Blogger Relations Series: Blogger or Journalist?

07/24/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations

Every new industry has growing pains and social media is no different. As C.B. Whittemore said to me "The challenge is figuring out how all these things can be practical."

Blogging, in particular, has become an important resource not only for people who read blogs but for brand managers/agencies who perceive the blog/blogger is a source of influence and channel for message/idea distribution. A new strategy has emerged that we've termed "Blogger Relations." How to do it 'right' is a hot topic in many of our digital and non digital discussions.

With so mAnns_girls__1any opinions swirling around I was curious to know what people thought. I also wondered if agencies and brand managers could talk to bloggers what would they say. On the flip side what would bloggers tell agencies and brands about what they did and how they wanted to be contacted. So I did what any good marketer would do .. I asked.

I sent out about 100 emails and I'm not sure how many direct message tweets. Can't tell you the response rate but I can tell that 99 people answered the questionnaire. My promise to the people who kindly answered my questions was that I would share the responses with our community. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting an analysis of the open ended questions.

This is an industry ..let's call it .. pulse check .. NOT a statistically valid survey. However, the insights are note worthy and valuable. My hopes are we can move the conversation a step or two further along. To set the stage .. something about the respondents.

Respondent Profile: Blogger Or Not

Bloggers associated with an agency or social media consultancy 47%

Bloggers associated on the client-side/company affiliation 13% 

Blogger not affiliated with an agency, social media consultancy or a company 29% 

Not a blogger 11%

Let's start with the question: Do you consider bloggers the "new journalists?"

Total responses: 87

55% - Yes

45% - No

I found it interesting that the spread between the percentage of people who thought bloggers were the “new journalists” and those who did not was only 10 points. However, 35 respondents provided additional information.

Several people indicated the answer was not black or white/yes or no but rather there were  many shades of gray.

  • Yes and no. Some bloggers are practicing a new form of journalism. Others are practicing a new form of passing notes in class. Not all bloggers are journalists of any kind. - Shel Israel

  • The answer's very much 'it depends.' For instance, I'd need to know things like who an individual blogger is, what he/she writes about, if the blogger is a full-time blogger or writes as an extension of his/her work before applying such a label. Broadly, though, the label is an invalid one: bloggers are not journalists, new or old - unless the blogger actually *is* a journalist. - Neville Hobson
  • I think this question is too generic. Some are the "new journalists" and some aren't. It is a tool and it is used in many ways. So yes/no answers don't fit. :-) Blogging is diverse. - Nancy White
  • I think they add to the information stream, but don't "replace" it. I tend to shy away from saying one is better than the other- I much prefer the idea of cooperation or information sharing. - Tim Jackson

The definition of what is a journalist seems to be changing to encompass social media and blogging in particular.

  • I would also say that journalists are "new journalists" too, as they have to change to in corporate new media and new ways that "citizen media" influence mainstream work. - Anonymous 
  • News has always changed with times - print, radio, TV and now internet. Journalists are always adapting so bloggers just allows more of us to "report" our thoughts. - Anonymous
  • Particularly in traditional and low tech industries, bloggers are able to more nimbly react to happenings in the marketplace.  - Anonymous
  • I think we'd have to agree what a journalist is and look at every professional blogger to determine whether they are a journalist. Look to the codes of ethics for journalists. One big issue in defining a journalist is if they check sources and facts, see this article.
  • So to me if a blogger acts like a journalist, then they are, and if a journalist acts like a blogger, then they may not be a journalist but a blogger. - John Cass

Rather than being perceived as the new journalists some people felt bloggers were the new public relations pros.

  • Perhaps they are the new PR professionals, as they often blog to promote something, whether that is a product, service, company or brand. - Elaine Fogel. 

Some participants felt that money (getting paid), passion and peer-to-peer communication were where paths crossed between being a journalist and a blogger.

