What is a blog, anyway?

I’ve come to realize that the argument over blogging on Google+ vs not blogging on Google+ comes down to an unspoken disagreement about what a blog is. 

So what is a blog, anyway? 

I’ve been blogging for 13 years. Here’s my first blog post on the Wayback Machine site: 

http://web.archive.org/web/20010306125221/http://www.mikeslist.com/1.htm

At the time, I envisioned the blog as an email newsletter that was also posted on the web. The web version is a blog. 

Later, inevitably, I embraced blogging tools designed for what I had already been doing. In 2005, I spun out a blog separately and called it The Raw Feed. Here’s what that looked like: 

http://web.archive.org/web/20051120120558/http://www.therawfeed.com/2005_07_01_archive.html

To me, a blog is personal, not professional. That’s what separates blogging from publishing. 

I have always published professionally. Even in college I published a newsletter. After college, I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor before getting into the computer magazine racket. 

Starting in late 1990, I and a handful of talented professionals launched Windows Magazine, and we all slaved away on that for the next decade. Since then, I’ve launched a few other publications before finally becoming an independent opinion columnist some years later. 

When you publish, you identify an audience and give them what they want, while simultaneously giving the advertisers what they want so you can make a living. 

When you publish, you have to write things you don’t care about because your readership cares about it. And you have to avoid writing things you do care about because they don’t fit the mission or the business plan of the publication. 

And that’s why I blog. I have a lot to say that my employers don’t let me say -- or won't pay me to say-- for one reason or another.  

After trying to satisfy readers and editors and publishers all day, I would retreat to my blog where I could write what I wanted to write, not what other people wanted me to write. 

Publishing is professional; blogging is personal. 

There’s a lot of confusion about what a blog is because professional publishers use blogging tools. People have come to confused the medium with the tools. 

The Washington Post uses WordPress to publish their news stories, for example. That doesn’t make them a blog. 

And I could use professional content management and publishing tools to post cat videos. That wouldn’t make me The Washington Post. 

Everybody calls sites like Mashable, Cult of Mac and GigaOM  “blogs.” But they’re not blogs. They’re professional, online publications that have editorial and design staff, a sales team and a company mission to serve an audience and also an advertising business. 

What difference does it make what content management system they use? 

Fast forward to the Blogs of August argument: Nearly all of the push-back I’m getting about the Blogs of August are coming from people who confuse blogging with publishing. 

Google+ is a lousy place to blog, they say, because you can’t make money, can’t sell advertising and can’t develop a monetizable asset. 

I’ve also been called a hypocrite because my work appears on external “blogs” like Cult of Mac and Cult of Android.

But if a so-called “blog” is a business where you’re serving an audience and selling advertising and if it exists to make money, guess what? It’s not a blog. It’s a publishing business that may happen to use content management tools arbitrarily labeled “blogging” tools. 

I’ve been in the publishing business for 25 years. And I’ve been blogging for 13 years. To me, they are not the same thing. They are opposites. 

Blogging is what I do on my own time for my own reasons. Writing for publishing companies is my profession. 

So if you want to launch a publication, hire a staff, sell advertising and make money, I wish you well in your endeavor. Tools like WordPress, which were originally designed for bloggers but have evolved into professional publishing systems, are usually the best way to go. But please be clear about what you’re doing there. You’re publishing, not blogging. 

Meanwhile, if you want to blog -- for love (or self-promotion), not for money -- Google+ is the best place to do it. 

#BlogsOfAugust   #blogging   #blog   #throughglass  
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