Last night I attended the EcommerceSIG’s Intro to Business Blogs roundtable where represented were the authors of a number of my regular reads, including Anil Dash, Elizabeth Spiers from Gawker, Aaron Bailey from 601am, and Rick Bruner from MarketingFix.
The panel basically came concurred that there are three primary business applications for blogs:
Micro-publishing, as per Gawker, MarketingFix, or Gizmodo. The advantage of blogging is the very low fixed costs and the focused niche audiences. The disadvantage is the difficulty in selling ad space without a dedicated effort. Affiliate links generate the bulk of Gizmodo’s revenue, but not every site is so commerce-oriented. Is it really possible that FlavorPill makes $40K per month in sponsorships?
Blogs as promotion of the core business. This technique is being used commonly by many consultants and freelancers who establish their expertise in a particular subject and thereby generate leads from their blog traffic. Larger companies are starting to use this technique to promote media properties such as the Barbie Blog or the Sesame Street Blog (URL Anyone?).
Communications both internally and externally. Consultant John Lawlor espoused that after years of frustrated attempts at imposing complicated knowledge management systems on employees from above, increasingly individual managers are implementing blogs behind corporate firewalls as easy collaboration tools. Jason Shellen from Blogger/Google shared this view and gave the example of Google’s sales team blog. I wonder if anyone’s working on a perma-url system for internal file servers?
In addition to the meat of the meeting, here are my personal observations (in always-fun bulleted form):
- I’m glad I didn’t attend the Boston conference last week since there was a pretty wide consensus that is was very “philosophical” and there was a 2 day argument about what a blog is. Uggh.
- It was nice to hear that Tony Perkins’ Always-On got slammed at the conference. I have written about this before and before that.
- Elizabeth Spiers was not very friendly. But I’ll cut her some slack, she’s become a mini-celebrity out of nowhere so I’m sure every ass in the tri-state area thinks they’re her best buddy.
- Rick displayed a very swank “Gawker” trucker hat. Soon to be on eBay, I’m sure.
- Elizabeth told the audience her monthly salary, which I don’t feel like posting. Let’s just say it’s modest.
- In typical blogger form, many of the panelists seemed just as interested in recording the event as in participating. The 6 panelists had at least 5 digital cameras on stage.
- Aaron Bailey was very nice, even complemented my redesign on EverythingNY (which admittedly still sucks).
- Didn’t know 601am was so popular!
- Only three members of the audience had blogs currently; I was surprised that there were so many people who were interested enough in blogging to attend a conference but not enough to start one. It’s basically free and takes less time to set one up than it took me to make it to midtown on the F train.
My final thought: It seems to me that the business applications of blogs are pretty obvious to anyone who has taken the time to create their own blog and become familiar with the blogosphere. The real knowledge gap is among people who still don’t understand blogs at all, and are unfamiliar with the range of creative and technical possibilities that exist. Someone could probably make some money with a traveling “Introduction to Blogging” roadshow for the newbies — I’m confident they’ll figure out the business applications on their own.