The Internet and the software which has been developed to run on it have made it extremely easy for anyone to publish content and have it accessible to millions of people. In effect, consumers have been given a voice to air their views to a massive audience. Something which before the Internet, they could never have done.
In recent years one of the biggest examples of this has been the massive growth of weblogs (blogs), wiki’s, podcasts, vlogs and moblogs – together they form what is loosely known as social media; the ability for anyone to publish almost any content without the typical costs and hindrances associated with traditional media.
This new publishing freedom has resulted in an explosion of new content. However the term social media, or citizen journalism as it is sometimes called, may be a misnomer as many companies can do it as well!
What is Blogging?
Blogging is currently the most common form of social media, in fact as of October 2006, about 100 000 new weblogs are being created each day – that’s more than the number of books published in the US each year!
The word blog is derived from the term “weblog” which was coined by Jorn Barger in 1997. We started using blog over weblog when Peter Merholz broke the word weblog into the phrase “we blog” in the sidebar of his weblog in 1999.
A blog is essentially a website typically driven by a content management system which features articles (blog posts) and comments on the blog posts. They come in all shapes and forms – from personal diaries shared with friends and family, to arms of political campaigns, media programs and updates on current affairs. They also range in scale from the writings of one blogger, to the collaboration of a large community of writers.
The world of blogs, bloggers and blog posts is commonly known as the blogosphere which has evolved rapidly since its inception. Blogs have given consumers and companies a voice and blogging has opened up a world of information sharing possibilities.
Blogs are not a fad that will lose popularity any time soon – they are here to stay and companies who want to be taken seriously by their consumers need to consider the benefits of starting a corporate blog or at the very least listen to what is being said about them in the blogosphere.
Blogging and RSS
Pioneered by Dave Winer, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) has taken blogging to a whole new level. An RSS feed is an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) file automatically generated by a blog or indeed almost any website or Internet service. Users are then able to “syndicate” or subscribe to this feed using a feed reader or aggregator. When a new post is available, the reader fetches its contents and puts the headings and usually some or all of the content of the post into your reader or directly onto another blog. When a blog is updated, its RSS feed is as well so information spreads very quickly and automatically.
In layman’s terms, RSS eliminates the need for the user to constantly check a site or blog to see if it has been updated. Their feedreader automatically does this for them and presents fresh information as it becomes available. This means that a user can constantly monitor potentially hundreds or even thousands of blogs and websites without having to spend the time visiting each one to check for fresh content.
Some examples of feed readers include FeedDemon, Newsgator and RSS Bandit.
Understanding the subject of blogging is made far easier when one immerses oneself in it, so set up a feed reader and get to it. You’ll soon lose yourself in this fascinating world of content sharing and strong opinions.
By October 2006, Technorati, a blog tracking engine, registered 57 Million blogs tracked. They also acknowledged a consistent pattern whereby the number of blogs doubles every 236 days. However despite the massive growth of blogs, most do not make it past 3 months. According to Technorati, only 55 percent of bloggers are still posting 3 months after starting the blog with very few in comparison updating their blogs weekly or more