Archive for September, 2005
A link is always nice. It’s been said that links are the currency of bloggin, that they are the nicest way to say thanks and that they are what make blogging so unique. Ensight gets a fair amount of links, many of which I see. And most of these are simply mentions of things I’ve written or done, compliments or just a link to my site when someone mentions my name.
I only realized today that it’s been awhile since anyone’s link made me feel humbled and honored. A recent review of, well, me, by The Language Artist did just that though.
I guess this is what happens when a real artist turns their attention to you. You get humbled.
Thanks TLA, and thanks again to every reader who visits every day. This piece reminded me of how humbling it is to have so many people read what I write.
Evan, our 2 year old, is in his room moaning to himself “mine so tired… mine soooo tired…”. It’s incredibly cute :-D
I’m sure he’ll learn to say “I’m so tired” soon enough, but until then, I enjoy “mine so tired” and “mine write mine name” (which he does remarkably well for a 2 year old, the E and the V are clear as day).
Suw Charman has asked a few folk to respond to some core business blogging questions. Here are the questions, and my answers:
Authenticity – can companies manage to blog authentically, with honesty and openness, given our current climate of spin?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that overall, our culture is looking for more and more human responses. Presidential bids are being won or lost more on how ‘human’ people feel a candidate is than in any other time in history, people are responding to products now more than ever based on how it makes them feel and word of mouth is becoming one of the single most important marketing channels.
In this climate, it isn’t surprising that more and more companies are seeking greater degrees of transparency – both internally and externally.
In my mind, the current ‘climate of spin’, as you call it, is simply companies taking a fear-based approach to dealing with issues of transparency, openness and honesty. And, while the tactic may work short term (I haven’t seen any evidence that it is, of course), the reality is that long term, consumers are going to continue looking for companies that they feel good about and companies that they ultimately trust.
That trust isn’t built from spin. It’s built from positive experiences, a sense of relationship, open communication and a track record of truthfulness.
Blog ethics – is giving a blogger free samples of your goods and then rewarding them for blogging about it crossing a moral line, or is it simply giving people the chance to review your product?
As with most issues of ethics, in my opinion this isn’t so much an issue of action as of attitude. Giving bloggers free products for the express purpose (even if it’s not specifically stated) of generating positive reviews is asking them to compromise their readership, their trustworthiness and their values.
On the other hand, giving bloggers product and asking them to honestly review it (and specifically stating that negative reviews are just as valuable as positive ones) creates a freedom for bloggers to do what they do best: be honest.
Rewarding honesty, then, and specifically rewarding negative honesty, reinforces the fact that the company values bloggers for who they are, how they behave and what they value.
However, if a company asks bloggers to review something, only rewards positive reviews and doesn’t mengtion the negative ones, that is simply creating, to coin a phrase from your earlier question, a ‘climate of spin.’
Gathering feedback – can businesses learn to have genuine and constructive conversations with their critics?
In my mind, this is only possible if businesses shift how they view their customers. The natural business inclination is to look at customers as a mob. Call them ‘consumers’, call them ‘profit centers’ or call them ‘demographics’, they natural inclination is to de-individualize people and term them into something quantifiable.
As more and more businesses shift into mindsets which promote the customers as individuals (for some this is due to trying to create communities, for others this is due to trying to create customer evangelists and for others it is simply empowering word of mouth), the trend towards real conversations and being able to receive constructive criticism will only grow.
The reality is that every unhappy customer (or Saboteur, as the case may be) is simply a happy customer (or Customer Evangelist) waiting to happen. By ignoring the reality that customers are looking to have positive experiences, and that conversations are one of the easiest (and most cost effective) ways to create positive experiences, businesses are ultimately hurting their long term bottom line and survivability.
Real conversations create real positive experiences which create massive new opportunities for any size of business.
Dealing with leaks – will companies continue to sue bloggers who break leaked stories, or should bloggers enjoy the same protection that journalists do?
In any company where fear is of bigger value than customers, secrecy is more important than transparency and protecting intellectual property (specifically property that will become public) is more important than empowering your communtiy… Yeah, bloggers will continue to be sued.
However companies that actually value customers as individuals, value positive experiences, see the potential in conversations and communities and believe in their product enough to have it critiqued will eventually challenge themselves to encourage people who get early information instead of dissuading it.
We’re seeing some of that type of activity out of Microsoft (giving early previews of technology to bloggers, and letting them know they can feel free to blog anything that isn’t specifically protected) and out of other companies. It’s a new kind of game, and it’s a difficult one to play and companies that do step up to the table will likely need to face substantial changes in order to stay in the game…
However, the prize of customer confidence, real conversations and trust are worth the pain that may be required to obtain the goals..
