Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Blogs Influence for Good and Bad

Some two in five Internet users in the U.S. read blogs, according to a 2006 Pew survey, giving citizen-commentators the potential for more influence than ever. How, then, should companies deal with the world of blogs, as well as podcasts, social-network sites such as Facebook and other "social media"? That question is at the center of "The New Influencers," written by former Computerworld editor Paul Gillin.

Mr. Gillin's primary focus is blogs. For him, this community is as much a Lockean as a Hobbesian one. True, blogs have no standards organizations or governing bodies, but there are norms nonetheless, enforced socially rather than bureaucratically. Bloggers, for instance, are expected to credit their sources (with a link, if possible) and to highlight revisions to their posts instead of making them furtively.

From a corporate PR point of view, Mr. Gillin says, amateur bloggers differ greatly from journalists in both substance and style. For one thing, they are free of the newsroom rule to seek both sides of a story (though often the old media seem to follow it more in form than in substance). Looking at a study comparing coverage of Wal-Mart by bloggers and by traditional media, Mr. Gillin observes that bloggers were far more likely to write on the basis of personal experiences with the stores. When they did weigh in on broader matters--e.g., Wal-Mart's economic or environmental effects--they were vastly more negative than their old-media counterparts.

Read it all here.

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