Blog-culture is ripping up the rule book for the outsourcing services and technology media industry

RulesThe rapid maturing of blog-culture is radically changing the way media is being delivered to people in the hi-tech, services and outsourcing industry.  Suddenly, opinionated experts (I do use this term lightly) have access to the industry which they never had previously. Long-gone are the days where they needed regular columns in trade magazines to get their views across, or a press quote that could be used out of context.  Why wait a month to get your latest opinions to the world when you can get them out in minutes? 

The lower-tier trade publications are getting a hammering.  Why go to some of the traditional trade magazines and websites, when there are a plethora of blogs out there with up-to-date news, and great debate – and from people who generally know their stuff.  What’s more, YOU get to be part of that debate and YOU can decide whether these blogs are worth reading.  The threatened media firms argue that blogs are de-regulated and provide unsubstantiated information, however, most journalists are experts at placing their own spin on stories to get attention, and often provide us with unfounded opinions and views for the sole purpose of carving out their piece of the airspace.  Even on this blog, for example, we’ve had opportunities to pick out inaccurate media stories and try and add a dose of realism to the world, which otherwise would have left people with serious misinformation.  Not all bloggers have the polish of journalists, but they can get their point across just the same. 

Most of the top-tier media brands get this and offer bloggability on their websites.  I predict the top media brands, such as Forbes, ZDNet, Businessweek, Wall Street Journal and Investors’ Business Daily, will continue to embrace the media of blogging and continue to be successful.  However, the choice of websites to visit to get the latest scoop on industry events, technologies, deals, mergers, or even general opinionated banter has ripped the media industry apart over the last couple of years – and this is escalating.  Some media firms are building stables of their own bloggers to combat the threat and deliver their own blogging-style media, but are often restricted to people who tend to be independent and not work for large organizations. 

What’s more, some of my friends who are now pro-bloggers would never have become journalists, however, blogging has provided them with a medium to deliver their insight to industry in their own conversational style.  Several of them even make a living doing this… vendors – and even some trade press – are sponsoring their blogs if influencers, clients and prospects go there. The trade-press now competes with these individuals, many of whom are delivering regular content at no cost. In the past, many bloggers would have provided the trade-press with their insight, but they now prefer to preach from their own, personalized pulpit.  What blogging provides is a medium for experts, analysts, academics, consultants, marketeers and practitioners to convey their views of the industry, so we don’t solely rely on journalists for information, whose media firms are dominated by the whims of their advertisers and parent organizations.

All-in-all blogging has completely changed the media game in our industry.  Whereas mainstay publications believed it was their right to own the delivery of information, they are quickly getting a nasty shock that they are no longer the prime vehicle for delivering news and content to their industry.  Just visit Google finance and check out Microsoft – as an example.  Scroll down the page and you’ll see the latest blog posts on the firm.  While the trade press still cling on to delivering the news, the bloggers are delivering most of the color commentary…

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14 Comments

  1. Posted March 23, 2008 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Phil,
    I agree with your article about how the blog culture is shifting the way information is received. Traditional media is proving to be too slow for the latest information on nearly anything. Thanks to the speed of the web, it is also easy to verify if a point a blogger makes is fact or opinion. I actually even find myself reading more articles now that I use Viigo (a mobile rss reader) on my BlackBerry, than before. We blog and I guarantee you that becoming a journalist never crossed our minds, yet we love writing! These are exciting times we are living in, especially because people can share their experiences and education on the fly, rather than looking for a platform to present.

    Nan

  2. Posted March 24, 2008 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Blogs are great, but I’m not sure they really replace newsfeeds and such. And I’m not so sure mainstream media brand blogs are really that different than just online versions of Op Ed pages.

    I think the larger issues is the blogification of the web in general where news stories and reviews and websites are published more like blogs than news. This really blurs the line between what is a news story and what is a blog and readers can often lose perspective of whether this is an objective, reviewed article or some guy shoving a biased opinion down our throats.

    I read a few blogs regularly since I like the author’s radical views on IT evolution, but they’re hardly my primary source of info. They are one growing source of info on the web (because it’s so easy to publish so much crap), so I do visit them more often solely because they’re turning up much more often in the search engines.

    Anyway, as part of the much broader socialization of the web, blogs are certainly helping to change the shape of the web and established media outlets so I definitely agree on this level.