  • Jourrnalists are paid to do their job, bloggers write about things because it is their passion. - Anonymous
  • Blogging is a part of the larger P2P peer to peer network of people advising people about news, products, companies, etc. - Steven E. Streight
  • They are our peers or the people as defined in the Tipping Point, Mavens, Connectors or Salespeople. - Sherry Heyl,

For others the difference between a journalist and a blogger came down to training while for others it was the point of view.

  • Bloggers and journalists have different experience, different networks, different standards, different goals, and different networks. - Roxanne Darling
  • I think that bloggers create them for so many different reasons that it would be inaccurate to call them the "new Journalists." Journalists focus on bringing news or information to the masses, where as some bloggers really just have created an online journal. - Mei Li Thomas
  • Some are breaking news (which is what journalists do) Some are merely interpreting it (which is what columnists do) Others are just providing an echo chamber. - Alan Wolk
  • Not all bloggers; it depends on the blogger's intentions and skill. - Anonymous
  • I think journalists still have a role to play, but bloggers can expand the discussion into new areas where traditional journalists may not have all the insight (or all the contacts!). - Becky Carroll
  • The  term journalism suggests a 'profession'. - Alanna Kellogg
  • It's not just subjectivity/objectivity -- it's the purpose for writing. A minority of bloggers actually write to communicate facts, context, or understanding. - Ike Pigott

Several people viewed bloggers as the new influencers with as much reach, or sometimes more, than traditional journalists.

  • I consider us the new media influentials. Journalism was a very constrained medium. - Jane Genova
  • Many are the new journalists, but others are the "new pundits," the "new experts," the "new entertainers," the "new authors," etc. - Nedra Weinreich
  • But rogue journalists at best. We are not bound by the same rules, don't have the same code of ethics or training. And yet, we are influencers. - Drew McLellan
  • They certainly have as much if not more reach than a typical regional journalist, so reaching out to them can be more beneficial than sending another press release to a local paper. - Anonymous
  • Sometimes they get the events sooner because of their connections on various vehicles like Twitter, so opinions are formed much sooner before it hits the main stream media and possibly influences main stream media's own take and presentation on events if they are trying to undo a pervasive opinion. - Susan Cartier Liebel
  • In some cases that is true. But there are some bloggers who are not influential and are not at all like journalists. - Mark Goren

Ethics and credibility influenced the opinion of other people. In fact, some felt that bloggers self imposed a higher level to ensure credibility.

  • My credibility as a blogger comes from keeping to the higher ground and focusing on what is best for the end consumer. - Anonymous
  • There are some bloggers out there w/journalist like ethics, but most haven't been trained that way, so no. Anonymous

Next Up: How Do You Define A Successful Blogger Relations Strategy? Who is doing it right? Who is doing it wrong?

Thanks to the 99 people who kindly responded. The following agreed to be quoted and publicly acknowledged.

Michele Miller WonderBranding
Mei-Li Thomas, No Fear, Just DIVA
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing
Kim Haynes, Texas Gal Ramblings
Des Walsh Des Walsh dot com
Alan Wolk The Toad Stool
Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting
David J. Neff, American Cancer Society; Sharing Hope TV
Steven E. Streight aka Pluperfecter (formerly known as Vaspers the Grate)
Nicole Simons, Cruel To Be Kind
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub, Inc
Ike Pigott, Occam's RaaR
Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Yigal Cohen, Linx Analyst and Blogger Relations
Susan Cartier Liebel, Building Solo Practice University
Liz Strauss, Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers)
Robert French, infOpinions?
Cynthia Holladay, UpRight Marketing
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Eventure; Kitchen Parade
Yvonne Divita, Lip-sticking
Jay Berkowitz, Ten Golden Rules
Heidi Richards Mooney, WE Magazine for Women
Tim Jackson, Masi Bicycles  Masiguy Podcast
Marc Meyer, Direct Response Marketing Observations
Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative
Sally Falkow, PRoactive  Leading Edge on the Daily Dog
John Cass Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate Blogging Blogger at PR Communications

