business weblogs
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vol. 1, no.3
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Blogging: Can it Befit and Benefit Businesses?

In conversations over the last few weeks with a number of our Dutch clients and partners, it became clear to us that quite a number hadn’t even heard of the term “weblog”, or its even weirder abbreviation: “blog”. So, with apologies to the initiated, before we get to the meat of the third issue of Client & Partner Briefing we should provide a minimum of explanation. For the hell of it, we just tried asking “Ask Oxford” (one of our recommended websites), and they had nothing to offer, so…

The weblog concept originated in the mid-nineties as personal online diaries or journals. Utilizing that strange yet compelling mix of intimacy and remoteness that the Web offers to those who feel so inclined, they frequently revealed more about the “blogger” and his or her fantasy lives than most of us might prefer to know. Most are still idiosyncratic personal musings, but an increasing number are more outward looking, designed for professions or special interests. In fact they’ve been around since the beginning of networked computers, but as a global trend they’re relatively new. Many are now run, or contributed to, by groups. They provide really interesting and useful links and insights.

business weblog

Fashion designers know that keeping their eyes on the ball means keeping an eye on the street. At Oake Communications we know that we need to keep both our eyes and our minds open to new ideas, and W3 provides a continual source of inspiration. We wouldn’t want to pretend that we’re alone, of course. Software developers are already starting to market “business blogging” products. Some are marketing these as ‘knowledge management solutions’, described as ‘enterprise Weblog systems’. Perhaps aware of the potential for the whole idea to appear somewhat ‘nerdy’, they deliberately use more traditional management language, renaming weblogs as ‘projects’. In the end, if the concept and associated technologies are really useful, they’ll be used. We’re keeping an open mind and a keen eye on developments until we start hearing the fat lady singing.

It seems to us that the application of ‘blogging’ that makes much sense at the moment is in its adaptation to intranets and extranets. The adaptation of blogging

to business means that they’ll concern themselves more with projects and teams than with individuals. They can be used for tracking information about markets, products or competitive intelligence for example, or distributing information to employees, partners and customers.

When it comes to external communications, adapting some of the ideas behind blogging to customer-oriented websites could be quite productive. Public weblogs could create a much more personal interface with companies’ customers. A weblog that provides experiences, tips or news could well provide a viable online substitute for the more personal, old world relationship that traditional shopkeepers had with their customers, for example. Weblogs can be used as a knowledge base, informing both the supplier and the customer, and developing over time.

Corporate communications and PR offices have always monitored the press for coverage about or concerning their companies. Today they’re also checking out Internet discussion groups, forums - and weblogs. As automated weblog-publishing systems come on to the market and become better known, we believe this trend will explode. Weblogs are becoming recognized as very real news sources.

Even where weblogs remain in the private domain, it makes sense for companies to be aware of them. They attract large audiences, especially from special interest groups. Should your company ever be connected to a news story or become the target of an NGO, your IT people might well inform you that your corporate website is showing some unusual traffic. The fact that W3, and therefore the weblog phenomenon, depends on hyperlinks means that your management needs to be cognisant of how important this is. Journalists’ blogs, and the ASP services that stimulate the phenomenon, are also key factors of which our clients and partners need to be aware.

Naturally there’s a lot of navel gazing. MIT’s Media Lab has set up Blogdex, which both studies the concept and is a weblog in itself. Journalism schools are already offering courses in blogging. In the real world, we advise our clients and partners to take note of blogging and to keep up to date with the concept. Despite all the complaints about the Internet being taken over by big business, it is still both a medium and a platform for rapid and effective communication by anyone with access. Whatever nonsense we might find in cyberspace, we feel that all in all that’s not such a bad thing. Many of the business claims for weblogs concern the democracy of information flow between staff and management. Yes, the weblog format can be useful here, but a company with an employee-oriented attitude and a reasonable intranet would provide just as much, if not more.

Macromedia started using weblogs this year to stimulate feedback from its users and to allow its staff to communicate with customers and the developer community. They’ve been held up by some commentators as a shining example for other companies to follow. We’re not holding our breath, but we are keeping our eyes open.

Client & Partner Briefing no. 2 presented our views on why 80% of CRM projects have failed in the Netherlands.

The first edition of Client & Partner Briefing discussed the thorny question of whether or when -ise or -ize word endings should be used.

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