What makes a blog a blog?

Being a blogger is a bit like being an alcoholic: if you say you are one, you are.

That said, however, I think a lot of media people are fooling themselves into thinking that they’re participating in the online marketplace known as the blogosphere when they’re really not. This was the point of a comment I made yesterday over at Lost Remote. At issue is a “blog” by KPIX-TV news director, Dan Rosenheim. I don’t think it’s a blog. It’s more of the “public editor” concept that the newspaper industry has been doing for years in an effort to offer readers a voice.

This, of course, brought up the inevitable question, “Well then, what makes a blog a blog?”

I appreciate the question (We all like our formulas, don’t we?), but it misses the point, and that’s what I’m really trying to say.

There are all kinds of “blogs” these days that are sincere efforts by institutions to play in this new place — corporate blogs, PR blogs, and sponsored blogs, to name a few — but they are all top-down marketing models in what is essentially a bottom-up phenomenon. Rather than trying to force our way into the space with our “brands,” we ought to simply listen to what’s being said.

The blogosphere isn’t about promotion, and I believe efforts to make it such will ultimately backfire. The blogosphere is a conversation, one that drifts from here to there and returns with valuable insight for all to share.

So when TV stations carve out a segment of their portal Website and produce a journal for, say, an anchor, is that a blog? If they say so, I guess. But what’s the point? It may be adding to the conversation, but the real payoff comes with participating in the conversation. And as Dan Gillmor says, “The only way you can have a conversation is if you listen.”

There is so much agreement that “news as a lecture” is dead that I don’t even think about it anymore. In my view, when we shelter ourselves from the people in our communities — regardless of how we attempt to position it — we’re still participating in news as a lecture. We’re still playing our “big media” games with people. When we do so and call it a blog, I’m going to say we’re fooling ourselves.

So the question isn’t really “What are the rules?” but more “What’s the best way for me to participate?”

Comments

  1. Another example of misuse of the term ‘blog’ by the media:

    http://www.theindychannel.com/blogs/

    From TheIndyChannel.com:

    “Ray And Martha’s Afternoon News Blog
    RTV6 anchors Ray Cortopassi and Martha Weaver were blogging before the term was even created.

    For years, the pair has sent out what was previously known as the RTV6 Online News Brief, to hundreds of subscribers.

    The only thing that has changed, is the name. Every Monday through Friday, Ray or Martha will continue to send an e‑mail with the latest information from the RTV6 newsroom, a bit of a heads up on what you can expect to see on the evening newscasts, plus, a little snapshot of what’s going on with their day.”

    This doesn’t look like a blog to me. It looks like a newsletter.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Mike.

    If this wasn’t so sad, it would be hilarious. Like I’ve said before, just because you call it a blog doesn’t make it one.

  3. I am convinced that being a blogger or having a blog is more than just having access to software that allows an individual to join ‘the conversation’. I would venture to say that it is more than making that first post and wondering if anyone will ever read it. In my experience, blogging is about discovering one’s own ‘voice’ as well as the voices of other bloggers who are willing to ‘engage’. It is more about appropriate use of the technology than just using the technology and calling the end product a ‘blog’. Think of it this way, if radio consisted of someone at a microphone in a broadcast facility reading the daily newspaper, would that be considered ‘radio’…more specifically, an ‘appropriate use’ of radio technology? Probably not, because newspapers are static documents and radio’s power rests in the (near) instantaneous delivery. So, too with blogs and bloggers, there is a dynamic nature to the conversation that cries for understanding the appropriateness of the medium, the message, and the potential for interactivity. Is there a magic formula? Probably not… but there is a culture and there is a medium that somehow merge compatibly, and the result is ‘a blogger’ and ‘a blog’.

  4. Anna in Calif says

    “The only way you can have a conversation is if you listen.”

    Listening is the next step, but it’s still not sufficient. Conversation is a sustained back-and-forth; you have to respond to what you’ve listened to.

    As for the “is it a blog if…?” question — if they adopt elements of the form without grasping or valuing the underlying purpose, then it’s cargo cult blogging.

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