Fri, 28 Feb 2003 15:03:49 GMT

The much maligned baby and bathwater analogy….  


Earlier this week I lamented that many PR people seem slow to embrace and experiment with new technology.  Online PR still remains a specialist niche for most practitioners and few have begun to really evaluate how applications such as Weblogs impact their audience.


While I think our profession is slow to adapt, I certainly do not believe that Online PR is everything.  We all still need to use the same techniques that have been paying our wages for the past fifty years (a little less in my case ) in order to meet PR objectives. Our existing skills are as relevant today, but we need to open our minds to the possibilities that Online PR presents.


Google�s oft-mentioned purchase of Blogger has clearly exercised the minds of the media community.  Blogs are now beginning (and only beginning) to enter the mainstream media, just look at the number of blog-related stories in the non-technical press out there.  The other giveaway that blogging has really caught the imagination is the number of color pieces being written about the leaders in the blog field. 


Every hot trend needs a human face and the blog is no different.  Dave Winer (whose popular Scripting News blog I read most days and whose software is publishing this very article) is fast becoming the poster-child of blogging.  In the past couple of days he�s been interviewed by a number of major media outlets such as CNET and Newsweek about blogging.


What worries me is that Dave is getting a little caught up in the hype.  He has taken a fellowship at Harvard to promote academic blogging which is fantastic – but in the CNET piece he is quoted as saying:

 ï¿½In some areas, like tech reporting, the Web logs (sic) have largely replaced the professionals.�


What? Excuse me?


While there�s no doubt weblogs are very useful for catching up on technology news, to say they have supplanted professional journalism is rubbish.  If I want the latest news I still go to Infoworld, Eweek, Internet Week, CNET, Information Week etc..  If I want more perspectives then I�ll certainly visit weblogs, but replacing journalism?  I don�t think so.


Why is it that humans automatically think that new must replace old?  It�s rarely the case.  In most cases new supplements old.  Think of examples like cars and bicycles, trains and planes and in the PR world TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet.


These have all supplemented not supplanted their �predecessors�.


The dot-com frenzy occurred because people saw the Internet replacing things like stores, newspapers, phones and socializing.  It was revolutionary and this Internet-version of the future was pumped up by �visionaries� and their financiers.  It was contagious.


Billions of dollars later we see the reality.  The Internet is fantastic and like nothing that came before, but it�s evolutionary not revolutionary.  In Europe, recent research points out that while Internet usage is growing it will probably never reach US levels of penetration.


We still have our newspapers, our stores and we still leave the house regularly.


In the same way, the idea that weblogs will supplant journalism is ridiculous.


Let�s try and keep a perspective.  Weblogs are useful.  Useful for people looking to connect with like-minded individuals, useful for people looking for information, and useful for PR people looking to understand an audience or trend.  Weblogs have lots of other uses including sharing information and knowledge inside an organization.


But weblogs aren�t magazines and I don�t believe they ever will be.


History teaches us that pumping up the volume only steepens the fall.  Weblogs are important but they aren�t the printing press. Let�s keep the perspective.