There are a couple of complimentary pieces up by two Canadian blogging journalists, Mark Evans and Mathew Ingram, which, in their own ways talk about what I believe are the cornerstone ideas behind blogging… authenticity and feedback.
Mathew brings up a great point about idea marketer Seth Godin who is not leading by example in building relationships with his customer base. Seth has decided, by disabling comments on his blog, not to engage his community in conversation. The irony of this of course is that Seth is renowned for talking about engagement… If Seth has a site, he should be talking to his audience on a fairly regular basis. That’s part of the job of blogging. I need to be able to give direct feedback to the person who’s opinion I’m reading. It’s a conversation. This is a mistake corporate blogs can make as well, broadcasting vetted communiques out and expecting consumers to care…
Take away: leave the comments on and talk to those who would take the time to engage with you, otherwise it’s just a press release or a lecture.
It’s interesting that newspapers are starting to get this basic concept, which both Mathew and Mark can attest to:
We added comments on every story at the newspaper I work for, the Globe and Mail, because we would like to hear from readers some of whom, it must be said, seem to like shouting or criticizing just for the sake of criticizing, but many of whom have intelligent and thoughtful things to say. The BBC has its Have Your Say feature for the same reason. In many ways, it's the evolution of the letters section, or a more civilized version of call-in radio shows. We benefit from it, and so do our readers, and I would argue blogs do the same.
And from Mark:
At the end of the day, many journalists will have no choice but to blog if newspapers are going to survive and thrive. I think these blogs will be written differently than newspaper stories with a bit more personal colour. Blog are also going to be important tools to build a closer relationship with readers, which will means the “conversation” will go both ways rather than reporters broadcasting to readers.
I mentioned after the mesh conference that I was concerned about the impact of declining readership, declining ad revenue in print and online as consumers use news aggregators like Google News or RSS feeds. I wondered how newspapers could continue to pay the bills. Consumers being able to engage directly with the reporters can be a great way to provide a reason for the person to visit the site or blog of the paper… and ideally generate revenue. By being authentic and open for direct and honest feedback the newspaper has become part of the conversation. People will respect that and, hopefully, reward it monetarily over the long-term.