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Blogs vs. Blog: What Should we be Studying?

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A piece just sent to me as part of the Poynter Institute’s E-Media Tidbits email distribution stopped me from working so I could gnaw on it a bit.

This was tough. I’m facing so many deadlines this month that I haven’t been blogging much-or sleeping much-but this one grabbed me by the collar and demanded I pay attention.

The survey was conducted for the BBC by Globescan and released at the BBC-hosted WeMedia conference in London. Some 10,000 adults from 10 countries were interviewed about the media sources they trust and distrust. The results seem to fly in the face of the Edelman Trust Baramoter, which indicated trust in traditional media was waning dramatically while most people put most faith in “someone like me.” According to the Globescan survey, traditional news media was at the top of the list and blogs-the epitome of social media-were dead last, the least trusted source. According to Globescan President Doug Miller:

National TV is still the most trusted news source by a wide margin, although the Internet is gaining ground among the young. The jury is still out on blogs-just as many people distrust them as trust them.

I suppose if you asked me if I trusted the sum total of content produced by mainstream media more or less than the sum total of content in the blogosphere, I wouldn’t hesitate to cast my vote for mainstream media. There are a lot of blogs out there I don’t trust for a variety of reasons ranging from the motives behind the people writing them to not having a clue who’s writing them. Then there are those that are simply so outgrageous they defy credibility. And let’s not forget the universe of blogs that aren’t even trying to be trusted information sources; they’re just having fun.

Indeed, I have no doubt there are those who find this blog not credible or outrageous. That’s fine; everybody decides for themselves what to believe and what not to believe.

But there’s another way to view the issue that the Globescan study didn’t address: Do you find the blogs you regularly read more or less credible than any given story reported by the media? In this case, I have come to know the styles, biases, strenghts and weaknesses of the blogs I routinely read. Those that don’t stand up to my own test eventually fall off my news reader. I’m left with a collection of a couple hundred blogs covering a variety of topics in which my trust is quite high. The fact that I find Mike Manuel or Josh Hallett particularly believable and credible does not, however, mean that I find blogs in general credible or believable.

So the question of blog credibility is not necessarily answered because 10,000 adults indicated they don’t trust blogs as a group. Given that blogs are a component of the social media landscape, most people don’t approach blogs as a category; rather, they approach them as individual points of contact. To ask if you trust blogs is like asking if you trust people. There are plenty of people I trust, but I’m not likely to have someone I don’t know watch my wallet for me.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.

Blogs vs. Blog: What Should we be Studying?
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