Jyllands-Posten, Denmark's largest newspaper and world famous for the infamous Mohammad cartoons, launched a new Danish blog-universe last month. A rather late launch compared to both other Danish and most international newspapers (e.g. New York Times started blogging back in 2004). Another indicator that the timing could have been better here comes from Wired journalist Paul Boutin, who has argued that "Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago."
Another way to interpret Boutin's article, is that the timing is perfect. Boutin's argument is, that as an individual it no longer makes sense to have a blog, as you cannot compete with the professional media publishers when it comes to visibility on Google's index (meaning that nobody will ever find your postings). Jyllands-Posten is a professional publisher with a significant audience in Denmark, so following Boutin's logic it makes perfect sense that they finally started to blog.
Jyllands-Posten's strategy from an editorial point of view has been expressed clearly by the Cultural-Editor, Flemming Rose (the editor who was also responsible for the cartoons - my translation): "Freedom of speech is worthless if nobody is practising it. [...] Why remain silent when you can speak up?"
Blogs give those with something to say a platform on which to voice their opinion while enabling dialogue and debate with the readers. Jyllands-Posten has invited well-known people to contribute and readers have already engaged in dialogue with the authors. This is best illustrated in the blog "Seen from the Right" (my translation), which is written by the self proclaimed 'national-conservative', Morten Uhrskov Jensen. Several of his posts have received over 50 comments in very few days and the debate has been rather intense.
I would argue that blogs are not dead. Instead, they are maturing and finding their place in the crowded market of content publishing. They still give everyone a way to express themselves and unlike Twitter and Facebook, blogs have a more permanent presence. It may very well be that you cannot write as well as David Pogue from the New York Times, but if you have a relevant topic you may need more than a 140 characters. While Twitter is great for shorter updates, try to imagine what Twitter would be like if there were nothing to link to? So what might be changing is that established media is fighting hard to win back mind-share.
As an organisation you can definitely use blogs to become more approachable for your customers. In Denmark we have seen the Danish dairy giant Arla being very successful in the blogosphere and on an international scale US computer firm Sun Microsystems ' Jonathan Schwartz has shown how a CEO-blog can spark dialogue and show openness. In the UK the London 2012 Blog is a good example of a relevant and popular organisational blog. They all show, that if you get it right, blogs can be a great way to engage with your customers and give them an informal way of communicating with the organisation.
Unfortunately, most organisations never get a blog because they worry too much about harsh comments and the time it will take maintaining the blog. In most cases, these concerns are overrated, and with some guidelines and a relaxed editorial schedule it's not that difficult to manage. You'll also get far with some public guidelines for comments, where you explain how you handle comments (see. e.g. our commenting guidelines).
What do you think - are blogs dead? If not, what are the challenges for making a corporate blog in your opinion?