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Why blogs don’t have to be bad for business

A year ago only internet ad- dicts knew what a blog was, but now everybody from district nurses (lifeinthenhs.wordpress.com) to farmers’ wives (farmerwife.blogspot.com) have them. Even politicians (sadiqkhan.org.uk/blog/sadiqblog) are blogging, although it appears that some may have the odd helper.

In case you are just back from Planet Zorg, a blog is a weblog — an online diary or journal. Blogging sites, such as myspace.com, blogger.com, typepad.com and wordpress.com are easy to use and typically free, enabling anyone who has the urge to put their experiences online for all to read.

Blogs are rapidly attracting large amounts of advertising and serious attention from the traditional media and lawyers. Society is having to come to terms with the new ability of everybody to announce to the world what, previously, would have been shared only with the regulars in the Angler’s Rest.

Bloggers are also beginning to realise that the flipside to being able to freely broadcast their views is that they can be held to account for allegations and opinions found to be spurious or libellous.

A college lecturer who called a colleague a Nazi in an anonymous blog was found guilty of libel and fined, after the aggrieved party managed to unveil the culprit.

In the US, the pseudonyms of many bloggers hostile to certain politicians have been blown, revealing them to be their political rivals. Anonymous bloggers who blow the whistle on their employers have been sacked after their true identity was discovered, though employers generally have a relaxed attitude to employees who profess to enjoy their work. Take a look at neenaw.co.uk for a nice example — the blogger behind it is a dispatcher for the London Ambulance Service and his enthusiasm for his job shines through his postings.

Which brings us to the horrid truth about blogs. The vast majority are rubbish — as boring as the average teenage diary and with nothing to say: “Got up, had breakfast, went to school (Boo!)” etc.

Even worse are the ones that have nothing to say and do so in several thousand words. And there must surely be a special place reserved in hell for all the bloggers out there who regard themselves as the next Oscar Wilde. All this is made worthwhile by the 0.1 per cent of blogs that have something to say and say it with style. They can find rich rewards in acclaim and advertising revenue.

The corporate world is still trying to come to terms with blogging. The first response was to monitor the blogs for whistleblowers, cranks, pressure groups and threats that can easily spiral out of control.

The next response was to provide official corporate blogs, signed off by the PR team to keep them on-message. The danger here is that they might be seen as PR puffs and be actively bad for the company image. The reading public quickly detects a phoney and is merciless when it uncovers one.

The impact of blogging on corporate life is uncertain. It cannot be ignored. The best response is probably for companies to act straightforwardly — advertise on good blogs and allow their own blogging employees to be honest, open and entertaining.