  3. Posted March 24, 2008 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Karl,

    I do not think blogs will replace RSS feeds – I see much of the trade media (the Tier 2 pubs) becoming more “informational” and the blogs adding the insight, debate and color commentary. The top tier media are already using blogging functionality to their advantage, as they have the platform to attract people to blog on their articles.

    In the outsourcing industry, most people are going to the blogs first for insight – for example Jason Busch (SpendMatters), 360DegreeVendor Management, Peter Allen (Consider the Source), Mark Stelzner (Inflexion Point), Vinnie Mirchandani (DealArchitect) etc. For HCM software, Jason Corsello’s “Human Capitalist” is very influential for debate and insight.

    Check out my links for more places to visit…

    As an analyst, I find blogging gives me tremendous value to hear other peoples’ opinions, massively expand my network, and have a little fun – it adds a real edge to my research.

    PF.

  4. Posted March 24, 2008 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Great post and comments all. For those interested, I’d call your attention to one of the best blogs for writers in the market – Copyblogger (http://www.copyblogger.com).

    A fantastic post by Damien Van Vroenhoven entitled “10 Questions Every Blogger Should Ask Themselves Before Posting” (http://www.copyblogger.com/10-blogging-questions/) emphasizes the importance of the editorial process, a challenging task for many bloggers pressured to produce quantity over quality.

    My favorite questions include #3, “How helpful is my content?”, and #4, “Why should my readers trust me?”, for without answers to those issues, a business blog becomes nothing more than one person’s rambling.

    Best,
    Mark

  5. Posted March 25, 2008 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Outsourcers, in general have not adopted external blogs…could be because with thousands of employees it could run wild. EDS has a blog but they do not talk about the industry – more about innovations in sw, hw etc (Charlie Bess ia a fellow Enterprise Irregular). Infosys has a frequently updated blog, but they do not get in to too much conversation, so still mostly a marketing vehicle. Cognizant sponsors my blog. Many are active in the SAP SDN community. IBM’s software group blogs more than its outsourcing group. So, in many ways they are all testing waters.

    I would love to see outsourcers blog more freely about their own challenges, opportuntiies etc,

  6. Posted March 25, 2008 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree with you, Phil. Which is why I wrote that mail to you about my plans for our blog. As a journalist, I find blogs to be the only avenue to write stuff with a level of freedom that the online news medium or the print medium does not offer. As the only trade publication dedicated to the outsourcing/ global services industry, I am sure that the Global Services blog when done properly, would help the entire community.
    In that sense, your post is very timely and insightful for me personally.

    Ed

  7. Posted March 25, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Phil – I think the problem is that many blogs lack the content that business people need. Mark’s comment points to the same issue.

    Clients don’t need to hear the trade rags (x% of CIOs will outsource or $xxB of work was outsourced in 200x). Clients want to know how to structure a deal, measure performance, and exchange best practices.

    On the vendor side, running the operation isn’t considered outsourcing. If a client outsources its call center to a vendor, the vendor is running a call center operation. So, they are more interested in perfecting their call center operations than talking about outsourcing – except to build sales. I do believe that they need to focus on teaching their clients how to manage vendors, but not many are there yet. That’s a white space if some account manager would start blogging.

    As a blogger in the outsourcing space focusing on the client experience, I agree with Vinnie. We need to see more bloggers exchanging best practices. Content is king, and conversation stimulates innovation.

    Tony

  8. Posted March 26, 2008 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Vinnie, Ed, Tony:

    Very good comments, thanks. Clearly the tech blogs are lightyears ahead of outsourcing blogs right now. Tech-bloggers are far bolder at expressing their opinions and get stormy debate going. The outsourcing vendors are simply too nervous – as I’ve said before – outsourcing can only “go wrong”, it can never “go right”. However, we are already seeing some interesting blogs spring up where we can get decent commentary on outsourcing best practices and trends – but this is largely from the advisors, than from the vendors. I have also been getting some abusive emails from a couple of people in HRO who were upset I discussed the Starbucks-Convergys issue publicly on this blog. Might be an endemic problem with the outsourcing industry when people are trying too hard to sweep the issues under the carpet?

