Are Company Blogs Dead?

    November 3, 2006

It’s semi-official. Blogs have now joined hula hoops, Pro-Keds and lava lamps in the attic of abandoned obsessions.

When fast food companies start making TV commercials in which a guy considers blogging about his sandwich for his “readers” and his wife chimes in with “Your mother,” you know the dirty little secret is out-most of those millions of blogs claimed by Blogger and Moveable Type are read mainly by their creators and immediate family, rarely updated, or quickly abandoned altogether.

The evidence is still mainly anecdotal (or perhaps early adopters are too embarassed to say so) but it appears that companies that rushed to offer a blog to any employee who wanted one are finding the abandonment rate inside corporations is just about as high as it is on consumer side.

“Most of the companies that launched employee blogs forgot the two most essential ingredients for success,” says Amy Vickers, head of Enterprise Solutions at Avenue A | Razorfish, the largest interactive marketing and technology services firm. “The first is that in order to attract readers the blogger needs to have something interesting or unique to say. Not everyone does. The second factor they overlooked is that even employees with an interesting perspective on the company usually feel constrained to write about it because of the internal culture. Thus, the people who have something really important to say are the ones who are most reluctant to say it.”

The company blog perspective is one of eight “Trends That Will Change Your Intranet” that are explored by Avenue A | Razorfish analysts in its new Corporate Intranets Best Practices Report – A User-Driven Web 2.0 Perspective.
The authors view video, RSS and wikis as the current hot spots driving intranet content and Avenue A | Razorfish has built an extraordinary intranet for itself using the same, free, open-source MediaWiki software on which Wikipedia is built.

You can register and download a copy of the Corporate Intranets report here.

My personal perspective is that while you can use public-facing blogs to build community (see my own Sequenza21 contemporary music site for an example), they are not the most efficient way for business organizations to interact with their customers or even for employees to interact with each other. Basically, blogs are the same old “we talk, you listen, maybe we let you comment” model left over from the print world. Blogs are interactive, but barely. (I’m sure the nice people at Six Apart, who are busily rolling out their enterprise platforms would disagree.)

Tightly focused, content-rich social networking sites like CarnivalConnections, an interactive community for dedicated cruise enthusiasts built by Avenue A | Razorfish for Carnival Cruise Lines has already proven to be enormously successful in building loyalty and repeat business. And, wikis are quietly making their way into the mainstream as a better alternative to traditional intranets. These are much more promising avenues for enterprises.

Blogs may not be literally dead; the more popular and independent public blogs are read by millions of people and they have become an important influence in politics, technology and retailing. But, most of the biggest blogs are now written by people who do it for a living or promotion for their own services. For large business organizations, the chances of producing or having an employee produce a credible blog that would attract enough of a following to make the effort worthwhile are pretty slim. Sure, Scoble did it for Microsoft but, of course, he was really marketing himself.



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Jerry Bowles has more than 30 years of varied experience as a writer, editor, marketing consultant, corporate communications director and blogger. For the past 20 years, he has produced and written special supplements on new technologies for a number of magazines, including Forbes, Fortune and Newsweek.