citizen journalist


Gone are the days of one way memos and letters from companies to customers; ushered in is an era of two way communication and consumer feedback. This has become the crux of the internet revolution.

Scoble and Israel’s Naked Conversations tap into the online phenomenon of blogging for business. According to the authors, businesses can benefit exceptionally from this method of communication.

Scoble and Israel list six pillars of successful blogging:

  1. Publishable: the consumer has the ability and freedom to publish their voice
  2. Conversational/social: a two-way method of creating and sustaining a dialogue
  3. Findable: the information on the blog is indexed in search engines
  4. Viral/Shareable: making things shareworthy; information that is spread through multiple blogs
  5. Syndicatable: RSS friendly
  6. Linkable: the ability to link to other bloggers

SpreadFirefox, or SFX, is a great example of taking a marketing campaign and letting it excel through blogs. Just a few years ago, Mozilla Firefox was a no name company attempting to make their internet browser the new Microsoft Explorer. Through the SpreadFirefox campaign, they were able to use the six pillars of a successful blog to let the internet browser spread organically through cyberspace. The success of SFX is attributed to sustainable word-of-mouth and not to buzz marketing; the difference between the two shows a marked difference between SFX and other followers that unsuccessfully tried to spread their initiatives organically as well. Companies have been made or broken in the past few years, depending on their ability (or inability) to blog.

Microsoft started a blog called Channel 9 to help humanize their big company. Channel 9 fosters a sense of community among Microsoft employees and customers alike, and encourages an ongoing conversation and a collaborative wiki that users can participate in. This discussion forum model has been extremely popular, with all sorts of users participating on the website. The most successful blogs seem to be those that deliver information to consumers, while also allowing customers to contribute to the conversation. This allows for a dynamic exchange and sets a platform for feedback and support. As Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba discuss in Citizen Marketers, it is this exchange between the company and the consumers that generates the power and importance of citizen marketers.

CEO blogging has also flourished in the past few years. Corporate blogging is the pipeline of success between a company and their consumer. Companies from GM to Whole Foods have all actively engaged in this level of blogging by putting their CEOs at the forefront of their image. CEO blogs are the closest that people will get to seeing the face of the company–the importance of corporate blogs shouldn’t go unnoticed.

There are so many aspects to business blogs–whether it’s a CEO blogging about the daily goings on of a company, the spread of new initiatives and ideas through viral blogging, or creating a platform for developers, employees, and consumers to get together, business blogging has proved that communication is a two way street.

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We’re all contributing to the new magnum of journalism–grassroots journalism–whether we are actively creating content or we are participating in the strata by reading blogs online. In Dan Gillmor’s We The Media: Grassroots Journalism By The People, For The People, Gillmore argues that blogs and instant news really got to a whole new level during and after 9.11.01. While citizen journalism was prevalent before the attacks on the Twin Towers, the devastating events on that day made people across all levels of society require news instantaneously.

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Blogs have changed our culture and general news consumption. Everyone from news outlets to politicians to celebrities understand the power of the blog, and its importance in our society today. While websites were once standard on the online forum, blogs have become the new standard. Gawker and Wonkette supply local gossip for New York and Washington respectfully, while even The New York Times has a tracker function that lists the most popular articles that have been linked in blogs as determined by blogrunner.com.

While Gillmor states that CNN refused to use blogs on their website, their website almost functions as a blog in and of itself–it is constantly updated with information, videos, content, and comments. A spokesman for CNN said that “CNN.com prefers to take a more structured approach to presenting the news. We do not blog. CNN.com will continue to provide photo galleries, video clips, breaking stories and interactive modules as a way to involve readers in learning about the war” (Gillmor, p. 116).

….Sounds an awful lot like a blog to me (maybe minus actual commentary an partisanship). Gillmor argues that the outright denouncement of blogging held in jeopardizing the network’s online reputation.

CNN recovered by finally succumbing to the flourishing trend of blogs. There is now a special section on their website which lists their current blogs–I counted seventeen blogs on their website today, and I’m sure many others will follow in the future. These blogs include Anderson Cooper’s, Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s, and a Political Ticker. In addition to meeting those demands, CNN also has a list of podcasts, RSS Feeds, and CNN Mobile and Radio options.

And now with a simple WordPress account, almost anybody can be a blogger. A great example of a blogger-turned-journalist is Perez Hilton–a virtual nobody two years ago, he has turned himself into somebody that all the celebrities fear. He loves getting the rumor mill started and takes pride in pushing the envelope.

With the blurred line between journalists and bloggers, however, would bloggers really be able to call themselves a journalist? Would they be able to attend press events under the label of “journalist”? Are they that readily acceptable at mainstream events yet? It’s a big gray area right now that seems to become less and less defined as more and more bloggers sign up for blog accounts every day. These are questions that have been raised that Gillmor does not entirely investigate in his book. What he does argue, however, is that an education in journalism does not mean what it once did (p. 131). Thanks to blogging, journalism is an ever changing institution with diminishing barriers and increased possibilities.