Saturday, October 21, 2006

Read no no blogs

DA had an interesting post that I had to forego commenting on his blog about, and instead expand into a post here.

The post focuses on this study/report by the Wharton School of Business. Basically it's just several faculty members giving their opinions on blogs. As expected, the instructors that read and write their own blogs, love them. What is suprising, is that the members that see no value in blogs, are the ones that don't read them.

"Blogs are the latest forum for people who have nothing to say that others actually care about," states Wharton marketing professor Xavier Dreze. The mode of a distribution, explains Dreze, "is its highest point. What this means is that there are more blogs with 0 subscriptions than blogs with one subscription or two or three or four. There is a reason why the modal number of subscriptions to a blog is 0."

He doesn't read blogs because "I don't see the point. It's a bunch of people writing their opinions, and those people have no credibility. The information content is very low."

Here's another gem:
Management professor Saikat Chaudhuri is also skeptical of blogs. "I actually don't read any blogs because I am still trying to demystify their value," he says, adding that he thinks their relevance "lies in receiving informed opinion by experts on a topic as a reader, developing one's reputation for such expertise as a contributor, and providing a focused discussion forum in general. However, there are many such blogs to choose from, so I find it difficult to distinguish between genuinely useful ones and those merely exchanging or relating social experiences."

Shockingly, they are both completely wrong. You can't measure the value of blogs on the content published. The reason why blogs are so important, is because they give everyone a voice. And perhaps more importantly, they let everyone find their voice.

Perfect example: In graduate school, I was exposed to several branding and marketing authors by my instructors, my favorites were probably Al and Laura Ries. The instructors brought their books to my attention, but thanks to blogging, I was able to communicate directly with Laura through her blog. I've gone from reading the books of top marketing authors, to reading and communicating with top marketing bloggers.

Communication is the difference. My voice can communicate with your voice.

Not every blog is a treasure-chest of wonderful content. Likewise, not every book is a great read. Would these instructors tell their students to stop reading books, simply because some are bad? Would they encourage their students to read The Origin of Brands, but to avoid reading and commenting on Laura's The Origin of Brands blog?

DA adds this:
Xavier is certainly entitled to his opinion. And there is of course a lot of trash out there in general—not limited to blogs. But I have to say, this reinforces the stereotype that places of academia can become insulated. Get out there people! Go out in the real world and see things from different perspectives. Lots of professionals are out there blogging. People who PRACTICE what they do for a living. If we can't learn from them—who can we learn from?
Exactly. Who should I listen to, the marketing blogger that is PASSIONATE about his profession, or the marketing instructor that slams blogs, and admits that he's never read them?

Blogs are an incredible empowerment tool. Personally I would steer clear of anyone that tried to teach young and impressionable minds that they shouldn't be empowered to find their own voice, and to hear the voices of others.


Tim Jackson said...

Wow... I don't know what to say. Pretty amazing. I have so much respec for the institutions that are embracing blogs and adding them to curriculum, as opposed to Professor Dumbass' approach.

Blogs enable great conversations- how could he not see the value in blogs like the Daily Fix? How could he not see the value in the lonely guy railing against the world even? Conversations are incredible, if you are willing to listen.

I'm at a loss.

Anonymous said...

I thought Barbara E. Kahn (another marketing professor) had an interesting comment.

"I don't like the 'unverified' aspect of them ... that anyone can write anything and there is no pretense of validation."

"Periodically, when I am looking for a consumer reaction to products or ideas, then I will search out and read relevant blogs. It is a way to get 'market research' on consumer products."

So she doesn't like the "unverified nature of them" but refers to them when what she requires is a window into "the conversation".

I think part of the problem here is that people are expecting blogs to be something they're not - verified news sources, and not valuing them for what they are - a voice and a window!

Anonymous said...


Funny, I heard about the study for the first time though David and had not read it. But Saikat happens to be a good friend of mine, I will contact him to see if he wants to join the conversation.

Anonymous said...

As you say Mack, "blogs are an incredible empowerment tool". Remarkably they empower all manifestations of the audience -- readers, commenters/contributors and writers.

Traditional marketing has been about TELLING ... and blogs ask us to LISTEN. As Tim says, its about the conversation ... and just because someone isn't listening doesn't mean that people/communities aren't all talking, discussing, deciding and acting.

Anonymous said...

The report still has me stunned.

Mack, your point about going from a passive reader to becoming an active participant in the conversation is great.

I must wonder about the credibility of those who choose ignorance as a path. Maybe they are teaching renaissance marketing?

Mack Collier said...

And those that would let their arrogance decide what deserves their attention.

If they don't want to read blogs, I have no problem with that. But to state that they refuse to read blogs, and to THEN comment on their worth?!? That's not the smartest line of thinking I've ever heard.

J.D. said...

I have an issue of credibility with most professors. Do you ever wonder why these incredibly knowledgeable people aren't out there making millions with their bright ideas??? Hmmm, maybe there's a reason why they're teaching instead of actually doing.

I have found 90 percent of the things I learned in college to be completely useless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone,

I happened to chance upon this site, and since my name was mentioned and discussed in it, thought that I should clarify some things!

Note first of all, that the K@W article was not a study -- it simply represented a collection of thoughts from faculty on whether they find blogs useful.

As far as my comment is concerned, note that I did not state that blogs are not valuable, but rather that I have not yet discovered their value for myself. I simply have not used them yet, because I haven't discovered how they could help me, and since I don't know how to sift through the numerous blogs out there.

So, perhaps it might be more useful for those well-versed in blogging to point out how those who don't use blogs could use them, rather than making derogatory remarks! (And incidentally, if university studies and professors are so useless, why do so many people pursue college and graduate degrees, paying thousands of dollars along the way? ;) )

Saikat Chaudhuri

Stephen Denny said...

First, to throw my bias in the ring, I must confess to being both a Wharton guy and a blogger. As such, here's a thought (that will assuredly please no one completely).

Let's all agree that blogs are Op Ed pieces. They are absolutely unverified (unless you're publishing your own research, and good on you if you are). Does this make them bad? No. In this early stage of being "blogger than thou", there is a lot of 'stuff' published that is of dubious quality. The K@W post correctly notes that most have no subscribers and the majority are personal diaries.

Now, can we also all agree that good stuff -- especially in this viral age -- gets out? Mainstream media has proven itself to be unworthy of our absolute trust and bloggers have largely filled that void. It only makes sense that our profession does the same. So here we are. All of us fine marketers publishing our op ed pieces for the rest of us to see, comment on, and debate.

Good blogs are good (thanks, Mack, for the big contribution to proving this point). Bad blogs are bad. Read a few -- Mack has a list of links as long as my arm -- read what good bloggers also say is good, pick a few that you like, and make up your own mind.

("... can't we all just get along...")