole. 46% have a college degree or more. Income levels are also generally higher among content creators, with 31% living in households earning more that $75,000 annually. BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 9 A Designory White Paper
  • 10. VALUE PROPOSITION Now that blogs have been established not only trendy, but also beneficial to businesses, its important to understand how they can be used to your advantage. Online word-of-mouth is nonetheless owned and controlled by consumers and it often carries far higher credibility and trust than traditional media, especially as media channels become more fragmented and less trusted. The growth of its influence poses challenges and opportunities for marketers. Blogs are measurable. Because they exist and thrive on the Internet, online word-of- mouth leaves a “digital trail,” so to speak, allowing its content to be located, categorized, analyzed and understood for basic data, trends and experiences. Most blogs are primitive, but that’s not the point. The point is they represent power. They turn mass media upside down, they create media of the masses, but one thing is clear — companies over the past few centuries have gotten used to shaping their message. Now they’re losing control of it and companies will never get it back. CEO’s, Presidents and other VIP’s have established their own blog to talk about whatever they want. A noteworthy executive to create a blog is General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz (http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/). Lutz posted lots of barbs from outsiders and won points for balanced responses, especially his responses to criticisms of the new Pontiacs. Fastlane gets between 150,000 to 200,000 unique visits a month and Sun Microsystem’s President Jonathan Schwartz blog gets approximately 300,000 visits. (http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan) BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 10 A Designory White Paper
  • 11. Relationship marketing is key and web logs can deliver a highly targeted audience whose members share and are passionate about a certain product, hobby or lifestyle, rather than just being in the same age range or income bracket. Furthermore, blogs allow companies an unprecedented opportunity to gather customer feedback and to respond. Below are the key benefits that blogs provide to companies:  Research and Insight - Blogs serve as new sources of “market research” and can be rich leading indicators because of their quick syndication and search engine reach  Word-of-Mouth Identification, Tracking, Analysis - Blogs are a new forum in which people with shared interests spread information. Tracking their points-of-view in the blogosphere is important to every company, organization and brand  Advertising and Advertising Effectiveness Testing - Some brands have launched blogs as ads (Nike’s Art of Speed “adverblog,” for example), while blogs rich in commentary can provide new contexts for measuring message and public relations effectiveness in near real time  Multi-Media Information sources - Most of today’s first-generation blogs are text-heavy, authored by people who like to write. But loggers increasingly are embedding videos, audio, still images and interactive media in their blogs as well  Early Warning Radar - When corporate reputation and news issues emerge, blogs can serve BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 11 A Designory White Paper
  • 12. both as the vehicle by which information spreads and as a source for “early warning”  Extension of Relationship Marketing - Blogs also serve as venues where passionate consumers and individuals express feelings and encourage discussion  Stakeholder and Corporate Communications - Blogs can provide venues for employees to speak out and defend the company or brand or they can establish identities, feedback devices, dialogue and authority for corporations or individuals who engage in blogging  Targeted Marketing - Blogs can open new, targeted advertising space through outright buys or sponsorship, keyword buys or contextual ad buys  Thought Leadership - A corporate blog or employee participation in others’ blogs can raise a company’s reputation as the idea leader in a specific market or industry. MARKETING AND ADVERTISING Blogs have become marketing vehicles. Advertising agencies will eventually use adverblogs in much the same way that they use micro-sites — drawing in a targeted audience, but in a way such that the interaction is based on comments from the community, rather than Flash animations. An increasing number of bloggers are running advertisements on their blogs. Programs like Blog Ads have popped up around the place, which help find advertisers. Other bloggers (often the bigger ones) find their own advertising or use a combination of their own and other programs. Market Banker and Fastclick.com are other programs similar to Blog Ads that lets you sell ads through their system automatically. Google’s Adsense is one advertising tool that many are using. Ads are run depending upon the content of the page. Google pays people who run their ads on click-through. Over the next five years, blog ads could well divide the winners and losers in media. Popular blogs can land sponsorship deals for as much as $25,000 per month. Blog power simply doesn’t translate into big bucks yet — it is running on peoples’ passion to BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 12 A Designory White Paper
