The Phantom Blog Menance
You know a trend is really starting to worry people when the ad industry press starts publishing articles with headlines like “What Blogs Cost American Business” seeking to make the point that blogs “are proving to be competition for traditional media messages and are sapping employees’ time.” How much time? Well, according to “Advertising Age’s analysis” 35 million workers spend an average of 3.5 hours a week reading blogs, which they describe as “the quivalent[sic] of 2.3 million jobs.” They lead off the article with: “Blog this: U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs.” Alright, I’ll blog that.
AdAge’s real beef seems to be with advertisers like American Express (who “paid a handful of bloggers to discuss small business”) and the use of blogs as a “word of mouth” vehicle — so they turn to the WOMMA to defend blogs:
“Bosses accept some screwing off as a cost of doing business; it keeps employees happy and promotes camaraderie. Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, said blogs have become the favored diversion for ‘office goof-off time,’ though he notes it’s hard to segregate blog time since blogs often bounce readers to professional media sites.”
Left to defend their own strawman (a requirement for “objective journalism” is to appear to search for answers even if you don’t find them), they do their best to seem forgiving of blogs that might actually have something to do with business:
“Some blogs do relate to work, but deciding just how relevant they are to the employer is open to debate. For this analysis, Ad Age chose a simple score: Count all business blog traffic, half of tech and media blogs and one-fourth of political/news blogs as directly related to work.
“Based on ComScore’s tally of blog categories, this suggests just 25% of blog visits directly connect to the job. Employees this year will spend 4.8 billion work hours absorbing wisdom from other blogs that may enlighten visitors but not amuse the boss.”
Take that, strawman attacker! 1.6 billion work hours of that 6.4 billion wasted hours might not have been completely wasted! Don’t blame ReveNews, we don’t waste any employee time here. Don’t blame indieWIRE: we only wasted half of your worker’s time (as we’re a media blog). Blame Gawker, as they are not in a protected blog category! They are even bragging about it so they’re just asking for it!
I tell myself I should approach this objectively, and give equal weight to both sides of this issue: the side of me that cackles in glee that they still don’t get it, and the side of me that thinks the lady doth protest too much. Then I’d be covering both sides of the issue.
Just last week, I was evangelizing the importance of “general research” (seriously learning something new, but not something required to solve an immediate problem) to one of my co-workers. Using a simple score where I ignored all data that didn’t fit my central argument, I proved that a daily commitment of 2 or more hours each day to “general research” was the single most important trait for success as entrepreneurs. People who don’t understand that learning new things is a part of everyone’s job description in the digital age (or who don’t understand the blogsphere’s role in producing learning opportunities) probably to be frightened of the future.
Several imaginary confidential insiders note that it must drive people like Jason Calacanis crazy to see Andy Sernovitz quoted defending the strawman of blog reading as “office goof-off time.” Blogs combine the boogeyman of “word of mouth” with the reliable strawman of office productivity in jeopardy, served up just in time for Halloween to scare us all. It’s just the kind of ghost story that could keep a technophobic office manager or major B2B print publisher up all night!
About Brian Clark
Brian Clark of GMDStudios (http://www.gmdstudios.com/)