26 September 2010

Blogs are maturing as a marketing channel

Are blogs dead? No, they are maturing and for that reason are an opportunity for marketers.

Economist: the growth of blogs has stalled

A recent analysis by The Economist suggests that the growth of blogs has stalled as many bloggers move to Facebook and Twitter. Some people are more comfortable “microblogging” in 140 characters than writing a blog post. As evidence, the article points to abandoned blogs that haven’t been updated in years.

The question is whether migration to microblogging is a permanent trend. The Economist didn’t convince me. Some of their evidence was questionable: an advertising sales company specializing in blogs grew tenfold during 2004-2008 and then “only” 17% since then. Most of us would gladly accept 17% growth in these economic times.

Ad Majorem: blogs are maturing

My own theory is that blogs are maturing. Facebook and Twitter are attracting people who would start a blog if that was their only option. Former bloggers are switching because they express themselves just as well via microblogging. There never was a vast population of people with the patience and perseverance to blog day after day. People who are meant to blog will continue blogging. A great example is Don Dodge, who claimed last week “I will never give up blogging.”

In the same post, however, he made a good case for the decline of RSS readers, which is how many readers learn about fresh blog content. For example, Ask.com will close Bloglines on October 1st, signaling the end of an era for the blogosphere. Another big change is that Six Apart, the blog company behind TypePad and other services, is being acquired by Video Egg.

Blogs are maturing and their role is changing. Social Media are not cannibalizing blogs, they are serving a different market for self-expression and they are supplanting RSS readers as a way to promote blog content.

What are the implications for Marketing? (“Marketing”, it’s very important to say, includes public relations, especially in this case. For a passionate view on this from a dyed-in-the-wool blogger, click here.)

Blogs are the ultimate vertical medium

In the days of Ye Olde Marketing we sometimes called magazines a “vertical medium” because an advertiser could reach very narrow, specialized target audiences via special-interest titles. Those still exist, of course, and blogs play a similar role. The Economist acknowledged this point as well.

To take this idea a bit further, let’s not lose sight of the fact that blogs help drive word-of-mouth for our clients’ products. A positive review by an influential mommy blogger can accelerate sales for a new product launch, simply by driving word-of-mouth.

A little to the side from marketing, blogs can promote free speech. In China, 70 million bloggers help promote views counter to those of the authoritarian government. We’ve seen the same thing in Cuba.

You’re probably not even reading this post right now….

Hopefully you agree that blogs are alive, well, and maturing. Perhaps you’ll consider their role in your marketing plans for 2011.


  1. Steve, I agree that blogs are maturing as a marketing vehicle and also that social media may be killing the RSS feed (especially Twitter). Your post here has me thinking about the maturity of blogs, from the perspective of a changing audience. Clearly marketing, advertising, and PR people read blogs. How do we shift decision makers to the medium? Perhaps that's the genesis behind The Economist article...

  2. I think that the process of maturing is necessarily going to include an emphasis on quality over quantity, so any decline in the number of blogs reinforces your view rather than detracts from it, IMHO. Microblogging has its place, but when more information is needed a longer post explaining a businesses specials, events, etc will be needed - hence the very high use of links in all microblogging posts.

    So I agree with you - the Economist was, unusually, a bit off on this one.