by Josh Bernoff
What is blogging? People will tell you "it's different based on who you are and what you want to accomplish." But I realized this weekend that it can be different for different audiences, even if you are the same person. A lot of people I know have more than one blog. I realized I now have five. Examining what they are and how I use them makes an interesting little case study.
To begin with, know that I define myself as a writer, a communicator, and an analyst -- not a blogger. Calling someone a blogger in a few years will be like calling them an emailer now -- it will be just another form of communication. So even with these five blogs, it's not because I'm some sort of tech-addicted whiz-kid -- far from it. It's because writing is what I do, and I use them to accomplish different goals.
The five blogs:
1. Groundswell -- the blog you're reading, that I share with Charlene Li. The main purpose of this one is to communicate with the audience interested in Charlene's ideas, my ideas, and increasingly, Groundswell, the book. If you like this blog, you like me and my ideas, which means you should hire me, buy the book, or somehow stay connected with me.
2. The Groundswell Effect -- this blog has much the same content as Groundswell, but it's over at harvardbusiness.org, the Web site of our publisher Harvard Business Press. It's been interesting to work with that site. It gets a very different audience from our regular blog, because people who are looking there are interested in management and leadership along the lines of what appears in the Harvard Business Review and books Harvard Business Press puts out. It's a rarefied atmosphere with the likes of HBS professor John Quelch and management consultant Gary Hamel. Our editor there has changed a few of our post's titles, in a subtle attempt to show us to win over this audience. I'm grateful to be reaching a different audience thanks to them. And it doesn't require any additional effort.
3. Groundswell Makes Money -- This is my internal blog for Forrester Research. Forrester has been extremely helpful in making it possible to write Groundswell, and as we get ready to roll out the book, I am trying to tap into all the resources the company has. The reason for the nakedly commercial title of the blog is simple -- I am helping salespeople, other researchers, and management at Forrester to understand how the book's success can translate into helping with our image and eventually research and consulting revenues for Forrester, how I am repaying their work with me. Having blogged so much leading up to this, it became a no-brainer to start the internal blog, which has become both a reference and communications tool. Anyone who works inside a company and needs to gather resources should consider the value of a blog like this.
4. Groundswell: Notes from the Road -- I created this just to keep a few close friends up to date on what's happening as we go on tour to promote the book. I put stuff in there I would never put here, and it has readers like my dad, my wife, and my daughter. You'd find the things in there boring, but they care.
5. A personal blog I have created for myself. In earlier days you might have called this a private diary. Having created the first four, as I undertake a personal improvement project, this is a way I can keep track of my progress. I think of the audience as my future self -- I will look back on what I wrote and track my own progress. I doubt anyone else will ever read it.
(These blogs are on, respectively, TypePad, Movable Type, Wordpress, and Blogger, and Blogger again. Doesn't make much difference.)
It's interested to me that the meaning of blogging has expanded for me over the last 4 years to the point where I think of it to communicate to any audience. And of course this isn't the end: I twitter (although not nearly as much as people like my colleague Jeremiah) and a some of my work these days is poured into a wiki we're using to collaborate with all the marketing people at Forrester and at Harvard Business press to roll out the book.
Someday I'd like to write all these blogs in one tool and just pick a different audience to send each to, the way we do with email now. (Firewalls and privacy and economics make this impossible for me right now, since companies like Forrester and Harvard Business School Publishing have made choices for me.)
To sum this all up, I like to think about my idol as a writer, Isaac Asimov. Asimov was interested in everything, and wrote books about it all, from science fiction to essay collections to a Treasury of Humor and a Guide to the Bible. He wrote for all different audiences, to him it was all just writing. I wonder, if he were still around today, would he blog? How many blogs would he have? Or when your name gets big enough, do you need only one?