Earlier this week a short eBook was released called “Exploring the business of blogging”. It was organised by Stephen Waddington, who sought out the opinion of respected bloggers in his network and asked them about the future of blogging. He also asked them to share the benefits they’d experienced from blogging. It’s an interesting read.
Blogging as a technical endeavour – it’s coding baby!
In Mortality by the late and great Christopher Hitchens, I found these words hit a personal note “I often grandly say, that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true… Without that ability, I feel sure in advance, my ‘will to live’ would be hugely attenuated.” The books ends by including the various notes and random thoughts which were left behind before he finally passed away on the 15th December 2011. You can read my personal memorial here.
Just like Hitchens, without writing my desire to live would drastically suffer. It is an innate need, a simple way of life and that was the spark behind my blogging journey. I didn’t start blogging in the late 90s as my age was still in single figures. However, I soon found my feet at the tender age of 15 – superfluously writing philosophical thoughts on Google’s Blogger and later moving to WordPress. My 9 years of blogging began as a personal journey, which then transformed into a business one. As a dyslexic student blogging taught me to embrace writing and the technicalities of the English Language. Then in 2008 Richard Bailey (my then lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire) recommended that I followed the business path of blogging. I didn’t look back.
Blogging helped me:
- Build my professional relationships with (then) fellow students and practitioners
- Helped with ongoing work experience, freelance work and employment
- Understand the technical aspects of scripting languages
- Earn some money on the side of my University studies (through advertising and endorsements)
- Lose religion! My personal journey began by connecting with the large humanist community online. Something I still hold close to my heart today (I’m a member of the Rationalist Association)
Blogging is only one online activity; I was creating websites in the late 90s. That’s just the way my brain ticked – I just understood computers. At 5 years old I could navigate my way around MS DOS, nearer the end of Primary School I understood some of the very basics of internet scripting languages (HTML) and then I got comfortable with CSS, MySql, Perl, PHP, Dephi, GML… dabbled with Linux. At University I attended a Cisco Network Engineering course where I was taught how computers networked together – how the internet physically works.
Despite what you think, this is to be considered normal behaviour now! If you think I’m geeky, just wait and see what the next generation will be like (future coding baby?):
Blogging, particular through the WordPress platform, is a great way to build scripting language knowledge (Mostly HTML, CSS, MySql and PHP). You can choose to avoid scripting completely or you can really deep dive and build something different. It’s given me the ability to not only build digital strategies but develop the technical foundations of them too. Online scripting languages drive the whole digital experience – without trying to understand them is ludicrous and a missed opportunity.
One man’s exciting ‘digital marketing microsite’ is another’s coding nightmare! Design runs further than graphics, it’s in the very fabric of a webpage and social media wouldn’t be the same without it. Any PR practitioner who misses the latest technological developments will always be one step behind digital communications. You can wait for a company to come along and take advantage of the latest coding capabilities, or you can learn to code yourself. I know which I find more exciting.
Content marketing is just as technical
Yet blogging isn’t just a coding endeavour, it is about content marketing too. Every day I’m involved in content marketing programmes with Keene Communications. This includes utilising state of the art digital measurement, identifying opportunities (such as the Semantic Web), building SEO strategies… the last 9 years of blogging and being on the web has led me to my current role.
In the specific context of blogging, rather than more widely defined content marketing programmes, it’s difficult to predict the future. Mainly as it’s tough to actually define a blog. In fact, most people read blogs every day without realising that they are. Some of my favourite mainstream blogs are the Financial Times’ and the Economist. In the same breath I could say the Huffington Post or Mashable. Let’s not forget the real business blogs such as ProBlogger or Chris Brogan. All of these are blogs, share similar characteristics but are not always wholly definable as blogs – as a visitor to a website my focus is the content rather than the channel.
Before my time it was understood that blogging may lead to the uprising of the citizen journalism, proudly defying mainstream news sources. You can imagine the hysteria this probably generated in the media industry! In reality this evidently didn’t come to pass. Today too many blogs either republish material from mainstream sources, horribly extend opinion of a mainstream story or offer content which is so heavily SEO optimised it’s impossible for a human to understand.
Each day I look through my Feedly and sigh disappointment when another blogger posts an article which is clearly just written for search engine hits. If you’re blogging for SEO, forget it – focus on writing great content instead. Contribute to conversations and attempt to offer value. This is what blogging is and will continue to be – blogging is about community.