Monday, July 09, 2007

Don't blog, write...

So says Jakob Nielson in his latest Alertbox

Write Articles, Not Blog Postings (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
You probably already know my own Internet strategy, so it might not surprise you that I recommended that he should instead invest his time in writing thorough articles that he published on a regular schedule. Given limited time, this means not spending the effort to post numerous short comments on ongoing blogosphere discussions. (bold facing is from original)
To a large degree I have to agree with him given the context in which he positions his argument, i.e., he was advising "a world leader in his field" on whether the leader should start a weblog.

Mr. Nielsen then goes on to explain in what he himself calls "...a very long article, stuffed with charts and statistical concepts..." why it is not in the best interest for the world leader to emulate most blogs being published. A great number of these consist of short posts  (maximum 7 to 10 paragraphs) linking to a news article, report, or some other official publication and providing the writer's opinion of that linked item.

Mr. Nielsen recommends that longer, well-researched articles posted on a regular basis should be the model the world leader follow, if that world leader wishes to make money from his or her efforts. Of course this sounds like the old model "White Paper" that can already be found on a great number of corporate websites, which, ironically are given away for free.

While I agree there is a log of chafe that a reader has to wade through (including this site) to find the nuggets in the blog world, I can't help but feel that Mr. Nielsen has a real problem with what he dismisses at the end of his article as the "so-called Web 2.0 movement."

Having been a loyal reader of Mr. Nielsen for probably about 6 years I couldn't help detect a bit of peevish elitism coming through in this article and he misses the value of the blog as a means of leveling the publishing playing field and where ideas can come from the most unexpected places, not just handed down on high from "world leaders."

For instance, after throwing a fig leaf to blogs by arguing that they have a role in business as project blogs, he argues that "[b]logs are also fine for websites that sell cheap products...For many B2B sites with long sales cycles, quick hits...are insufficient. Instead, these sites need to build up long-term customer relationships based on respect." What sales has to do with his world leader is beyond my grasp.

But then it appears that the way people use blogs appears to be beyond Mr. Nielsen's understanding. He writes as if people use search engines to find blog posts.
The beauty of the blogosphere is that it's a self-organizing system. Whenever something good appears, other blogs link to it and it gets promoted in the system and gains higher visibility. Thus, the 24 postings that are better than our expert's very best attempt will gain higher prominence, even though they're written by people with lower overall expertise.
But the beauty of blogs is that the people the world leader wants to influence are not those who are going to stop after the first 24 returns, but who will continue to dig. And once they find that world leader's blog they will subscribe to it and receive all future postings automatically.

Ironically, I fear that any world leader that follows Mr. Nielsen's concluding advice will suffer the same fate (figuratively speaking) as Marie Antoinette whom it paraphrases.
Elite, expertise-driven sites are the exception to the rule. For these sites, you don't care about 90% of users, because they want a lower level of quality than you provide and they'll never pay for your services. People looking for the quick hit and free advice are not your customers. Let them eat cake; let them read Wikipedia.
But that's just my opinion, for what its worth.

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