Monday, July 25, 2005

Let's compare two new blog sites

Routine Disclaimer: I have been a member of WorldWIT (don't remember if my membership is active or not) and Jory Des Jardins, who helped Third Age launch their blog is one of my BlogHer partners.

Recently two sites, both targeted to women, launched mini-blognetworks. WorldWIT and Third Age have set up blog central sites, through which you can click to multiple subject-matter -focused blogs, not unlike Weblogs Inc or Gawker Media, but more narrowly focused on the women's segment, and not exclusively blog-savvy women at that.

The differences between these two launches are pretty stark...not in content, I can't claim to have read tons of content on either site. But in look, feel and execution...worlds apart.

Let's look at the WorldWIT set-up first:

-The header explains that the blogs are meant to be a "new communication channel for professional women to share experience and read commentary and observations about the challenges, rewards and strategies of being a working woman."

-It is accompanied by this stock photo, so right off, it's slick; it's "professional"; it's brochure-ware:

-Next comes a list of the various blogs you can click to, with a brief description and a picture of the blogger. A professional head-shot of the blogger I should say.
-The first two blogs listed are about working motherhood, and the third one is about their annual conference, a commercial blog. And that's all the content that is above "the fold." And I have a big-ass screen.

OK, now, I'm only even scrolling down because a) I'm a blogger and b) I'm doing this silly comparison...why did I think this was a good idea again?

Of the list of bloggers, only 2 seem to have prior connection to the world of online social media. Most seem to have already been in the WIT management structure.

I click through to PRGirl by Aliza Sherman first, mostly because I've heard of Aliza and read her other blog occasionally. From a feature point of view at least they're doing this right...comments, trackbacks, email the blogger links, Permalinks, RSS. All good. I then clicked through to a couple of others.

But I think there are real barriers to get people to click through to any of the blogs, mostly the fact that the page that greets you for the blogs looks no different, no more personal, no more engaging than the rest of the the very formal, buttoned down site.

When you take a look at the Third Age blog, it is clearly, well and truly, a blog. You can see right off the bat, not promotional pictures and blurbs, but blog content. It's just full of the normal wealth (some would say glut) of content you expect: categories, latest posts, latest comments, extra links on what a blog is and what RSS is, links to the RSS feeds, including a feed for comments, which is a nice and emerging trend. There's a blog roll. I recognize the names of about half the bloggers because they're, well, already bloggers.

I don't need to pigeonhole myself and self-categorize myself just to start reading some content. I can browse through everyone's ideas and decide if any of them interest me.

Now I will grant you...the ThirdAge blog looks "primitive" in design comparatively speaking (doesn't help that Yvonne DiVita's silly animated smily icon is there bopping on the page!) And why, why! is lime green so in right now? I know, I know, it's even in our BlogHer logo, but it just always remind me of gastric juices or something. And it's nice that WorldWIT isn't advertising, so their blog is obviously purely a member outreach tool (well, other than the blog all about their big conference.)

I think ThirdAge could improve the look (and does a Botox ad have to be top and center, does it really?) But they're doing something right with inviting me to read the content. And if I'm not motivated to read the content that what's the point of launching and maintaining such a blog effort? Not much point.

What do you think?

As the guy (yes, [sigh] a guy) who set up the WorldWIT blogs, I resemble these remarks. ;)

I won't try to rebut your critique, just offer some info.

To the overarching point - no, the typical WorldWIT blogger is not a bloggy, new media person. With the exception of Aliza, none of the other bloggers have ever done this before. IMO this is a good thing. They're trying something new that they would perhaps not have tried otherwise if WorldWIT (and specifically Liz Ryan) had not come along and invited them to give it a try. And personally I think they're all doing a great job.

The result: new-to-blogging bloggers writing interesting, relevant-to-women stuff that would never have seen the light of day otherwise. I'm for it.

Re: the design - yeah, well, [cough] it could use some work. We don't have a designer on staff, but we wanted the blogs to at least match the WW brand identity. So I hacked something together. (And I'm definitely NOT a designer.) A new design is in the works, but it's in the queue behind some other web stuff, so I can't give a specific date for the New & Improved version.

Re: the main blog page - ditto. Though honestly in my experience this is NOT how people find blogs. They usually find blogs because a specific post was linked from some other blog. Then again, we do promote the blogs home page in our email lists, so maybe you're right. On the upside, we get a fair amount of comment traffic, so people are finding the blogs one way or the other and actually interacting with them.

Finally, to compare us to Gawker or Weblogs is wishful thinking. Those guys are all about blogging and being the bomb at blogging (or whatever is is you try to be these days). Our goals are much more modest. Like, for example, getting noticed by you is this week's highlight. :)
Hi Derek: Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you take my criticism with an open mind and stiff upper lip.

I do see your point about getting new voices into blogging.

About finding the blog. I'm sure WW has a pretty large email list and that that's how I found your blog home that's thousands of potential readers right there, going directly to that page. Once your bloggers have been blogging a while you're probably right that their links will get out and about.

AGLd I could be the highlight of your week though :)
I have to agree with all of the above. As a blog addict and fanatic, I've tried a bunch of the blog pub tools and found this one to be the least intuitive. Derek has been great about taking feedback and incorporating it, but right now there is still a major interface issue.

I'm also working on a book about blogging for Adams Media so am looking at hundreds of blogs every day and trying to put into words for a layperson just what makes blogs work (and that is after a careful and detailed explanation about what a blog is and what it is not). A lot of it is based on subtle visual cues and layouts.

We're really back to the early days of the Web when we were all trying to create something, well, creative and visually pleasing and intuitive and inviting - out of a primitive software invented by a scientist for scientists.

We have all been forcing the Web and Web sites to be something they aren't inherently. We're now doing the same thing with blogs. I think it is one fantastically fun experiment.

My PRGirl blog gets very few comments right now. Part of it is that it is still new, part of it is that I'm still working on my focus, and the other is the way I'm phrasing my posts - I need to be more inviting in my content and spark discussion and participation. I'll work on it!
The content at WorldWIT reminds me of when AOL users were finally let out of their pen, and the quality of posts on USENET plummeted. Aaagh! Nightmares of being pursued by cloned hordes of Homer sapiens simpsonus americanus! