Blogs: Influencers First, Businesses Next

    November 2, 2004

I’ve written before about the growing trend of using blogs as part of marketing and public relations but how will blogs impact business and society in the future? Part of the answer can be seen in how blogs are currently impacting American politics.

Blog Influence
How Much Influence Do Blogs Have?

Click below to comment on this article. How have blogs influenced the election? Will their power continue to grow? Will industry blogs become e-publishing businesses themselves? What are your thoughts?

The talking points of CBS, NBC, ABC, NY Times, Washington Post and LA Times have lost a significant amount of influence over the years with the advent of alternative news sources. The explosion of conservative talk radio in the 90’s and the huge success of Fox News has been a powerful blow diminishing the influence of the old media in setting the news agenda.

Blogs: The News Influencers.

The potential power of blogs to further reduce big media influence cannot be understated. Blogs are much more distributed than any other media and this gives them a depth no other media can match. Blogs are literally the equivalent of thousands of reporters able to kill a false story with facts within minutes of its publication or broadcast. If the false story is significant, the blogosphere will erupt and the old media must react.

Blogs are replacing the mainstream media as the public’s first stop for news and information. The Drudge Report news blog generates over 10 million visitors a day, more than any other “big brand” news site. Political blogs such as PoliPundit, Daily Kos, Instapundit and Power Line receive thousands of visitors per day. However, the big bloggers see themselves more as news watchdogs, “Asked [at a panel discussion] how influential bloggers could be, when not all Americans have computers with Internet access, the bloggers said their target isn’t the general public. It’s people who shape news or policies – who are ”opinion leaders” such as journalists”

We Are The Blog. Resistance Is Futile.

The real power is in the Borg-like ability of hundreds of thousands of blogs to collectively think (assimilate) and spread information. Listen up old media Resistance is futile! Dr. Joan Ruddiman, educator and writer believes all of these blogs are good for freedom, “the advent of independent news bloggers, who are kept in check by their readers, may be a dose of differing opinions – good for the health of our democracy”.

Doug Kern of Tech Central Station chimes in, “In the future there will be no “paper of record,” no “America’s most trusted news source,” no conveniently anonymous editorial boards to shape the political discourse. The mainstream media excels at the gathering of information, but information is not synonymous with news. Information is data. News is a story. And it doesn’t take a clerical collar or a journalism degree to tell a compelling story. On the net, every man is his own editor”.

Just how are blogs impacting the mainstream media? Blogger and journalist Doc Searls thinks traditional media and bloggers compliment each other, “What we need isn’t competition between blogs and mainstream news outlets, but a working symbiosis between the two”. Orrin Judd in his blog agrees, “Their real influence, such that they have, is probably coming from the fact that journalists themselves are relying on blogs to keep abreast of stories”.

Industry Blogs Impacting Business.

Of course, the compelling success of news and political blogs is only part of the story. Business blogs designed for marketing and public relations will eventually have a similar significant impact. Business people already use the Internet as their main source for political news. It seems sensible that blogs will transition to become their primary filter for professional news as well.

Blogs focusing on topics like advertising, marketing, public relations, technology, search engines, publishing and business strategy have a more professional tone than other types of blogs. They are the beginning of the new business influencers complimenting business and industry websites and magazines.

As niche industry blogs start to hit a critical mass of pageviews and unique visitors, sponsors seeking these target audiences will follow it is inevitable. As far as I can tell, there are very few blogs making significant revenue revenue that can fund staff and a business infrastructure.

Recently, there have been many articles focusing on ways for blogs to make money. These typically point to solutions like Adsense and Blogads but these programs generally don’t generate enough revenue to create real businesses out of blogs. Unfortunately, partnership deals for most will pay only slightly above the blog panhandling approach.

Industry Blogs Become Real Businesses.

Over the next few years, targeted blogs delivering coveted niche audiences of decision makers will thrive financially. Advertisers will pay a premium to connect with these hard to reach individuals. These niche blogs will evolve to become sucessful independent businesses as they reach traffic levels that interest corporate marketers and ad agencies.

Political and news blogs are seeing the beginnings of power and their influence will grow exponentially in coming years. However, I expect their revenue potential to remain low in proportion to their traffic.

More promising is how industry blogs will impact business decisions. Industry blogs will become a primary source of information for managers and corporate influencers. We are on the verge of a new wave of successful e-publishing businesses based on niche blogs. Over the next couple of years I expect many popular business blogs to be acquired by larger online publishers.

Rich Ord is the CEO of iEntry, Inc. which publishes over 200 websites and email newsletters.

Rich also publishes his blog WebProBlog which focuses on internet business and marketing trends.