Shel Israel, Global Neighbourhoods
Ann Handley, Annarchy; Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog
Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing
Erin K Vest, Queen of Spain
David Berkowitz, Inside the Marketers Studio,

Kate Spencer, Fordham University
Ed Gaston, Chrysler
Michael Rubin, Blog Council
Cyndee Haydon, Clearwater Real Estate Tampa Homes
Katie Paine, KDPaine's PR MeasurementBlog
Drew McLellan, Drew's Marketing Minute
Anita Campbell Small Business Trends
Rich Brooks, Flyte
Jane Genova, JaneGenova.com Law and More
Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership
Becky Carroll, Customers Rock
CB Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer  The Carpetology Blog
Roxanne Darling Partner, Bare Feet Studios Bare Feet Blog
Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i

Tris Hussey, A View From The Isle
Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones
B.L. Ochman What's Next Blog
Carolyn Wilman Contest Queen

Rajesh Lalwani, Blog Works

Dave Taylor, Ask Dave Taylor
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Nancy White, Full Circle
Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com
Nedra Weinreich, Spare  Change blog
Dina Mehta, Conversations with Dina
Rohit, Influential Marketing Blog

Prashant, Markitechture
Katherine Malone, Fleishman-Hillard
Randal Moss, American Cancer Society; Community Mobilization
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Merrill Dubrow, M/A/R/C The Merrill Dubrow Blog

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

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Comments

I have a "mommy" blog and I'm also the Family Editor for a series of local newspapers. In many ways, my work is similar. The main difference (and there are many!) with journalism is that I have to be extra careful in checking my facts. Some bloggers do (I do!) but it's obvious that many don't. There's not that same level of accountablility to the truth when it comes to blogging.

Posted by: Kimberly/Mom in the City on Jul 24, 2008 9:04:13 AM

Thanks for continuing the conversation. As a person who walks both paths - journalist and blogger - your insights are especially appreciated. Accountability to a 3rd party is a different mindset .. especially a news outlet.

Posted by: Toby on Jul 24, 2008 10:45:34 AM

Toby, thanks for this survey and for sharing the results!

Anita

Posted by: Anita Campbell on Jul 24, 2008 11:21:06 AM

Toby, this is absolutely fascinating! I love reading the variety of responses and perspectives. What a learning opportunity. Thank you.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Jul 25, 2008 12:51:01 PM

Toby, this is absolutely fascinating! I love reading the variety of responses and perspectives. What a learning opportunity. Thank you.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Jul 25, 2008 12:53:25 PM

Toby, this is great that you are sharing these results. I look forward to reading more. And by the way, Erin K Vest's blog is the Queen of Spain. :-)

Posted by: Kami Huyse on Jul 25, 2008 1:51:15 PM

@Anita,@CB @Kami - appreciate your kind words; the more we can learn together the better the social media industry will be for us all.

@Kami - thanks for the catch. updated!

Posted by: Toby on Jul 25, 2008 7:14:50 PM

Thanks for conducting this survey and sharing the results. It gives me a lot to think about, not about my own blog but about the blog world, in general and where it is headed.

Posted by: Liz on Jul 28, 2008 1:45:00 PM

Thanks for conducting this survey and sharing the results. It gives me a lot to think about, not about my own blog but about the blog world, in general and where it is headed.

Posted by: Liz on Jul 28, 2008 1:46:00 PM

This servey will help for bloggers world.

----------
zener
http://www.zener.com

Posted by: zener on Jul 29, 2008 2:45:55 AM

What's interesting to me, Toby, is Drew's comment that "we are influencers"-- perhaps more than most journalists. What bloggers are able to do that journalists are not (so easily) is reach a speciality audience. Our words do not fall on as many deaf ears.

Posted by: Brandon Carlos on Aug 25, 2008 9:52:33 AM

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