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The Blog Nation

I have resisted the urge to write about weblogs - until now. Truth be told - and probably something a so-called trend-spotter shouldn't admit - I'm not much for bandwagons. If everyone is going right, I'll move left just to avoid the crowd.

I confess that my first take on blogging was that it was just another technology-enabled fad. Any fool with an opinion could create a blog so that any other fool could read it. Of course, there was, initially, a bit of a technical hurdle so you knew that the blogging fool had some technical chops at least. Sounds a lot like the early days of Web publishing, the early days of desktop publishing, no doubt the early days of the printing press.

It is true that there are thousands of blogs scattered across the internet. It is also true that the top 100 blogs receive about 99 percent of all blog readership. And just like personal Web pages a half dozen years ago, there are thousands of abandoned blogs, posted and forgotten, even by their authors.

But also like Web pages, blogging will have a profound impact that is not initially evident. And that is why it's time to write about blog media.

To be sure, there is a faddish element to blogging. Does the world really care about the minutia of anyone's daily life? Will everyone need a blog the way they need a cell phone and email account? Certainly not.
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Yet every new medium spawns a new generation of visionary publishers who see the medium for its unique attributes and find ways to exploit those attributes in a manner that re-invents and re-invigorates old-world publishing. (And perhaps we're most lucky that for once it appears that it is not pornographers who are taking the lead in the brave new publishing frontier.)

Blogging may be the first truly disintermediated, widely distributed and democratic publishing medium. Because blog media is low- or no-cost, there is no barrier to becoming a blog publisher. Indeed, anyone can create a blog. Whether anyone else reads it is another matter, but it is at this point where the reader, rather than writer/publisher, is truly empowered. In print or even online publishing, publishers assume their access to the printing press (physical or digital) washes them in journalistic integrity such that they can say to the reader,

"Trust me," without necessarily earning that trust. As readers, we are trained that the media establishment is legit, that they more or less print truths. That trust relationship is turned on its ear in blog media. The reader who returns again and again to the source says to the publisher, "I trust you." Breech that trust, and the feedback loop of comments and referring links and the like will relegate your blog to the long, long list of the unread. Credibility, point of view, integrity are the lifeblood of the blogger.

For this reason, exactly, it is more than probable that bloggers will become the most influential commentators on all aspects of business and society. They can publish quickly to loyal and trusting readers. The blogger's perspective will carry tremendous weight, just as the venerable New York Times or - in our industry - PC Magazine do with their readership. And just as savvy product marketers learned to court the favor of journalists in other media, they must learn to reach out to bloggers who will become the king makers of the future.

As for myself, I resisted creating a blog, though I was often encouraged to do so. After all, I write this newsletter, read by thousands of people each week and often excerpted and syndicated for countless others. Why do I need a blog? Two reasons: frequency and breadth.

The frequency issue is perhaps not what you imagine. It's not that having a blog enables me to publish more often, but rather than I can publish in the moment. I can post when I am most engaged with a new idea, captivated by some insight or issue. Is the frequency daily, hourly, monthly? It doesn't matter so much when, but at what point - the point of inspiration.

My blog also lets me explore a breadth of topics that are tangential to the issues that you, dear reader, expect to be the purview of DEMOletter. If I wrote a column here about local high school football - as I am doing for my blog - you'd no doubt look for the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this newsletter. No, you expect me to write about technology, products, and the impact these have on our business (primarily) and personal lives.

So I write two blogs these days. One lets me riff on technology's greater social implications. The other allows me to give my quick takes on new products, something that I don't do often enough in this column. (You can find these blogs from my Web site at http://www.cshipley.com/.)

Editor's Note: DEMO 2004: The search is on for the products that will be honored as the most significant technology introductions of 2004. These carefully selected products enjoy the benefit of media attention, investor inquiry, and the imprimatur of the elite DEMO status. Demonstrator applications must be in by November 15, 2003. That's just five days away! If you are working on technology worthy of the DEMO platform, go to and click on "Launch at DEMO." DEMO 2004 wil take place February 15-17 in Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information and to register please go to www.demo.com.


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Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld's DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at chris@demo.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.

This column was reprinted with permission of Network World Inc. All registered trademarks are owned by IDG. More information can be found at http://www.idgef.com.

© IDG. All rights Reserved

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The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of the The Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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