I write one, in fact I write for a few. You’re reading one.
A blog or “web log,” as you probably know, is an online journal with regular updates written by either one person or a few, and usually allowing either blog subscribers or any readers to add their own comments and reactions.
Blogs evolved in the early 1990s from simple online diaries. With the popularity explosion of websites in the later 1990s, not only personal homepages but also corporate websites included updated news sections. Blogging spread with the development of software to simplify the maintenance of blogs and allow for readers’ commentary. These software tools expanded blogging beyond those who had the know-how to draft their own web pages and blogging gained popularity.
By 2001, several still-active blogs had become popular by focusing on specific topics such as political commentary or specialized news. The next year, popular blogs were receiving up to one million visits a day. In 2004, Merriam-Webster declared “blog” as the word of the year, and politicians and celebrities were joining the blogosphere. Bloggers and other contributors to websites with user-generated content were the reason for Time magazine naming “you” their Person of the Year in 2006.
Today, Technorati, a popular blog search engine, tracks more than 70 million blogs and many of them are recognized as legitimate news sites. Even the Columbia Journalism Review now covers blogs and blogging, and Harvard Business School has recommended to all businesses that they have a blog.
Blogs have grown far beyond personal diaries and soapboxes for individuals. Among the millions of corporations and organizations that blog are Fortune 500 companies in the tech industry (such as Dell and Google) and those not so techie (such as Nike, General Motors, Kodak, and McDonald’s). Print and television media have blogs at their websites (such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Time, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show). Respected schools and universities have joined the blogosphere (such as Columbia School of the Arts, Columbia School of Journalism, and Harvard Law School). Even Internet networking sites include blogs in their pages (such as LinkedIn and Facebook).
Blogging hasn’t completely passed by theaters. Some of the most established, most active, most creative, and “hippest” theaters are already blogging: Hartford Stage; The Guthrie Theatre; American Conservatory Theatre; Trinity Rep; Arena Stage; Seattle Rep; and Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. Without a doubt, blogs are helping to sell tickets at these venues. Concerned that your theater couldn’t possibly update a blog as often as these big players? No problem. A blog can be updated as often as you’d like, can keep readers involved in what’s going on “behind the scenes” during non-production times, and can give them “backstage” progress reports during rehearsals and performances.
Still not convinced that a blog is for you? Read on.
Blogging is a relatively cheap yet invaluable means of marketing over which bloggers have complete control. If you knew a method of quickly and easily sharing up-to-the-minute news and information with members, subscribers, patrons, donors, volunteers and anyone who could potentially be any of these, would you use it to your advantage? That’s exactly what blogging is.
Aside from the obvious communication and marketing uses of blogs, blogging has other advantages. A blog can give a human voice to a website, whether it’s that of a theater director or staffer, an administrator or writer hired specifically for blogging, or a ghost writer—as long as the writer connects with the theater and the blog’s audience in a personal way. Compared to traditional advertising and publicity, a blog should be personal, informal, and even quirky. It’s an opportunity to have fun with your readers, to let them feel that they’ve read some “privileged” information. Blogging will also make readers feel like they’re part of your company. Especially if they comment on a blog post, they’re going to feel that they’re involved in what you’re doing, and be more committed to your organization.
Blogs can also provide some “free” market research. Comments (which, by the way, can be moderated, deleted, or turned off and on) can let you know what your readers think and want. Where else can you publish information that you’ve written and have responses and opinions come right back at you for free?
Last but not least, blogging—and making your community aware of your blog—will draw visitors to your main website on a regular basis. They’ll return daily, weekly, or (through feeds or readers that notify them of updates) as soon as there’s new content to be found on your blog.
Have you ever tried to search for the website of a company or organization only to find out that the place doesn’t have one? In 2007. Frustrating, isn’t it? It may not be long before consumers expect businesses to have a blog too. Blogging may still be evolving, but it isn’t going away. So the question remains: Why aren’t you blogging?