Dude, blogging is just so over

by Mathew on February 22, 2007 · 31 comments

Every now and then some ancient blogger will post a world-weary, “been there, done that” missive about how blogging is tiresome, bordering on useless, and so they are giving it up, etc. The implication being, of course, that blogs are a kind of juvenile pursuit, like skateboarding or body-piercing, and that eventually everyone grows up and puts such things behind them. The latest entry in this genre comes from Dee Rambeau of the Marcom blog, which I got pointed to by Student PR blogger Chris Clarke.

blogging.jpgRambeau is apparently one of a number of PR professionals who contribute to the blog and teach PR at Auburn University in Alabama, in the school of communications and journalism. Number one on his list of world-weary reasons for quitting the blog game? Because he was “in early” (he started posting in 2004). Why this means he has to stop now isn’t clear, at least not to me — except perhaps that he has run out of things to say. Rambeau then veers into whether corporations should blog, and says that he has come to the conclusion that blogging “is not a positive thing for business, rather it is a negative.” In fact, he says, for a public company with shareholders, blogs are “useless and irresponsible.” Personal blogging is fine, he says, but they don’t really matter because blogs are primarily “an exercise of EGO.” Then he says:

“I’m tired of blogging. I’m done. What I have to say…I’m going to keep it to myself. There is soooooo much noise out there. I’m tired of contributing to it.”

“I will contribute to MarcomBlog in the future but I’ll not be adding to my own blog. My writing is going to be private and I hope to publish a book.”

I have to say this whole post rang false for me in a whole bunch of ways. Should public corporations be careful about blogging? Obviously. But useless and irresponsible? That’s a bit much. I guess it was useless and irresponsible for JetBlue’s founder and CEO to post a video on YouTube apologizing for the way his company has treated customers. No PR value there, I suppose. Or for a company to use their blog as a way of responding to customers, like Dell has — no value there, I suppose. Good lesson.

What it reads like to me is that Dee Rambeau has lost interest in blogging, and/or has run out of things to say, and that what he does have to say he will keep to himself (the point of which is what exactly?) and/or publish in a book — the implication being that doing so is a much more civilized and worthwhile effort than writing a “blog” (and books aren’t about ego, I guess). To which I would say: Thanks for leaving, Dee. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Update:

Please see the comments below for some responses from Dee Rambeau and from Robert French, the Auburn PR teacher who runs the Marcom blog.

  • http://www.robhyndman.com Rob Hyndman

    Perhaps he’ll keep his book to himself too. One can only hope.

  • Mathew

    Agreed.

  • http://www.jimkukral.com Jim Kukral

    Why dignify it with attention? C’mon Mathew, you know I’m right. :)

  • Mathew

    I know what you mean, Jim. But sometimes the harsh glare of attention is a good thing. Plus I’m hoping that at least one of the poor journalism and PR students at Auburn might read my post and get an antidote to the relentless pessimism of the one I’m responding to. Hope springs eternal :-)

  • http://www.canadianmarketingblog.com/contributors/sulemaan-ahmed/ Sulemaan

    Wasn’t there some conference last year call Mesh that was totally sold out via word of mouth (blogs) with no other advertising?

    Quite the negative thing for business indeeed.

  • Mathew

    Good point, Sulemaan. You get extra points for that one :-)

  • http://www.thefuelteam.com Dee Rambeau

    Gee Matt,
    your blog definitely gets the prize for the most smiley faces in the comments! So cheery!

    Thanks for your thoughts…I think that if you actually read the 30+ comments on the Auburn MarcomBlog that you’d see that the students appreciated hearing an opinion that differed from all of the blog evangelism. I was invited (still am) to post there as a guest author and will continue to. Feel free to read them anytime.

  • Mathew

    Thanks for the comment, Dee.

    I did read what the students said on your blog post, and perhaps you meant it as an anecdote to the blog evangelism they get from other instructors — in which case, I hope they consider mine an antidote to yours.

    But you didn’t really respond to any of the points I raised about the value of blogs. If you do, I promise to give you your very own smiley face.

  • http://thatgrrl.ca Laura

    If 2004 is “in early” I’m a dinosaur. I’ve been blogging since 1999. My current blog began in 2004. The title of your post came up on Good Blogs and I wasn’t expecting to read about world weary bloggers. What makes blogging seem over for me is the commercialism in blogs now. They have lost that fun, free and creative aspect which got them noticed in the first place. I hugely miss that. But, I’m still blogging cause for me it’s still fun. I just feel like a polar bear on a melting, shrinking iceberg.