    Ed – thanks for the note. There are two media sites I rely on for regular information on the outsourcing business, and yours’ is one of them. However, it sounds like you are experiencing the challenge of getting outsourcing people blogging – believe me, it’s not easy, as outsourcing professionals have not adopted blog-culture anything nearly as much as the tech professionals. But this is accelerating – just look at where we are now compared to a year ago.

    PF.

  9. Posted March 26, 2008 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Phil

    Perhaps even more of a challenge would be getting the buyside to blog – especially C-Level decision makers CFOs / CEOs that set strategy

    Steve

  10. Posted March 26, 2008 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Good morning all -

    One last comment and then I’ll exit stage left on this topic.

    Of much debate here (and elsewhere) is really why senior executives don’t embrace blogging. I’d call your attention to a fantastic piece on David Meerman Scott’s WebInkNow entitled, “Why CEOs and executives must work harder to blog successfully” (http://www.webinknow.com/2008/03/why-ceos-and-ex.html).

    In a nutshell, David points out the blogging requires one to check their ego at the door, a task not traditionally in concert with executive office culture. It’s my belief that this, along with:

    - Increased oversight due to SOX (for those public companies);
    - Fear of uncontrolled debate;
    - Pressures to competitively differentiate behind closed doors; and
    - The belief that blogging does not directly impact buying behavior

    …all serve as contributing factors to this dilemma. But like most competitive environments, you can’t win if you don’t play.

  11. Posted March 26, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The way I see this unraveling, is a handful of “rogue” independent blogs becoming very successful, and the top tier media driving this, as they see blogging as a huge threat to their business if they ignore it. Forbes, BusinessWeek, WSJ and co already have the readership, business model, platform and infrastructure to take blogging higher up the executive-readership value chain.

    The lower-tier media do not have she same media power, and their challenge is getting people to blog on their sites. As Ed rightly points out, this is a major challenge for them.

    As for blogging catching on? Just go to the CNN website and see how many people are weighing in… it’s the next level of media communication, and like ecommerce, you can either ignore it and risk losing marketshare, or embrace it and see where it takes you.

    PF

  12. Lisa Ross
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I am sitting here laughing, Phil, that you actually had the “chutzpah” to say what the rest of us really feel! Having joined the blogosphere only a short time ago, I now can see the tremendous advantage it can bring both professionally and personally (adding “color” as you put it). You have become an excellent role model (along with the other commenters) on how to leverage this channel and rightly encourage other communities to join in. There’s still an important role for traditional media but your points are, in my opinion, 100% on target. Keep being bold! :)

  13. Posted March 29, 2008 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Phil;

    The advantage the blog has over traditional media articles is tremendous when you consider the impact that immediate feedback provides. Outsourcing is a political nightmare when communication is not properly delivered. It creates chaos at best when organizations do not plan this properly, aligning stakeholders with management, staff and the community.

    I have recently observed a blog being used to test the waters in preperation for outsourcing by posing an article “Why Outsourcing/Offshoring works”. The responses were a combination of hate mail calling the author un-american to a dialogue on education and competitve fervor in America.

    This author was clearly using this blog as a tool to prepare the organization and the community for what will be considered as well as plot a course and strategy to address objections.

    Gary Claytor
    Vice President
    TBI, Inc.

    gclaytor@TBICentral.com

    Links:
    http://www.tbicentral.com

  14. Posted March 30, 2008 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Vinnie and Mark,

    Good comments on why more companies aren’t blogging. Mark to your point, I think it’s the fear of loss of control of the conversation that paralyzes most companies. But they don’t truly understand the medium. If people are debating, they’re engaging and as a business, that’s good. Other issues like SOX are red herrings. If Jonathan Schwartz can blog any company can have their executives do so.

    And Vinny, I think you’re right that many outsourcing companies haven’t started a blog because they’re worried about what the thousands of people who work for them would say. The fact is that many of their employees are already blogging and the companies don’t even know what they’re saying about them. That should be a much bigger fear. And in a recent post of mine (http://glenngruber.blogspot.com/2008/03/should-your-company-blog-conversation.html) I mention a conversation with Larry Weber (author of “Marketing to the Social Web” and founder of Weber Shandwick Worldwide) he suggests to let the floodgates open. I haven’t gone that far yet, but Symphony will be launching a blog shortly. How will it go? We’ll see. But if you’re not experimenting, you’re stagnating.

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