Regardless of what area of the blogosphere we either like to write about or find writers we like to read, just about all of the well known blogs have become a brand. For example you want to know about what is happening in the ecology field Treehugger has to be the premier blog name that comes to mind. Advertisers look for brands like Treehugger when they want to advertise to the socially conscious consumers. When it comes to electronic gadgets there are no better blogging brands to go after than Engadget and Gizmodo. You want to reach the demographic that loves buying all the new hot electronic toys out there these are the blogs you go to.
These blogs have built up strong brands that are worth a lot of money because they do one simple thing exceedingly well – they deliver news about their segment of the market and only that news. They might deliver it with varying styles or attitudes but the readers; and the advertisers, know that they aren’t going to get blindsided by some unrelated rant or tirade. In effect these types of blogs have become reliable media and in a sense have grown past the typical concept of what a blog was; or in most cases still is.
Then we come to the world of the tech blogger which really has become nothing more than a catch all phrase for people who write; with varying degrees of professionalism, about technology as a whole. One day the subject du jour could be some hot new start up, the next day it could be how much of an asshole some particular blogger is. In most cases it seems more like a cut and paste pile on instead of any real reporting about what is going on. The lucky thing is that for most of the bloggers who have made it to the top of this tech blogging field they seem to be forgiven by their readers when they lash out at something or have a rant about someone – as long as it remains within the boundaries of technology.
But when supposed tech bloggers suddenly post something that has nothing to do with technology the readers become very uncomfortable. This has been seen lately to a very large degree with personal political opinions becoming standard fare on some of the leading tech blogs. It has been interesting to see the backlash against this as commenter’s are expressing their displeasure with this departure. The typical response from people like Dave Winer, Robert Scoble and others is that this is my personal blog and I can express what I want which I guess is all well and fine but they do it with the risk of damaging their brand.
I remember back in July of last year writing an open post on WinExtra to Chris Pirillo who at the time was posting quite a bit of controversial types of things that I felt could come back to bite him on the ass:
All that said and returning to your once wishful private blog much of what you have been writing about in the past little while is enough of a borderline controversial type of stuff that it can make advertisers very very nervous. Advertising by its very nature abhors controversy not to mention gets real pissy when you go attacking the status quo which is what you are doing. Yes you have pointed out that you have every right to post what you feel and that you think that showing everyone that you are more than just a tech blogger is important.
Unfortunately the people that you want to emulate have nice secure positions where as you Chris survive because of advertising dollars and with the rise of the Pirillo brand you are walking a very precarious tightrope. Can you really afford to keep making the hand that feed’s you and your any more nervous than some of them may already be?
I would say much the same thing to many of the tech bloggers who are using their personal tech oriented blogs as soapboxes for their strictly personal viewpoints. I’m not suggesting in the slightest that they should shut up or otherwise stifle their thoughts but come on guys domains and hosting is a dime a dozen don’t endanger your brand by being cheap – take it elsewhere.
People are coming to your blogs because they want to know what you are thinking about technology; and yes if that technology is being impacted by politics then fine talk about it but if it is a tirade against some political party or some apparent sense of racism take it elsewhere. As much as the leaders in the tech blogging field would deny it; some more vehemently than others, the fact is they are brands. Dave Winer is a brand, Robert Scoble is a brand. Just because a blogger doesn’t hide behind a company identity that can be brandable it doesn’t change the the fact that an individual can equally be a brand.
Just as a company brand can be damaged by the actions of its employees so can an individual blogger brand be damaged by the words and actions that their readers don’t associate with the reason they come to read.