OPINION

Are Blogs the new White Papers?

April 07, 2006
Shalini Bahadur

Blogs are bringing about changes in the way we live, the way we buy, the way we interact; giving a chance to speak and be heard to millions who would not otherwise bother giving their opinion in mainstream media. The highly interactive medium of blogs has altered the way information is spread.

The audience for blogs and white papers is similar, although bloggers spend more time online, are younger, more tech savvy, educated, earning high incomes and having broadband connections.

When Bob Bly asked marketers their preference for Blogs Vs Whitepapers in August 2005, the response was markedly tilted towards whitepapers for their technical depth and insight. Whitepapers are effective in increasing ROI's as they deal with the technical details of a product. While blogs might offer a wider audience, they will likely not connect to the target audience, so it's a wasted effort.

The trick is to use both blogs and whitepapers in conjunction, each one playing off the others strengths. Blogs are a great way to create buzz in the media and invite comments and discussions and direct traffic to whitepapers. Blogs also provide a format for connecting to people and answering frequently asked questions from the whitepaper.

Blogs are sprouting everywhere it seems. It is estimated that over 12 million Americans have their own blogs. The total number of blogs in the US doubles every five months with 700,000 being created every single day, of which 76,000 shut down due to lack of traffic.

At the recent Chicago DM Days & Expo '06 organized by the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing, Dana VanDen Heuvel, director of RSS and Blog advertising at Pheedo explained,

"RSS is the new e-mail, blogs are the new whitepapers and podcasting is the new webinar". "[Anywhere] from 10-30% of Internet users are using blogs". Forrester Research's estimate of 10% is the most conservative, EMarketer thinks it's 14%, Pew 25%, Princeton Survey 27% and comScore Networks 30%.

Blogs are making a significant dent as consumers are becoming highly skeptical to mainstream advertising and are increasingly resisting advertising to gain control of decisions. Media sources are also becoming fragmented and targeting the right customer is becoming crucial. The underlying force is that consumers are demanding higher accountability.

The easy access to blogs sites is changing the cultural and social thread of society and influencing us day in and day out. The Washington Post report on the new comScore Media Metrix study shows the number of people posting or reading blogs on blogger.com has increased by 528% from Feb 2005 to Feb 2006. At the present, very few IT professionals read blogs when looking for technical information, less than 10% according to MarketingSherpa as compared to 45% downloading whitepapers. As blogging becomes more commonplace, its influence will extend to technical writing.

The key factor that will control and influence the growth of blogs in the field of technical knowledge is credibility. While whitepapers are established sources of trustworthy information, the instant publishing factor of blogs is easily exploited. Blogs will not be able to compete with whitepapers until there is an established practice of checking facts and sources. As blogs become more accepted and read beyond the niche segment, readers will insist on greater personal responsibility as well as liability. Essentially, it will be a case of the survival of the fittest.

A retail analyst and researcher by profession, a traveler by nature. I love the Himalayas where I spent most of my time till I was 18 and unfortunately not enough time afterwards.
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#1
Anil Menon
URL
April 7, 2006
07:09 PM

Interesting thoughts, Shalini. I agreed with most of it, especially: "The key factor that will control and influence the growth of blogs in the field of technical knowledge is credibility."

I'm not sure if whitepapers have much credibility though. The technical guys I know tend to consider marketing whitepapers as so much "happy talk." Gartner's white papers in the dot-com era used to make for pretty gripping fiction.

Perhaps you'd care to elaborate on how blogs could be made more credible?

#2
Shalini
URL
April 8, 2006
05:21 AM

Anil: Blogs are mediums of personal expression and opinion and should not be confused as being the definitive word and finality on a subject. The most important thing for readers of blogs is to be skeptical; readers must judge for themselves and remember that blogs are someone's personal beliefs.

Bloggers on the other hand, need to be transparent and unbiased, list their personal affiliations and state what the blog is about, in terms of its purpose. According to CyberJournalist.net, bloggers must be able to "distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information", link to sources and try to check the reliability of sources as much as possible. Bloggers must also refrain from the urgency of being the first to publish if it means you have to forgo checking sources.

More information on Bloggers Code of Ethics is available at: http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/000215.php

#3
Kaka31850
URL
April 28, 2006
06:25 PM

I haven't been up to anything today. I don't care. I've just been staying at home not getting anything done. Basically not much happening right now. Maybe tomorrow. I guess it doesn't bother me.

#4
deepti lamba
URL
April 30, 2006
07:15 PM

kaka stop spamming

#5
Kaka19092
URL
May 2, 2006
11:31 PM

I've just been staying at home not getting anything done. I guess it doesn't bother me. Shrug. I haven't been up to anything. I haven't gotten much done today.

#6
bharati
URL
May 3, 2006
03:53 AM

A mainstream journalist does not need to defend their position and can take any biased postion and opinion where as blogger can have to defend there positon. A blogger needs to be far more sure of facts and figures and arguments.
MSM is one sided . Blog is interactive.
Internet is the new media. Internet allowed Bush to win inspite of MSMs atipathy

Internet can brings real grassroot democracy and moderation of thoughts through extreme debate.
Internet is far more powerfull then what people give it credit for becuase it is the information whcih is power.
It helps in simulation of real world. Blogging and blog comments help in testing for real world arguments and also on realisations on the loaded meaning of differnet words.It helps us in avoiding the words which give a wrong impresions .After in real world you do not have luxary to correct a thread of arguments the way you have in internet

#7
shalini
May 3, 2006
05:50 AM

Mainstream journalists usually have established credentials (or at least are supposed to), while bloggers could be just about anyone. White paper writers also require some technical background to be taken seriously. While blogs are increasing by the thousands each day, one has to judge their credibility first. Just because it appears on a blog, does not make the information a fact. Anyhow, blogging will never expand to such a level that mainstream media is not required. The two will grow on different levels and for different people.

