Friday, December 31, 2004

Fortune.com: Why There's No Escaping the Blog

Fortune.com: Why There's No Escaping the Blog : "The blog—short for weblog—can indeed be, as Scoble and Gates say, fabulous for relationships. But it can also be much more: a company's worst PR nightmare, its best chance to talk with new and old customers, an ideal way to send out information, and the hardest way to control it. Blogs are challenging the media and changing how people in advertising, marketing, and public relations do their jobs. A few companies like Microsoft are finding ways to work with the blogging world—even as they're getting hammered by it. So far, most others are simply ignoring it.
That will get harder: According to blog search-engine and measurement firm Technorati, 23,000 new weblogs are created every day—or about one every three seconds. Each blog adds to an inescapable trend fueled by the Internet: the democratization of power and opinion. Blogs are just the latest tool that makes it harder for corporations and other institutions to control and dictate their message. An amateur media is springing up, and the smart are adapting.
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The newest kid on the blog block, Microsoft, has already seen what the sites can do for it. Now it thinks it has a chance to grab the youth market. Blake Irving, the VP who oversees Hotmail, the e-mail service, with 187 million users, and MSN Messenger, with 145 million IM accounts, views MSN Spaces as "the third leg of the communications stool," one that Microsoft hopes to turn into an advertising-fueled business. MSN is already selling ads on some Spaces for things like Lacoste shirts at Neiman Marcus online. E-mail is for old people, says Irving; kids prefer to communicate by phone and IM, and, now, by keeping blogs. So Spaces is tightly integrated with the latest version of MSN Messenger. Says Bill Gates, who claims he'd like to start a blog but doesn't have the time: "As blogging software gets easier to use, the boundaries between, say, writing e-mail and writing a blog will start to blur. This will fundamentally change how we document our lives."
Google, the company that Microsoft is playing catchup with (its Blogger.com division is the largest blogging service right now), also expects blogs to become as important as e-mail and IM. Right now, it's working on ways to better help people find content they want in blogs, says Jason Goldman, Blogger's product manager. But if Google's internal use of Blogger is any indication, it also sees it as an essential business tool. Since 2003, when it bought Pyra Labs, the company that launched Blogger.com, Google's employees have created several hundred internal blogs. They are used for collaborating on projects as well as selling extra concert tickets and finding Rollerblading partners. Google's public relations, quality control, and advertising departments all have blogs, some of them public. When Google redesigned its search home page, a staffer blogged notes from every brainstorm session. "With a company like Google that's growing this fast, the verbal history can't be passed along fast enough," says Marissa Mayer, who oversees the search site and all of Google's consumer web products. "Our legal department loves the blogs, because it basically is a written-down, backed-up, permanent time-stamped version of the scientist's notebook. When you want to file a patent, you can now show in blogs where this idea happened."

Mentioned as part of the cover story in the latest issue of Fortune -- more blog mainstreaming...
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