The Birth of the Blog, and How Blogging for Business Needs to Mature
Tuesday April 18th || by Deb Moher
If you’re a millennial, you may not remember a bygone universe without blogs—but, we once lived an internet-free existence, where you might have overheard the village gossip in a local store instead of via your friend’s blog.
The blog, or in its early days—the ‘weblog,’—originated as an online journal: somewhere to posit your thoughts and feelings and catapult them into the world wide web. According to internet legend, college student, Justin Hall, wrote the first ever online blog in 1994, as a personal diary of everyday musings. Hall, unbeknownst to him, was a trailblazer. There was no platform for blogging so he published the blog on his homepage. And, typical of ’90s-era internet, Hall’s blog was clunky with awkward formatting.
As the millennium rolled around, blogging took off. In 1999, there were only 23 blogs published online; by 2006 there were 50 million blogs, according to Technorati‘s State of the Blogosphere report.
In 1999, Pyra Labs launched the first blogging software, Blogger. Other important software soon emerged, like WordPress and TypePad in 2003. Suddenly everyone had something to say, and that something didn’t start and end with technical blogs.
Bloggers began writing about lifestyle, entertainment, beauty, and parenting, and eventually, the blogosphere exploded.
Why Blog at All?
Initially, bloggers wrote as modes of communication and self-expression—but by the late ’90s, people also monetized their blogs.
They sold advertising space on their sites (Google Adsense launched in 2003) or began selling a blog-related service or product. As soon as people realized that they could profit from their blogs, the nature of the enterprise was redefined. Blogging became a promotional tool for businesses to attract traffic and connect with their audiences.
As regular subscribers grew and audiences expanded, the blogger now became a powerful force and influencer. Businesses began turning to bloggers to write sponsored posts, sending lifelong supplies of swag and merchandise.
Not only did the business sector sit up and take notice, mainstream media also jumped on the bandwagon. Political blogs became popular, and blogger Garrett M. Graff famously attained a White House press pass in 2005. Four years later, the White House launched its own blog.
Why Businesses Should Blog
Full speed to our present day and the latest 2017 eMarketer figures tell us that 82.2 million people read blogs each month. That is a huge audience and businesses would do well to capitalize on these potential markets.
Blogs can earn more exposure for a company, connect with prospective customers, and promote their brand. What’s more, by providing free, valuable information about a niche area via blogging, blog authors can establish themselves as industry authorities.
Once they post relevant, cutting-edge information, they subsequently attract the attention of powerful industry heads and eventually become “thought leaders” or go-to sources.
A Business Blog Case Study
To demonstrate the endless possibilities of a blog, let’s turn to Hong Kong-born student Kevin-Ma, who in 2005 turned his love for sneakers into an innocent blog named Hypebeast.
The blog became so reliable and important to the sneaker and fashion industry it quickly expanded into a hugely profitable venture for Ma, mostly through online advertisements. But eight years later, brands are fighting to gain exposure on the site and Hypebeast has since turned into a publishing empire, launching a print magazine, newspaper, and most recently a hugely successful online store.
Hypebeast generates 28 million monthly page views and has an estimated market value of $271 million.
The Big Blog Bubble
As we’ve evolved from the web that was hungry for content, we’ve now become one that is saturated with it. There are currently 29.6 million bloggers updating their content monthly (eMarketer 2017), or let’s put it this way, according to Torque Magazine, in 2016, 24 new blog posts were published every second on WordPress.
Blogs have also increased in length. The average length of a blog post in 2014 was 808 words, and in 2016 it shot up to 1054 words per post (eMarketer).
Source: Orbit Media Studios as cited in company blog, Nov 9, 2016
Methodology: Data is from the November 2016 Orbit Media Studios survey as cited in company blog. 1,055 US bloggers were surveyed online during October-November 2016. Orbit Media Studios is a web-design-based client services agency.
Note: n=1,055. Data was provided to eMarketer by Orbit Media Studios.
Too many blogs floating around the blogosphere, otherwise known as ‘blog saturation,’ is a double-edged sword. As more and more blogs are launched, your own blog is at risk of being diluted, and getting lost in the crowd as audiences are overloaded with choices.
Before you start to fear a big blog bubble overload, there’s no cause for worry: the bubble will not burst.
We are currently experiencing new rapid growth in blogging. Blogs are evolving and adjusting to social media, indicated by the rise of videos (vlogs), podcasts, stories on Instagram, Snapchat & Facebook. If anything, blogging is just getting started and will continue to develop.
What Sort of Content Should Businesses be Creating?
There’s no question that blogs should remain an integral part of a content marketing strategy. But with so much competition, our strategy needs to evolve. How do you remain relevant and useful, keep your blog unique and interesting, and stand out from the crowd?
The key word here is quality.
Study your target audience, try and understand who you are writing for, and then offer pertinent, timely content. Don’t just write a blog because you know you should. There are many other creative ways to provide information.
Try and include visuals—currently, 77.7% of blogs include an image, and 51% more than one image. Studies show that video is the future of content. Video is experiencing an almighty boom with 69% accounting for all consumer traffic in 2017 (Cisco). Infographics are another great visual strategy to engage readers.
Most importantly, be authentic. Readers can smell phony content a mile away. Pay attention to the type of content that gets the most engagement and traffic, and have your business ask why.
Source: Orbit Media Studios as cited in company blog, Nov 9, 2016
Methodology: Data is from the November 2016 Orbit Media Studios survey as cited in the company blog. 1,055 US bloggers were surveyed online during November 2016. Orbit Media Studios is a web-design-based client services agency.
Note: n=1,055; *includes calls to action, links, questions, quotes from experts, recipes, SlideShare decks, statistics, stories and swear words. Data was provided to eMarketer by Orbit Media Studios.
If you want to ensure your blog is successful, hold off from directly promoting your own business, and exaggerated marketing. Blogs aren’t going anywhere, so use them to offer real value to your target audience, and engage with that audience.
Ask your readers questions and engage with their answers. Be useful to your readers and without asking for anything in return. Blogs are evolving rapidly, and don’t look or act like they did 10 years ago, but their potential for growth remains just as powerful.
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