Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Is print publishing about blogs worth the paper?

The blogging-and-information-overload concept is a double-edged sword. On one side of the blade, getting RSS feeds seems to make my reading more productive, because at least I start with sources who are likely to be talking about things I want to know and write about. On the other edge, I'm still a little overwhelmed when my computer feeds me something like, "First chapter posted on our corporate blogging book," (posted yesterday morning by Robert Scoble). A few minutes later (after printing the chapter to read slowly later), my printer is spooling out James Cherkoff's What is open-source marketing? It all makes for interesting reading, but what's the point if I'm gathering information faster than I can take it all in?

As I work on a book chapter and a research paper on PR and blogging, I'm reminded of this post from Kaye Trammell's blog. Her blog is called So this is mass communication?:

...With each article the case for your own study becomes more clear. It was as if all of these researchers were thinking about YOUR STUDY when they did their work over the past 20 years. And now, the glory & moment is yours to seize...

Except that now you've got all of these researchers who did their work over the past 20 years AND all the bloggers who posted their ideas over the past 20 days to consider.

The problem for us in academics - actually it's not really a problem, just what we're supposed to be doing - is finding what will matter most in 20 years. Scoble has already gracefully acknowledged Bob Wyman's criticism that he "can't help wondering if it won't be horribly out-of-date when published in early 2006" . But I think Israel & Scoble, Searls & Weinberg, et al. are on to concepts that last longer than the technologies they describe. We just need to figure out what they are, then try to test them and learn from them.

In public relations, Shel Holtz and Jim Horton have managed to churn out hard-copy books (Holtz lists them as "dead trees") on online PR that have been useful. My biggest challenge in writing a book on public relations online is not to compete with these books. These authors have provided solid information on the state of the field, and continue to do so with their blogs.

Rather, I'm looking for places where PR theory works (or not) online. Theory doesn't get people's attention like technology does though, especially as it's being developed. Another double-edged sword - lasting concepts last, but they emerge slower than the technologies and practices they explain. That's why peer-reviewed journal articles on PR theory have a readership (that's readership, not circulation) of about seven people. ;-)

But I see theory as a way to learn things that will outlast the publishing cycle of both blogs and books. Good theory is worth the paper.

1 comment:

kaye said...

Thoughtful continuation to the conversation.

... & huge congrats to YOU on your new position! :)