    PS- Always nice to see another Torontonian. :)

  • Mathew

    I agree, Laura — I started blogging in 2001, not that it matters.

    And I would agree that things seem to be getting awfully commercialized. It’s a shame.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.jimkukral.com Jim Kukral

    I dunno, I think if you really take a ride into the “real” blogosphere you’ll see that the commercialism isn’t there. There are literally millions of blogs that are fresh, new and not worried about making money.

    I think we, in our little pocket, only see one side of it. Go over to wordpress.com and search around and look at some of those 600k blogs. There’s a lot of “real” blogs out there.

    My friend’s blog http://www.kevincharnas.com is a great example.

  • http://www.thefuelteam.com Dee Rambeau

    OK OK…but only cuz I’m dying for my own emoticon. Here’s an old post on how I really feel about smileys!
    http://www.adventuresinbusinesscommunications.com/public/item/116735

    Matt, you mention Jet Blue and YouTube. That’s not blogging. That’s social media, which I still use regularly and believe in. I use RSS, podcasts, YouTube, CMS, comments (obviously), DIGG, etc. religiously. When I see something or hear something authentic, I share it. There is just too much noise and bullshit. Jim mentions in his comment that we should go over to wordpress and read some of the 600,000 thousand blogs that are there alone. Why? Who has the time? Give me a sharp stick in the eye instead. It’s insane…reminds me of an old Harry Nilsson song…(I know I’m really fucking old) that goes something like “everybody’s talking at me…I can’t hear a word they’re saying…”

    That’s the beauty of Google Alerts, RSS alerts, etc…you can filter for only what you want to read/hear/see.

    I don’t dispute the value of blogs to some. I only have my own experience to bear. And since it was my blog, it was my right to draw sweeping generalizations in order to make my rant count!

    People will agree or disagree…I’d say I’m about 70/30 on the positive side right now.

    Stay safe up there in the great north…I’ll try not to let the door hit me…but before I go I want my fucking smiley face.

    Later.

  • Mathew

    Well, okay :-)

  • http://www.auburnmedia.com/wordpress/ Robert French

    Mathew, I found this post via RSS searches tracking Marcomblog.com.

    For clarity, I thought I’d address something you shared. You wrote, “Rambeau is apparently one of a number of PR professionals who contribute to the blog and teach PR at Auburn University in Alabama, in the school of communications and journalism.”

    Marcomblog is my blog. I started it for my students at Auburn University. The purpose of the blog is clearly stated in both the tagline – Marcom – Marketing Communications :: PR/Marcom Pros Mentoring Students – and the About page. Both are clearly visible on the site.

    So, it is not “a number of PR professionals who contribute to the blog and teach PR at Auburn University.” It is people involved in the discipline/profession – as practitioners and from industries serving those practitioners – and they are mentoring students through the blog.

    Or, as it says on the blog, “MarcomBlog is a collaborative effort between sixteen terrific public relations and marketing professionals from around the world and students in Auburn University’s Department of Communication and Journalism.”

    Dee has not quit blogging altogether, as it is clear that he will continue to contribute to Marcomblog. I’m glad he will continue to contribute. We discussed his reasons and I understand. He wishes to devote his time to what he perceives as more valuable pursuits. Mathew, I’m a strong believer in exposing students to points of view from all directions. That is the purpose of Marcomblog – and education.

    You suggest that the comments from the students stemmed from “the blog evangelism they get from other instructors” at Auburn. I can assure you that there are no blog evangelists teaching these students at Auburn. What I do is try to expose them to the new space – social media – and determine when, and if, it may be a viable path to follow for one of their future clients. Other reasons for them to explore blogs? The practical experience of writing, reasoning, and interacting with professionals they’d never have met (without social media) are right up there at the top of the list.

    The student response to Dee’s post, based upon my conversations with them, stem mostly from these three points of view. (1) Blogging and social media is very new to them. (2) Being exposed to it in this class – in such an intense manner – makes it seem like there is “great import” placed upon blogging and social media – overall – in publc relations and marketing communications. That isn’t true, yet. (3) Since they are new, and a bit frustrated by all the writing and reading in this new space (they are 6 weeks into the 15 week class), they were happy to read a sincerely contrary point of view. I wasn’t the least bit surprised by their responses.

