Brain Dumps Float All Boats

A few years ago at a symposium about blogging, Jeff Jarvis was moderating a discussion about commercial uses of blogs. To answer an audience member’s question about whether or not having a blog on your commercial website can increase business, he turned to me, someone in the audience who Jeff knew uses this blog on this commercial site, and asked me if my blog had increased my business.

When writing a blog, you can ponder your words before writing them, but that isn’t always an option when a moderator suddenly picks you out of the audience and ask you impromptu to answer a question he’s been asked. I made a snap decision to be politic, so I told everyone that adding this blog to this site had tripled the site’s traffic.

What I said was true; this blog has tripled this site’s traffic. But what I didn’t say was that none of that increased traffic had resulted in new business. It still hasn’t. It’s resulted in traffic, not business. I can’t think of anyone who has hired me as a consultant because of something I’ve written here. Nor have I ever had a new client tell me that they’ve read this blog. I’ve instead been hired because of referals from other clients, speeches I’ve given at conferences, and articles I’ve written in trade journals; never because of this blog.

Indeed, blogging here has interfered with my business, as most pro bono efforts tend to do. Note that I say interfered with my business; I didn’t say it hurt my business. But also note that I didn’t say it helped my business. Blogging can help a new consultant’s business because it can make prospective clients appreciate that he knows what he’s writing about. But an established consultant who blogs can too easily give away advice or knowledge for which he could be charging clients. Furthermore, his blogging takes time away from more potentially lucrative marketing efforts.

So why am I blogging? Because the more knowledge that an industry has, the better for that industry, the better its prospects for the future, and (theoretically) the better for a consultant’s business. Put another way: Brain dumps float all boats.

Nevertheless, my concern that blogging givies away my store and steals time from more lucrative work is one of two reasons why I’ve not blog much this year.

The other reason—since I’m addressing how blogging removes time for more important work— is that during the past 18 months, I’ve radically changed my opinion about the future of daily newspapers in North America. In what little free time I’ve hadthis year, I’ve been drafting what I intended to be an article about that, a 2007 follow-up to my 2004 essay in Online Journalism Review, What Newspapers And Their Web Sites Must Do To Survive.

However, my draft article has turned into an approximately 20,000-word treatise because I want to be self-contained and to establish that American daily newspapers are dying; why; what they did wrong when faced with cable & satellite television, topical magazines, and the Internet; what American daily newspapers should have done; what will replace them; and what some daily newspapers can still do to survive. I’d been hoping to publish this work in April, but haven’t had enough free time yet to finish it. I hope to during August.

Blogging here takes time away from that. Moreover, any blogging I do now will be from the perspective of my changed thinking, a perspective that haven’t yet explained. I think it’s better that I publish the larger perspective before doing any day-to-day blogging.

However, some of my friends say, “‘We understand that. But we’re interesting in what you think about things that are happening now.”

Fair enough, I’ll try. Between consulting assignments and writing that treatise, I’ll try to find time each day to blog about a few things, even if it’s only pointers to what trade news I’m reading. I’ll post my longer essays and ‘think pieces’ on Corante’s Rebuilding Media, but try to blog here more often. Starting today.

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By the way, new-media still accounts for only about five per cent of the average American daily newspapers’ revenues. I’m tired of their publishers asking me to tell them the easiest and quickest way that their newspapers can double that percentage during the coming year. They should beware what they ask, because the logical answer to their question is simple but not something I recommend:

A newspaper merely has to lose half of its print revenues during the coming year in order to double the percentage of revenues it earns online. And I know of a few newspapers that are inadvertently doing just that.

Well, maybe not losing half their gross revenues or turnover just yet. But quite a few major newspaper companies in the U.S. have seen their income drop by around 50 percent during the past fiscal quarter. The Tribune Company’s Q2 income fell 58.7 percent. The New York Times Company’s fell 59 percent. The Journal Register’s 44 percent.

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