As a newspaper columnist, I’ve often been asked if I am also a “blogger,” to which I scoff, throw an annoyed glance back and say, defiantly, “No.” That is until recently. Ever since I started a self-driven fitness program a few months ago, I was constantly asked questions about how I managed it and how I’m doing. I was gaining new followers on social media and many of those connected to me were inspired by my accomplishments in the gym and wanted to know more. So, I broke down and started a blog.
For those not acquainted with the concept, or who may have been living under a rock or in a cave the last decade or so, a “blog” (from the word “weblog” coined by Jorn Barger in 1997) is a regularly updated web page focused on one topic or ideology, often written by one person or group and delivered online in an informal, conversational style. There are literally millions of blogs online today covering every conceivable topic from cooking to astrophysics.
A blog is an informative and entertaining way to grow a community-supported activity or organization or just share your knowledge. Consumers should be aware, however, that blogs and journalistic publications can be very different, not just in topic coverage, but integrity and accuracy.
As noted before, blogs are typically written in a more conversational style, often by people who have no writing or journalism experience but still have something to say. They can be opinion based or fact based, or a mixture, and may come across in a similar tone as a newspaper column such as this one.
Some blogs are created by independent writers who just want to rant about whatever it is that is bugging them that day. Others might be published by news outlets or companies who use the blog to promote their brand, company, website, news outlet, and so on.
Bloggers, as the writers of these web-based publications are known, do not have to follow the same kinds of journalistic rules of etiquette as reporters or other media professionals. Short of spouting something libelous, a blogger can pretty much say whatever he or she wants with little or no oversight.
As consumers, we all need to be aware that for news-based blogs there may be no fact-checking, or journalistic integrity in place. Yes, I hear all the groans out there and acknowledge that this can be a problem even in mainstream professional media.
Most estimates put the number of active blogs online in 2013 at approximately 152 million, and that was the latest and most accurate figure available at the time of this writing. That number will continue to increase. As it does, more and more content will flood the internet giving people worldwide access to virtually every subject expert on the planet.
Many blogs are created to help establish the writer as a subject matter expert. In other words, the author is some sort of authority on the topic and is sharing his or her knowledge to gain credibility with followers. Sometimes the writer will cite the source of information they present, sometimes not. The validity of the content is up to the reader to determine. Second opinions are always advised.
In case you’re interested, my “every man” fitness blog can be found at oldnerdinthegym.com. It’s written in a conversational style and is a constant work in progress. Its purpose was to give insight into how a non-athlete turned a desire to live a healthier lifestyle into a journey of exploration into a world that used to be foreign, even frightening, as a boy.
If blogging is something in which you have an interest, here are a couple of tips. First, write what you know and find your angle. If you want to do a cooking blog, for example, you should find a niche that no one else is doing because of the thousands of other blogs out there.
And practice writing and let other eyes see the work before you hit “publish.” Once it’s out, you can’t take it back. Get it right the first time. Be the expert in your subject and write well while you do it.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at www.deerinheadlines.com.