Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Blog About Blogs? That's So Meta

So a co-worker of mine asked me if I could talk to him about blogs, and I was kind of taken aback. I never really thought about having to explain what a blog is; I just started blogging. So, I was thinking, writing a blog about blogs and blogging could help me craft my blogs and better plan out future subjects. Here goes.

What is a blog?

If I were to answer this question as simply as possible, I think I would say that a blog is a sequence of articles, written by one person or a small group of people, generally about the same topic or group of topics. Outside of that, there's a lot of leeway with regards to what a blog can be. I would say they fall into three mostly distinct categories (I created these categories, so don't look for this breakdown on Wikipedia or in a textbook):

Personal Blogs

Personal blogs are just what they sound like. They're almost always written exclusively by a single person for their own personal interactions. A person can use this kind of blog to share their individual happenings with friends and family, including photos, videos, and news. These blogs usually don't make their way to public consciousness; they're more for your own relationships. It should be noted that Facebook has dramatically reduced the impetus for people to create personal blogs. It creates a digital bridge between you and your friends/family, reducing the need for people to visit your website to check in on your life.

By the way, the blog you're reading right now would mostly qualify as a personal blog.

Examples:
GoodPointJoe

Position Blogs

The personal blogs that have endured through the rise of Facebook are usually more appropriately classified as position blogs. These blogs address a particular topic or issue, such as fantasy football, jazz guitar, or animal rights. While they may be written by an individual, the posts generally don't vary in their subject matter. A hockey blog only talks about hockey. A movie blog only talks about movies. And so forth.

What sets a position blog apart from a commercial blog is that its creator's purpose is simply to generate the blog. While ESPN has a number of blogs, as does Yahoo, those blogs aren't built to sell products; they're built to sell themselves. Puck Daddy is a wonderful blog because it focuses on giving you copious amounts of hockey information and commentary. Yahoo benefits because the blog draws traffic, but the blog doesn't "sell" Yahoo to readers; it sells itself.

Examples:
Puck Daddy
Joystiq

Commercial Blogs

Commercial blogs aren't exactly what they sound like. They're not blogs that are commercialized, because even a personal blog can be commercialized. If you're extremely interesting and a gifted writer, you may be able to generate enough traffic to monetize your blog. And of course, Joystiq makes plenty of money from advertisements. But a commercial blog (by my recently created definition) is a blog that's put forward by a commercial entity to describe and advertise their services.

I may get in trouble with someone for saying this, but political campaigns' blogs would fall under this category as well. Their sole purpose is to "sell" their product, that product being their candidate. That's not a position; it's a sales pitch.

Examples:
The Apron (Home Depot blog)
Barack Obama's "Blog" (not written by the President)

So what can a blog do?

Well, a blog can do anything that communication can do. A blog is basically a passive newsletter; rather than shipping out monthly updates to select people, you post updates more regularly, and people read them at whatever pace they choose. For myself, this blog gives me a chance to share my ideas regarding sports, video games, card games, fantasy sports, social issues, and whatever else is on my mind. It may not be an income source for me, but I enjoy the writing.

For other entities, such as small businesses, a blog can be used to obtain and retain customers. Providing regular updates gives readers a sense of inclusion, and it always feels better to be informed about changes at a business. Additionally, a blog can be used to advertise special events or limited offers. Many companies, even larger chain companies such as restaurants and department stores, will offer "online only" deals as a way to both bring in customers and drive customers to their blog or online storefront. The worst thing that can happen to a company is to lose business simply because potential customers were unaware of their options.

I know this has read sort of like a homework assignment, and truthfully, that's kind of how I thought of it myself as I was writing it. But the framing is pretty blase, and I say with some confidence that this would get no higher than a C- in class, so at least it was poorly done homework. If you have any thoughts to add, throw them in the comments.

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