#8
bharati
URL
May 3, 2006
06:03 AM

Dan Rather & swiftboat did to news media and made blogs more important.

Per credibility is concerned it has to be built. It does not come overnight .

Expertise is always valued . There is always a dichotomy a journalist to write on techsubject with poor understanding of the technology or technical to write in bad & dry English .

1st is called magazines and the second is called research paper
Blogs are still dependent on the news media to get news since independent news channel is not available So it still the newbreaking happens in newspaper . though contrary regarding dan rathers and swiftboat veterancs also happened

#9
Wasif
URL
May 3, 2006
06:06 AM

Blogging allows you to question the credibility of the article.MSM does not offer such liberty.

Blogging is interactive, hence leads to a point where one can draw some conclusions.

Facts and figures can be verified, with internet being superpower source of information now.

Blogs of questionable credibility would be screened automatically with minimum visits and comments

But Yes, who can take away the pleasure MSM offers, reading news and opinions over the toilet seat.

#10
Aaman
URL
May 3, 2006
07:54 AM

Good points, Wasif

#11
shalini
May 3, 2006
09:02 AM

Bharti & Wasif: Thanks for the input. Appreciate your thoughts.

#12
Kush
URL
May 6, 2006
05:27 AM

Cheater, Lier,criminals,Politicians,bribed media Jurnalist ..will always hate Blogs, as they can't hide behind some pre-determind Conclusions.

#13
shalini
May 6, 2006
09:38 AM

Oh well, to each their own.

#14
Sumanth
URL
July 24, 2006
02:41 PM

I am just wondering about what kind of code of ethics the "journalist Bast**ds" are following.

Journalists in Visual and print media seem to be the only ones to have a right to write stuff which neither factual nor unbiased.



#15
temporal
URL
July 24, 2006
03:45 PM

#18:

one stroke to paint every one?


why am not surprised?

#16
FrontView
August 8, 2006
09:41 AM

>>one stroke to paint every one?
All donkeys look,feel and think alike...no use trying to distinguish between them.You whip one and all will bray.

#17
balaji
August 8, 2006
01:20 PM

how true!

why am i reminded of recursivity and doug hofstadter 'chepmi'?

guess should blame t!

#18
FrontView
August 8, 2006
02:47 PM

We have at least two of them here 19 , 21 ka farak hai...ha ha

#19
hardy
August 8, 2006
04:08 PM

There is so much info on web. Blogs help consolidate the relevant info in just one page.

#20
Mayank Austen Soofi
URL
August 17, 2006
03:23 AM

Blogs are an exciting platform to voice opinions and disperse information. But can they subsitute the citadel of conventional, established, 'registered' media remains doubtful.

#21
Mayank Austen Soofi
URL
August 17, 2006
03:26 AM

Blogs are an exciting platform to voice opinions and disperse information. But their possibility to subsitute the place of conventional, established, 'registered' media remains doubtful.

#22
shalini
URL
August 17, 2006
03:50 AM

Mayank: I absolutely agree! Even though blogs are becoming more widespread, they are still only "an exciting platform to voice opinions and disperse information". Most blogs still lack credibility and although they are fun to read, will not replace mainstream media and especially white papers.

#23
coachcyrus
URL
October 25, 2006
02:53 AM

While I do agree that blogs are much faster than newspapers, in India I dont think its very prevalent. You hardly find any local news, for which I feel blogs will be well suited

I also find that Indian bloggers are showing off their skill of writing in english and need to be more down to earth.

Anyway its early days, and desicritics is doing a super job

#24
shalini
October 25, 2006
11:52 PM

I agree, coachcyrus. Blogs are a good way to get to know the local point of view, someone's personal account.

Yes, some Indian bloggers do write in a very convoluted way, better suited to filling sheets in an examination hall. One of the first things I learned in my ENG LIT class in college in the US, was to forget everything I learned about writing in an Indian style, such as using as many words as possible without leading anywhere and not amounting to anything.

#25
neville
URL
October 26, 2006
11:08 AM

i think wikipedia has done a pretty good job about credibility (there was an issue earlier about their founder though)
hence since knowledge is power this will to some extent enable everyone to know the truth

as i think jfk said "u can fool all the people some time, some of the people all the time but not all the people all the time"

best example - WMD

#26
LighterVein
URL
December 18, 2006
04:09 AM

A brilliant question asked Shalini - 'Are Blogs the new White Papers?'. As most of the non-spam comments above mention, blogs are just personal opinions. I also feel the same with personal blogs but there are blogs which are owned by instituitions. For eg. the google blog. When a google person on google blog says 'Here's how the google search technology works'..I will consider that blog a 'white paper' and last word on how the search works on google. I reckon we cannot generalise that blogs as whitepapers. 2 diff things..and will remain so says my pov.

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