To Blog or Not To Blog?

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Singapore River   – © Vin Crosbie

During a BloggerCon conference a few years ago at Harvard University, Jeff Jarvis was lecturing about why businesses should blog. Knowing that this site had been blogging, he picked me out of the audience and asked if blogging had improved my site’s traffic. I answered the question accurately. Yes, I said, it had tripled my site’s traffic. What I didn’t say was that almost all of the new traffic was from people who aren’t likely to be prospective clients because they’re not in positions to approve hiring consultants.

In fact, a consultant who blogs is giving away some, if not a lot, of the information and expertise he sells. It’s counterproductive for me to blog; I know that from six years’ experience blogging. Blogging is time taken away from productive (i.e., paid) work. It’s also can be pain to do.

Nonetheless, I’m not only going to continue blogging, but plan to do it more often. I’ve blogged here less and less during the past year. There are more than enough blogs elsewhere about digital publishing, most of which are used reportorially — to point to some development that the author feels is significant. So, I’d felt that I’d use this one to comment only when I felt a story or event was extra significant.

However, I’ve now rethought all that. Many of the other blogs — as George Bernard Shaw once said about newspapers — can’t seem to tell the difference between a bicycle accident and the apocalypse. I spend a lot of my business time telling clients which developments are significant and which are not. It’s time I began doing that here again. Yes, it gives away some of my business, but then it’s for the common good. Besides, about one-third of my client work since 1996 has been pro bono. Why not here, too?

I’ve just returned to the U.S. after spending most of July in the Orient; partly on vacation and partly on research for reports I’m writing about the newspaper industry’s experiences with SMS & MMS and with digital editions. A month isn’t a long baseline, but what’s been striking to me about returning to the U.S. — besides the fact that my bodyclock is now 12 hours ahead of everybody else in town — is just how rapidly the endgame for newspapers has begun>.

For a decade, myself and others have been telling newspaper executives that the end is near unless they changed their ways. They must have thought we were talking about bicycle accidents rather than their apocalypse. Yet as I catch up with a good reportorial blog like Jim Romenesko’s, here are recent news industry headlines::

Newspapers, as I knew and loved them, are on the way out

Thinking about the day when WSJ isn’t available on paper

News biz revolution is good for j-students, says ex-editor
— “As the mainstream business models collapse …”

Etcetera. Headlines motivated by evaporating readership, cost cutting, and very limited (if any) real revenue growth.

I say endgame because an analogy to chess is particularly appropriate. That game generally has three phases: opening, midgame, and endgame. The opening phase for newspapers occured between 1605 and circa 1920. That was when most newspapers were founded and launched. The midgame for the industry occured during the subsequent 50 years. As with chess, it was a phase of consolidations and reductions, in this case of newspapers. The endgame began with the demise of major pieces, in this case many major newspapers in major American cities, which started in the late 1960s and is now accelerating. Whole ranks are now gone, such as Knight Ridder.

Can the newspaper industry save itself and win in the end? Yes, but not the way it’s playing. For more on that, you’d better be one of my paying clients.

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