The long tail business – can companies adapt their business models to make the most of the niche markets revealed by the long tail?
Ach, the infamous long tail. Y’know, I have to talk to journalists every week who think this buzzword is the next big thing. In my opinion, the long tail is really just about talking to your customers and people, and empowering people outside your company to carry your brand with them (which is something they’ll do anyways, but it definitely makes it easier if you empower them to do so).
To me, companies that try and do “Long Tail Marketing” (a term I’m starting to hear, which makes me sick) are likely trying too hard and will just become “bzzagenty”: trying to appeal to individuals by bribing them or devaluing them in some way instead of building them up and empowering them.
However, for companies that are already, or are considering starting to look at, valuing their customers, creating positive experiences or engaging in real conversations… The long tail will naturally be marketed to, empowered, pitched into or whatever this week’s metaphor is.
Think about, it which company is more “long taily”: the wine company that asked Hugh Macleoud to pass out free bottles of wine to bloggers, or Dove who is offering free products and “lifestyle makeovers” to women around the world? To me, the company that values the person as a person and not just a contribution is the one who will succeed in “Long Tail Marketing”.
I’ve taken the last few days off, largely because I’ve been tired from launch b5, but also because I seriously hurt my back last night.
Also, don’t worry, this blog won’t be overrun with b5 promotional posts. This is my personal blog. b5 is work. b5 stuff will generally stay on the b5 site so that those interested can subscribe to it specifically.
I’ll be the first to admit that I suck at keeping the things I’m doing a secret. I’m pretty good at keeping other peoples’ secrets, but I really, really am quite bad at keeping my own.
So, it should come as no surprise to most readers that my newest project is called b5media, that it’s a blogging network and that it is now live!
It’s been a long journey, full of perils and Tylenol, but we’ve finally made it. And, we’re still smiling!
We’re launching with 14 blogs, 8 bloggers (not including the 3 guys behind it) and a fair amount of optimism. Sure, the network has only made 5$ so far, but we can only go up from here!
There’s all kinds of posts on the b5media blog explaining a lot of what’s gone on, our pay rate, showing the contract and generally trying to be open to criticism, critique and good ideas.
Please feel free to share thoughts, insults, comments, critiques, whatever. We’re all big boys, we can take it ;-)
And, finally, for posterity’s sake, here is one of the early emails we sent out this week to “a few select friends”:
You may or may not have started hearing talk about b5media on various blogs around. We wanted to give you all the juice first. We don’t launch until Wednesday and we still need to move servers, get 2 more blogs live AND get a new template done and installed… But we still wanted you all to be the first to know, since all of the guys behind b5media have appreciated the collective wisdom of everyone here so much. It’s so exciting to see people learning, teaching and making money doing something they love.
Which is exactly why we started b5media (www.b5media.com).
b5media is a new blogging network which, to us, is halfway between 9rules (www.9rules.com) and WIN (www.weblogsinc.com). We’re definitely commercial, like Weblogs Inc, but we’re also totally about the people in the network, like 9rules. In fact, we consider our authors to be the most important part… But, more on that later.
Here’s some basic info:
Who’s behind b5?
Darren Rowse, of ProBlogger (www.problogger.net) fame, and Mr. Six Figure Blogger. Duncan Riley of Weblog Empire (www.weblogempire.com) and The Blog Herald (www.blogherald.com). And Jeremy Wright of “making a fool of himself, and having a hell of a time doing it” and Ensight (www.ensight.org).
When does it launch?
Our launch date is Wednesday. It’s most likely that there’ll still be a heck of a lot of work to do after that, but at least all the blogs will be debuted to the world.
Why is b5 different?
We think the biggest differentiator we have is that our authors are the heroes. They are the ones that we want to have a huge profile on each blog they write, we want to interview them regularly and we want to see them. Succeed. To us, too many traditional blogging networks (if there is such a thing) focus on the blog network owners succeeding. We believe that if our bloggers succeed, eventually we will too.
Beyond that, we also want to work towards covering areas that wouldn’t typically be covered by blogging networks. Sure, we’ll have sports and gadget and finance blogs. But we want to go beyond that. We want to create blogs in “lifestyle” categories. Like one that shows men how to look cool without spending a fortune (www.sheknowsbest.com, which just woke up today and isn’t yet truly “live”). And we want to serve key niches that aren’t yet covered, like aviation (with blogs like www.flightnest.com).