  • 13. communicate. THE FUTURE OF BLOGS The current blogging market in many ways resembles the mid ’90s when corporate websites were just starting to appear. Standards were unclear, metrics didn’t exist and companies were concerned about what information they should put online. As more blogs appear, the application and readership of blogs will change. There is no chance of a blog bubble popping. The reason is it costs $60 million in blog startups compared to $19.9 billion in dot-coms. While dot-coms promised to make loads of money, blogs flex their power mostly by disrupting the status quo. Companies powered dot-coms with programmers, marketing budgets and burn rates. Blogs are powered by regular people with computers, no budgets, no business plan and no burn rate, but they still can make money. Done well, blogs can create good word-of-mouth among consumers who aren’t reading business pages or thumbing through trade magazines. Bad blogging can easily backfire — readers will easily pick up on the fake/marketing-driven blogs. A few companies worth watching in this exploding market are:  Burst! Media (http://www.burstmedia.com)  MySpace (http://www.myspace.com)  Ad-Sense (http://www.google.com/adsense)  Blogads (http://www.blogads.com)  Weblogs (http://www.weblogs.com)  Gawker Media (http://www.gawker.com/)  Intelliseek's (http://www.intelliseek.com)  BuzzMetrics (http://www.buzzmetrics.com) CONCLUSIONS All companies need to look into how the role of blogging might play in their marketing. Some companies, especially small and new companies, may deem it worthwhile to take the risks and be on the forefront of this phenomenon. Other larger and more established companies might let others stick their necks out and wait until all the votes are counted to determine their involvement. However, companies need to remember that the most important issue in taking blogs outside the firewall is understanding the culture shift and BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 13 A Designory White Paper
  • 14. loss of control of their corporate message(s). It's important that a company be ready to engage in a dialog with their market, as opposed to having a one-way conversation. BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 14 A Designory White Paper
  • 15. APPENDIX A DEFINITIONS  Blogosphere/Blogistan refers to the world or community of blogs and bloggers  Blogroll is a collection of links to other web logs or websites  Blogger refers to the individual who uses blogs. While there are several types of bloggers, they may be categorized byfour main types: Personal bloggers, Business bloggers, Organizational bloggers, and Professional bloggers  Bloggerati refers to the A-List bloggers (or popular/celebrity bloggers) in the blogging community  Blogware refers to the software, tool or platform used for blogs or weblogs. There are three different types of blogging platforms: hosted, stand-alone, and remote  Dooced is an expression used when someone loses a job because of blogging  Flogs are what the blogger community is labeling blogs that are created by marketing departments to promote a service, product and/or brand  Meme is an idea, question, statement or project that is posted in one blog and answered to in many other blogs. Memes are used to propagate ideas in the blogosphere. Some blogs or websites post memes on a daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis  Moblog is the practice of blogging using mobile devices such as PDAs, cell phones, camera phones, telephones and e-mail. Blogs that are updated using these devices are called moblogs  Permalink referring to the permanent link of a particular blog entry or post. This enables easy referencing. It is often denoted with the symbol ‘#’. Permalinks may also be found either in the title, the date/time stamp, or a link graphic in the blog entry  RSS is the acronym for Rich Site Summary/Really Simple Syndication. It is a document type that lists updates of websites or blogs available for syndication. These RSS feeds show headlines only or both headlines and summaries  Sideblog is the term used for a smaller web log (blog) that is usually placed in the sidebar of a blogger's main web log. In essence, a sideblog is a blog within a blog  Trackback is a remote commenting system between blogs. This is used when an individual reads an entry in someone's blog and chooses to write about that entry in his or her own blog. When TrackBack is used, a ping will be sent to the originator of the post, so he or she will know who blogged about his or her blog entry  Vlog/VidBlog/Vog is using video or keeping an online video diary. Video blogs may be watched on the computer or downloaded to a portable device for later viewing BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 15 A Designory White Paper
  • 16. APPENDIX B SOURCES  Articles and Studies - Marqui Product Placement in Blogs, Susan Kuchinskas, November 24, 2004 - Business Week, Stephen Baker and Heather Green. Blogs will change your business. May 2, 2005 - Pew Internet & American Life Project, Content Creation Online, Amanda Lenhard, John Horrigan, Deborah Fallows, Feb. 29, 2004 - Pew Internet & American Life Project, The State of Blogging Memo Lee Rainie, January 2005 - Pew Internet & American Life Project, The Internet and Daily Life, Deborah Fallows, August 11, 2004 - Pew Internet & American Life Project, The Future of the Internet, Sasannah Fox, Janna Quitney Anderson, Lee Rainie, Jan. 9, 2005 - Pew Internet & American Life Project, Buzz, Blogs & Beyond, Michael Cornfield, Jonathan Carson, Alison Kalis, Emily Simon, May 16, 2005 - Softwaremarketingresource.com, Web Blogs Defined, Explained and Understood - Advertising Age. Jon Fine. Weblogs ads allow consumer to critique, June 6, 2005 - Associated Press. Nicole Ziegler Dizon, Corporations Entering World of Blogs, June 6, 2005 - Edelman and Intelliseek, Trust “Media” How Real People are Finally Being Heard, Spring 2005 - Intelliseek. Power Shift: How the Internet gives consumers the upper hand and what proactive automakers can do about it Bill Stephenson and Pete Blackshaw, Spring 2005 - Intelliseek, Consumer-Generated Media (CGM) 101, Pete Blackshaw and Mike Nazzaro, Spring 2004 - Find/SVP Media & Entertainment Trend Report, Marketing in the Blogosphere, March 2005 - Forrester Best Practices, Blogging: Bubble or Big Deal? Charlene Li, November 2004 - Comscore Networks, Behaviors of the Blogospher, August 2005 - Online Media Daily, Marketers Intrigued by Blogs, Fear their Power, Wendy Davis, July, 2005 - Internet News, Corporate Blogging Takes Off, Susan Kuchinskas, October 2005 - RoperReports Pubic Pulse, Reasons to Pay Attention to Bloggers, September 2005  Websites - http://www.Blogwidow.com - http://www.Thenewpr.com - http://www.Blogads.com - http://www.Problogger.net - http://www.Intelliseek.com - http://www.blogpulse.com BLOGOSPHERE: The Scoop on Blogs 16 A Designory White Paper