Our primer series continues with one of our favorite rundowns on blogs, compliments of the IAB’s User Generated Content, Social Media, and Advertising – An Overview.
What is a blog?
Blog is short for Weblog, a term that denotes a personal diary or journal maintained on the Web. In its purest form, a blog is just that, a personal journal maintained by an individual, updated frequently, and viewable by anyone on the Internet. The entries generally appear in reverse chronological order, meaning the most recent is at the top of the page and others can be found by scrolling down, with archived entries available through links at the bottom or sides of the page. Blogs have always spanned a wide range of content. Some consist of little more than weekly updates about one’s pets, while others become hotbeds of political discussion, even influencing debate on a national scale.
But as “pure” blogs gained popularity, media companies and corporations began to appropriate their style and themes. Publications like The New York Times and Newsweek launched blogs on which their reporters shared casual observations. Soon even CEOs of major corporations were blogging, usually as a form of public relations.
As of December 2006, 19% of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. reported use of blogging as a form of communication. Today, some of the most popular blogs are maintained by corporations that make a profit through advertising. Perhaps the best example is Gawker, a network of blogs that include some of the Web’s most popular sites. Its namesake, Gawker.com, is a running commentary on New York media, celebrities, and culture, written in an acerbic, often profane tone, that’s become a must-read for New York media professionals. The Gawker network also boasts Deadspin (sports), Consumerist (packaged goods), Wonkette (politics), and Fleshbot (adult industry). While it is sometimes argued that sites like Gawker.com, or the Huffington Post are not true UGC because they use salaried contributors or take submissions from media professionals, they do retain one hallmark of blogs that mark them as a major UGC platform: user comments. Because users are invited to leave remarks below each post, they foster freewheeling conversations that frequently take on a life of their own. These conversations become a permanent addendum of the original posts, and are often as much of the entertainment as the post itself (some sites, like Gawker, allow comment by invite only in an effort to ensure a higher level of discourse). While these comments are usually moderated, and slanderous or overly profane material can be edited out, most of the more popular blogs are hesitant to use that authority.
A 2007 study found that 38.4% of Internet users believe that expressing personal opinions is the key element in separating blogs from other online media. Other factors include: writing style (28.2%), editorial freedom (26.3%) and layout (25.8%). That same study found that 30.8% of blog readers read more than three blogs regularly – and of the blogs they read most often, 68.3% of respondents said they read them daily.