Sunday, January 14, 2007

Technorati/Edelman Study And The Value of Blogs

One of the issues that I often have with the PR profession is our tendency to regularly put our focus on a variety of new initiatives at what can be in my opinion at the expense of our core areas of practice. Although I often feel I'm relatively alone in this regard, I've blogged before about my suspicions regarding the supposed value of blogs to a business and how, despite claims to the contrary, I believe the jury is still out on the value of blogs.

One of the reasons for my skepticism is a barrage of studies that continue to trumpet the value of blogs, only to have little information to bag that up. The latest came in a joint study conducted by Edelman Public Relations and Technorati. In a Jan. 5 posting on his well-read and often very useful blog, Richard Edelman says "blogs matter and we have the data to prove it." He goes on to write that the joint study surveyed blog readers in 10 nations, including the U.S., as well as several Asian and European countries, and found that blogs are frequently quoted in the media, spur readers to attend public meetings and become more active politically and socially, are more often read in Asian countries than the U.S. and that multinational companies draw more blog viewers in a particular country than companies based in that country.

As a point of clarification, I'll note that the information upon which I based this posting came from Richard's own blog and that while more details were supposed to be released Jan. 12, I could not locate any additional information on either Speak Up! or the Edelman corporate site.

While I have no reason to doubt any of these findings, I'm not sure how they justify the claim that "blogs matter and we have the data to prove it." Sure, most anything matters to somebody, and I don't think anybody will deny that there's a lot of value to be found in a medium that gives most any Internet user the power to be a publisher of sorts. But the more central question, I believe, is How does that translate into value? I think a typical PR client would define value as money spent on an initiative that delivered better-than-expected results, however there's nothing in any of the data above that would lead me to assume value will be delivered by a blog.

When it comes to financial impact on a business, I think of blogs much as I do a company's Web site; it is another tool to get information about you and your business out to prospective buyers of your good or service. Blogging is not going to change the financial fundamentals of that business and it's uncertain at this point whether blogs will go on to play a long-term role in a company's public relations or marketing plan.