Jeremy Zawodnys Dumb Blog

    November 16, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Put the flamethrowers down, folks; Zawodny referred to his site as “my dumb blog” and discussed the joys and perils associated with blogging at Yahoo. Rich Ord sent along details of Zawodny’s talk at PubCon.

Jeremy Zawodny’s “Dumb Blog”
Jeremy Zawodny Discusses Blog Content

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Jeremy Zawodny opened his talk on blogs and blogging by discussing his work on his “dumb blog” and why he does it. Even though he’s one of the privileged few who gets picked up in Memeorandum and referenced as a source on all things Yahoo, he started blogging simply for the fun of it.

Things started to mushroom as he sprinkled his blog with posts about Yahoo. People really responded to those items. It was a peek into the inner workings of a major Internet player as written by an insider. “I trust Yahoo more after I started reading Jeremy’s blog,” is just one of many unsolicited comments he’s received.

Who was reading Zawodny’s blog? Everyone, it seemed; he mentioned how co-workers, bosses, and even Yahoo’s founders perused it. Journalists did so as well, and began using him as a primary source on Yahoo, perceiving him as a trusted commenter.

He decided to test that view a bit more, and posed a question on his blog last year: “Does reading my blog affect your perception of Yahoo?” The answer was yes, accompanied by more positive feedback, like this: “I no longer view Yahoo as a bunch of soulless programmers.”

Zawodny sees blogs as important for companies, and not just massive global players like Yahoo. For small firms, blogs offer an extension of the personal connection people get when dealing with the business. Blogs can effectively complement the smallest company’s online exposure.

In big corporations known better for their brand names, a blog humanizes the perception of the company. The internal peek Zawodny provided into Yahoo that made his blog a compelling read can work for other companies. Blogs provide the opportunity to receive unfiltered feedback from the customer base, and even help effect change within an organization.

Blogs give their writers a lot of opportunity to fail in spectacular ways. They can get a person fired, make the blogger look stupid, even cast the blogger in the unwanted role of public whipping boy for the company’s critics. Another side effect in Zawodny’s case: being seen as Yahoo tech support by everyone on the Internet!

Yahoo provides a number of guidelines with regards to blogging, and warns that the potential for getting sued does exist. Telling internal secrets is a big no-no, while being wary of the press is a prudent state of mind. Being respectful and getting one’s facts straight are simple ways of avoiding many bad situations. Feedback given to commenters can be private as well as public, too, and Yahoo encourages that.

Zawodny disclosed a couple of subtle things about his blog during his talk. The Yahoo logo does not appear on it, but he does have ads from Yahoo’s Publisher Network in place. Also, take note of how he phrases certain posts: when he writes “Yahoo decided,” that’s an indication he disagrees with the official corporate line.

His work has profited him in many ways, and not just financially. Zawodny has been able to network with a lot of “smart people” and gets a lot of job offers because of his blog. He advised prospective corporate bloggers to ease into the role, understand the legal obligations, and consult with the boss if they feel a post needs some extra scrutiny. And above all, read how other bloggers have done it first.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.