Sunday, January 30, 2005

Blog Business Summit Wrap-Up

Key takeway: the blink tag is back, baby.

The Blog Business Summit wrapped up today in Seattle, and I'm now completely bought-in to the belief that blogging renders equal sums of available power each to businesses, their customers, admirers, and competitors. How well those actors harness that power defines who best influences the marketplace's ongoing dialog. Not participating at all — an unfortunate strategy some pursue by default — guarantees anything from annoyance to disaster if your products are used by anyone who blogs. I attended in order to meet some of FeedBurner's peers in the blogging/syndication business and to gather both praise and gripes from existing users to report back to our secret mountaintop base. I'm definitely glad I went, because I've long felt this very blog is in need of a complete rethink, starting at the top with the jamoke pressing the Post button.

The presenters on hand for this two-day summit consistently struck on the same central themes for businesses who already blog or are still evaluating how best to get started:

  • Passion. If you're not passionate, your voice won't carry.

  • Truth. There is nothing worse than a corporate lie. You will be revealed, quickly, and your credibility will evaporate.{mazda}

  • (Rational) Fearlessness. The odds always favor the brave.

  • Good Stories. The best blogs have a point of view that, loved or loathed, keeps you scrolling.

These are probably obvious principles, but I think they are easy to overlook. Überblogger Robert Scoble's Corporate Weblog Manifesto covers additional ground along these lines and is a must-read if you are considering blogging on behalf of your business for the first time.
Rather than provide a stream-of-consciousness of the entire Summit (Jeff Barr did yeoman's work on that front for Day 1 of the conference, if you'd like to see that result), here are the select points I found most interesting from each session I attended. My take on some of them, where provided, is obliqued. I only missed one session. Honest!

Robert Scoble Keynote

  • MSN Spaces is now up to 1.75 million blogs. Wow. How many of those are really active, viable publications is anyone's guess. (This one is ironclad proof it's 1,749,999, at most.)

  • Lots of potential bloggers fear "giving away" advantage through their blogs. Scoble believes experts who share knowledge always gain advantage because they boost their own credibility and build a following. Strongly agree.

  • Identify bloggers who are active connectors. There's a winner in almost every domain, from politics to sports to umpteen technology topics. Getting these connectors to mobilize their followings to evaluate or even support your efforts can realize ridiculously rapid buzz.

  • Fears: If I blog I'm gonna get fired. I'm gonna look stupid. It takes too much time, I have a business to run. All of these can be conquered. But it takes organizational courage — which most are too conservative to muster.
  • People love good stories. Conflict, controversy, and background insight no else can provide on a topic guarantee traffic.This is law. It can't be denied.

Marc Canter/Chris Pirillo on Blogging Business Models

  • Marc Canter is one helluva personality. Brash, louder than penny beer night down by the river, and obviously battle-tested in conferences and junkets large and small, the man won't back down. I hadn't seen him in action before. The Summit was better for his presence (controversy, remember?)

  • Marc used his time mostly to pitch, his new startup.

  • Marc mentioned that Jeremy Allaire is working on a company to provide payment collection for Creative Commons commercial use. I always wondered what PayPal-alternative infrastructure might spring to life to monetize CC. Maybe there's a winner here.

  • Chris Pirillo is another model entrepreneur-blogger. A shameless self-promoter, his success with Lockergnome is in direct proportion to its amplification of his personality. He claims this success in terms of AdSense revenue to the tune of "covering everybody [in this room's] house payment with what I'm making." Is that in monthly or annually, Chris?

  • I didn't leave this session with, um, any new business models. But it was clear that passionate people could get results.

Molly Holzschlag on Driving Blog Traffic

  • Molly emphasized the basics: a blog needs a mission, a purpose. It needs to relate to your core business in some essential way. It also has to extend (or at least, avoid diluting or misrepresenting) your brand image. Most importantly, it needs a well-imagined audience. If you're not really writing with someone in mind, your work is adrift.I think this is something I've overlooked here on Black Background.

  • Molly also went into detail about managing comments/spam, trackback pings, and surveyed how some of the popular tools enable these features. She's a clear-voiced speaker who walks her own walk -- she reassessed and interacted frequently with the audience, asking questions to gauge curiosity and the success of her message's impact.

Steve Broback/Glenn Fleishmann

  • Steve Broback (the conference organizer, incidentally) demonstrated a clever way to locate a profitable blogging topic: reverse engineer topics by gathering estimated CPCs from likely AdSense keywords. A little bit of time in AdSense and Excel can lead to a blog that fills a niche nicely. Trouble is, precious few niches are left!

  • Glenn Fleishmann made a point that resonated with me: links don't beget eyeballs; analysis does. A 'dude check this out' blog, which is a common starting point for newcomers, isn't likely to gather momentum because it lacks purpose. Furthermore, links should be shared at'm resolving to write opinion and analysis only here on BB; interesting links will almost always be shared in the feed using FeedBurner's Link Splicer service. (Yet another feed-only exclusive for Black Background subscribers!)

Halley Suitt/Stowe Boyd - Art & Science of Blog Writing

  • This was my favorite session because it most powerfully addressed keystones I've failed to use in support of my own blog work:

    • Story: Good writing is most important. Good doesn't simply mean accurate,
      timely, politically correct. Good writing has good stories.
      Stories such as how the Aeron chair was developed. Where there's
      conflict, there's interest.

    • Truth obviously important. Whoever author is, factual, truthful
      is important.

    • Passion Critical. Without passion, truth/story can't be

    • Things of this world if you fall into abstractions, it's boring.
      I want word pictures. I want picture pictures, too, if you can
      swing it.
    • Brevity The soul of wit and all that. How long is this post right here?
    • Freshness how often you post is do/die. This is a killer.
      of course, passion powers freshness.

    • Voice. The implied author, the chewy rhetorical center of the
      work. "people don't have to sound a certain way...they have to
      sound alive. not PRish."

    In fact, on this note I'm ending this post. Day two happened, and some stuff happened then, too, but I'm
    putting the rest of this on the other attendees' backs. (Aside to FeedBurner's accounting department: I was in attendance on day two. Swear.) Time to rediscover my original voice.


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