    Finally, Mathew, what we don’t have at Marcomblog, among other things, are a journalist and someone from Canada mentoring the students. Certainly a journalist’s insights will be valuable to my students – about to embark on a career involving media relations. And, we love Canada.

    So, would you like to become number 17 in the list of contributors, please?

    Thank you.

    - Robert

  • http://www.irwebreport.com/daily/ Dominic Jones

    Dee is right that blogs aren’t good for companies. They expose companies for what they really are and strip away the carefully massaged veneer.

    If you’re a spin doctoring control freak, that’s a bad thing.

    But if you’re an investor entrusting your savings to a company, it’s actually good to know who and what you’re really investing in. Blogs, especially when deployed widely in a company, help you do that better than anything we’ve had before.

    How that kind of transparency is bad, I’m not sure.

  • Mathew

    Thanks for the clarification, Robert. I did look at the “about” page of your blog, and thought I had described it properly. I apologize if I failed to do that. And thanks for providing more info about what it is you teach your students. It sounds like a very worthwhile program.

    As for your offer, I’m flattered, but I’m afraid I’m pretty swamped at the moment. If any of your students have any questions or want some input though, please tell them to drop me a note or post a comment.

  • http://www.webomatica.com/wordpress/ Webomatica

    I was going to write a post about this but decided it would work itself out. I only have a few thoughts to contribute, anyhow.

    First, check out these corporate blogs.

    Yahoo!. flickr. Google

    How is this bad (or pointless)? All I see are companies getting their word out the people. This builds a sense of connection between the corporations and the users / consumers / customers.

    Second when reading DeeR’s post on the Marcom blog, I noticed companies, the PR folks, the shareholders and personal reasons are covered but the customer was totally forgotten.

    If a company doesn’t want to be reasonably up front with me through their website or blog, I get the feeling they don’t care about my opinions as a customer. They just want to take my money and run. So why should I care about them?

  • Mathew

    Excellent point, Jason.

  • http://www.thefuelteam.com Dee Rambeau

    Guys,
    why do we get so bogged down in semantics. Why is a blog so much better than an effective website? I totally agree with Jason that the customer should be able to be well-informed and their needs serviced via the web. If the company had the s*%t together, they’d use their website…why another platform? You’re talking about strategy improvement…not a new tool.

  • Mathew

    I’m not sure it is a semantic difference, Dee. Yes, it would be better if companies had websites that provided information and served their customers, but there is also something extra that a blog adds (a good one at least).

    I think Dell is a good example — admittedly, they started one in part because they were getting beaten up for service failings and so on, but I think the blog provides a sense of openness and a more personal approach that just a regular website wouldn’t.

  • http://www.webomatica.com/wordpress/ Webomatica

    Dee, I get what you’re saying about “blog” vs “website” and that there isn’t really a technical difference. The key aspect of a useful corporate website (to me, anyhow) is one where the public can post comments and communicate with the corporation – be it called a blog or a forum or letters to the editor or what have you.

    The issue I had with your original post was somehow implying that this conversation is useless, because of risk to the corporation.

    The key aspect of this communication that I value as a consumer is that my opinions are being respected as a consumer (even if that is somewhat an illusion). To me, it’s about building community around a brand or a company.

    I’m starting to feel like companies that don’t have any way for customers to communicate back with them in a public forum on the internet are providing bad customer service.

  • http://www.lipsticking.com Yvonne DiVita

    Just one comment (I left the extended comment at the Marcom Blog)… THIS is why blogs are better than websites. You can’t do this on a website.

  • Mathew

    That’s a great point, Yvonne.

  • http://www.thefuelteam.com Dee Rambeau

    Our website platform absolutely allows comments, we just have it shut off. Most of our customers are B to B and wouldn’t comment anyway…and we could’nt care less about hearing from anyone else. But the technology for commenting is available on most modern web CMS…maybe it’s time you found one.

  • http://www.auburnmedia.com/wordpress/ Robert French

    We are into the splitting of hairs, just a bit, here – however, I do think it is important to clarify. There is the static and the dynamic Web.

    Not trying to be snarky, but – can we all agree that a blog, or weblog, is a Web site, or website?