More than anything, though, we want to let our bloggers do things they are passionate about. Many of the newest blogs being launched are in that vein – subjects that our bloggers love and simply needed an outlet for it.
What blogs are there?
Here is the list of blogs that are currently “awake” (ie: domain bought, wordpress installed, blogger setup) as well as those that are “live” (ie: design up, blogger(s) writing, blog ready in nearly every sense of the word):
The Sports Weblog – A sports blog. The writer has chosen to add personality to the mix, by always favoring one team in each league, and always contrasting things against that team. It might get old, but so far it lends and entertaining slant to something that could otherwise just be rehashed sports content.
The Movie Weblog – This is done by Jacob, who also writes the sports blog, as well as Erin who is one of the Play Girlz writers. I enjoy reading this blog personally, but then I’ve been craving real, down-to-earth movie reviews for a while J
The Unofficial Windows Vista Weblog – Windows Vista is Microsoft’s next Operating System. This is a blog about that.
The Unofficial Microsoft Weblog – This should be fairly obvious. Written by John, who also writes the Vista blog. We wanted to give a place for a solid amount of Microsoft news. In truth, I pitched Jason at WIN on overhauling the MS blog there (which only gets a post a day on average) and he turned me down. I’m glad we can start to build a solid repertoire of MS info now.
Cooking Gadgets – This is a crossover gadget. The blogger wanted to write a blog about cooking as well as a gadget blog. We didn’t feel a gadget blog was needed right now. So, the answer? One that combines both worlds. Written by Arieanna Foley of www.blogaholics.ca.
Play Girlz – This sounds so … dirty. But, it’s our video game blog. Written by 2 hardcore gamer chicks. Who chose this name themselves!!! Awesome. They’re still finding their pace (They’re both new to blogging), but once they do this should be a funny, kickass blog.
Flight Nest – Aviation blog written by Tim Flight and Mike Elgan. Both hobby pilots and incredibly smart.
Cellphone9 – How can you have a blogging network without a mobile phone /mobile gadgets blog? Thankfully we have a young asian guy writing this, who’s getting loads of scoops on cool stuff. It probably won’t be Engadget, but we’re really happy that Jayvee is not only having fun, but that he’s infusing his personality into the writing.
b5media blog – … Does this count in the network list? Ah well, it’s a blog, it’ll be active, and it’s live.
Simply Dumb – This is like fark. Only in blog format. And without the boobs. Weird, wacky, wonderful things from around the web.
Unplugged Living – Have you ever wanted to live “off the grid”? Kevin Humphrey from Turboblogger (www.turboblogger.com) had this as his passion, so we’re letting him express it. This blog is only “awake”, but it’ll be live (fingers crossed) for Wednesday.
She Knows Best – Mentioned already. Arieanna is also writing this one. Once again, this one was determined by passion.
Literally Blogging – This is our “literature” blog. We’re excited about this, mainly because it’s an area we haven’t seen covered by other blog networks, but also because the two bloggers are both literature buffs (Jacob, from the Sports and Movie weblog and Erin from Play Girlz and the Movie weblog).
Search Engine Herald – This is an existing blog, from Duncan’s Weblog Empire network, which is being brought into b5 (as many of our existing blogs will be over time).
What’s next for b5?
Well, first we want to make sure we’re doing all this right, we want to take care of legal stuff, we want to finalize designs and logos and we want to make sure our bloggers are happy . Once things are “right”, we’ll be launching another series of blogs with existing authors as well as looking to bring new blogs online with new authors. Our goal is to work with the best bloggers we can, on topics they are passionate about. When I chat with a potential blogger and they ask “what do you want me to write about?”, I always flip it around and ask them what they want to write about.
For now, our bloggers will drive network growth, and we’ll bring in occasional new bloggers as there is space.
Sorry that this was so self-promotional, but we wanted to give you guys all the juice. We wanted to provide enough context so that as we updated y’all on our progress you’d know where we’re coming from.
If you have any questions, ask. If you want to blog about this, feel free. You can be positive, negative, ecstatic. Heck, you can beg to be one of the bloggers. If you have ideas for blogs, for new ways to push the medium of blogging and blog networks or if you want to be involved in some way, feel free to drop me or the other 2 guys a line.
Again, thanks to everyone for their help and wisdom so far. Hopefully through this experience, Darren, Duncan and I can give a little something back.
Have a great week all, and fingers crossed that the 21st doesn’t come too soon ;-)