(Pic from Zits)
One of the great things about the web as a medium is its constant evolution. Compared to what the web was 10 years ago, the web has turned itself from a traditional top-down medium, to a revolutionary bottom-up medium. It’s Guttenberg’s printing machine on crack, easily obtained at the price of one free e-mail account and a decent broadband connection.
One example of how this media evolution can be seen is in the way blogging has changed. When the idea of a blog (or “web-log”) came up, I remember not knowing what to do with it. And so did the rest of the internet community.
Debates came up about what a blog is, what sort of content should go on it, whether this new form of “Citizen Journalism” is credible–these questions were everywhere. There were no definitive answers to those questions: the moment someone (usually from mainstream media) said that Citizen Journalism isn’t credible, up comes another person pointing out how blogs and flickr has enabled “normal” people to get the newscoop ahead of traditional media. The debate went on and on, back and forth. In the meantime, while the academics debated on the subject of blogs, users gradually evolved blogs into what we now accept as part of how we get our daily news and opinions.
It’s amazing how, in the past couple of years, we not only accept blogs as news sources, but also how we’ve made them a part of our daily media diet. So now that we’ve accepted blogs, what’s next for the medium? Jeff Jarvis gives us an idea in his post “Blogs then and now”
Three years ago, blogs were still a curiosity to a business audience, new enough to warrant a cover story, strange enough to require explaining. But now, blogs and social media are not only better understood and accepted but they are coming to be seen as a necessity in media and more and more in business. I’ve written three stories in the magazine about business using social media to rebuild relationships with customers — Dell blogging and collaborating with customers and Starbucks opening a platform for customers’ ideas.
Business Week itself has a score of blogs and when I went there for a blogging workshop, what struck me most was that I did not hear the usual objections to blogging that are thrown at me when speaking with a group of media people: that blogs are not professional and thus not reliable. One staffer who came late did fret about the amount of crap out there but her fellow staffers argued her down; I didn’t have to. The meat of the discussion was, instead, no longer about why journalists blog but instead about how to blog better, how to be more involved in the conversation.
Next, I think, Business Week’s writers and readers will move beyond the conversation to see that social media are changing their fundamental relationship with customers to be less about serving and more about collaborating. No, I don’t mean that every product will be the product of a committee. But customers who want to talk will and smart companies will not just listen but will engage them in decisions. This will have an impact not just on PR and image but on product design, marketing, sales, customer service — the whole company.
Three years from now, I predict that Business Week’s cover won’t about about blogs or tools but about companies as communities.
This movement in how blogs are being used is an unconscious evolution–like Twitter, the usage of medium has evolved on its own, through how its users interact with each other. This next step of blogging isn’t some far off vision in some other land, but happening here as well–you can see a blueprint of this evolution in how KLue operates its blog by getting the community involved in the process.
In its previous version, the magazine’s blog used to be a bog-standard top-down post that didn’t invite visitors to contribute, but through subtle changes–the posts are shorter, more personal, and ask open-ended questions–the blog has become better literally overnight.
This is the free prize that Seth Godin writes about in making your product better: in this case, readers buy the magazine, but the relationship between publisher and reader doesn’t end at print; they also get involved in a community with every purchase–the entry to the community is the Free Prize.