    Comments and conversations were actually possible on Web sites before they were ever called blogs or weblogs.

    Semantic, I know, but still important.

    It is possible to do both in one site. Drupal, CivicSpace, and many other platforms – like Dee’s – offer more than just a portal and/or blog, for instance. Heck, even WordPress has progressed to the point of being a traditional Web site presence (with pages and plugins) – and a blog site. Movable Type has been used for that purpose for years, too.

    So, is it really all about the conversations and whether or not some should, and some should not, engage in them online?

  • http://www.lipsticking.com Yvonne DiVita

    Ah, Dee… I think I’m beginning to get it. You’re using a blog as a website. You just don’t want to say so. How do you know most of your customers wouldn’t comment?? Maybe it’s time you let them speak…instead of making up their minds for them. Welcome to Web 2.0 where even the customers get to contribute. BTW, a CMS is not a website, in my opinion. Maybe yours is outstanding, but I’ve never met one I liked – until I started blogging on Typepad. On your ‘site’…IF you opened comments, you might get more than customers stopping by – you might get prospects that could actually engage in conversation with your customers. Seems like, since you don’t have anything else to say, you’re assuming no one else has anything to say, either.

  • http://www.thefuelteam.com Dee Rambeau

    Yvonne, with some due respect, you don’t get it. My web CMS is home-grown, built out of MySQL and PHP. We currently have over 500 companies of all shapes and sizes using it, including over 300 PR Newswire clients such as Bank of America, Cigna Insurance, Home Depot, etc. All of them have the same capabilities I’ve outlined earlier but have strategically chosen NOT to. I have no lack of prospects or customers because of that exclusive sales channel with PRN. I have other means of getting feedback from customers…such as a customer intranet/extranet with a message board. I can then get my comments from my customers privately which is just how I like it.

    Don’t be misguided in thinking I’ve run out of things to say because I stopped blogging. I’m just tired of the sound of my own voice in the blogosphere. There’s lots of loud ones out there like yourself and I’ve chosen not to contribute to the noise for awhile. Those people/friends/students/customers whose opinions I care about will still get plenty from me and have plenty of ways to give it back.

    Like Robert has said, blog enthusiasts seem to be tied up in the “power” of the blog, whereas in reality good web strategy can accomplish the same thing.

    I’d be happy to give you a demo of our award-winning content management system anytime you’d like. To read more, go to http://www.thefuelteam.com

  • http://skatethinkrevolt.net Relk

    Skateboarding is a juvenile pursuit that everyone eventually grows up out of?! I, as a skater am offended by it. Skateboarding is a way of life, not something to just try, then drop.

  • Mathew

    Sorry about that, Relk. You are totally right. My comments were offside :-)

  • http://www.lipsticking.com Yvonne DiVita

    Dee, I get it. Better than you think I do. Here’s the difference between the way you do it and the way I do it – I think blogs allow everyone a voice – which is the American way, btw. And, I know that they engage the very people we’re all selling to: the public. That’s why I think they’re great.

    I’ll check out your system… but, forgive me for being noisy again… they’re losing out by not supporting comments. I understand what Robert Scoble means – and I actually understand your decision – to each his own. But, there is no power in a blog. The power is with the people. Thanks for engaging in this conversation. I’m enjoying it – and learning something from a different point of view.

  • http://www.lipsticking.com Yvonne DiVita

    Robert,

    Yes, you’re right. It’s splitting hairs. I’m not very familiar, other than having ‘heard’ of them, of all the CMS systems you mention. And, we could say, a website is a website is a website. In my limited experience – more than 10 years on the web writing for and working with clients – I’ve been so frustrated by websites that purport to be “user-friendly” for updating (using a separate CMS) that I delight in blogging tools. Even WordPress, although… it does require a certain knowledge of web tools, which Typepad does not.

    Which all boils down to your point: who should engage in the conversation and who shouldn’t? That’s a question we answer with clients – before ever beginning a project. And, sometimes the answer is – not you, mr client. But, maybe someone else in your organization.

    Here’s the rub – I don’t think blogging is for the noise-makers. I think it’s for the readers. As a reader, and a consumer, I am inherently distrustful of companies that won’t engage in conversation with me. And, trying to engage in conversation on a website – hasn’t been very effective… whereas, conversations on a blog (different kind of website) have.

    So, we’re now up to the question of effectiveness. Which is more effective?

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