Monday, April 28, 2008

Blogging Explained - Thanks, Common Craft!

Common Craft specializes in producing short videos that explain complex concepts "in plain English." Their video on blogging is a gem.

If you know of someone who doesn't get blogging (but should), sit them down and make them watch the video!

As I watched, it reminded me of the changes in WETA's "blog."

When WETA returned to an all-classical format, they set up a blog to communicate with listeners -- very much in line with the concepts expressed by Common Craft.

To fill in some background
, public radio station WETA in Washington, DC dropped classical programming to chase after bigger pledge dollars to be found in news/talk. Ratings sagged, and listenership (and pledge dollars) fell off. The sole surviving classical station in the Washington area, WGMS, was a commercial radio station whose owners wanted to flip to a more profitable format.

Seeing an opportunity to retreat from their own misstep and take over a now vacant field, WETA offered to go back to classical music, taking in WGMS' massive CD library and some of their more popular announcers.

In the early days WETA's blog talked about the change-over, the announcers, and generally took folks "behind the scenes" at the station. And it enabled comments. As things progressed, the comments became a forum for those discontented with the direction the station was taking, the programming, etc.

And then the blog changed. It's still billed as the "blog for classical music lovers," but it's not -- at least according to Common Craft's definition. It's become a music review column by Jens F. Laurson, similar to what one would find in a paper. Comments have been disabled. It's strickly a one-way conversation. Laurson reviews; you read.

Now I have no quarrel with Mr. Laurson. He's a good writer and a thoughtful reviewer, and I enjoy reading his posts. But in my opinion this isn't a blog, and for WETA to call it so seems a little disingenuous.

I consider the feedback I receive an integral part of the blogging process -- even if they're not favorable. WETA's missing the critical part of new media, and that's the conversation.

So if you're meeting with decision-makers to discuss blogging, do watch the Common Craft video. Don't use WETA's blog as a model.

- Ralph


  1. Although I largely agree with your assessment of the WETA blog, I think it is a mistake to think that the defining (or necessary) element in a weblog is the interactivity.

    What - technically - makes a blog is really just the tool used to publish with. What makes a blog in a practical sense is that *and* a fairly informal style, I think.

    The lack of a comment section does not disqualify the wonderful "The Rest is Noise" blog of Alex Ross' from being a blog, does it?

    If the WETA blog doesn't read like a blog, it's probably the fact that the entries are long (some might say dry) and newspaperish/magazinish, not 'bloggish' (whatever that may be).

    Best - MaSvo

  2. The nice thing about blogging (and podcasting) is that it can be pretty much anything the creator wants it to be.

    Alex Ross' blog is indeed a blog -- and technically, so is WETA's. And both communicate in one direction. Ross and Laursen write, and the viewer reads. There's no opportunity for feedback.

    The difference, though, is that Ross' blog is (as near as I can tell) his own personal site. All of the postings are his, and so his blog is his way of sharing his views with others.

    A corporate blog has a slightly different function. The value in a blog for a business is the two-way communication. Blogging allows the company to get its message out, to get feedback from its customers, and in the process build a community that strengthens brand loyalty.

    WETA started out with that kind of corporate blog. And (in my opinion) when the feedback wasn't what they wanted to hear, they switched to a mainstream media-style review column. Two-way communication became one-way.

    It's not to say that Laurson's posts aren't worth reading -- they certainly are. In my view, it's serving the function of a personal blog (or perhaps a magazine website) rather than that of a corporate blog.


    - Ralph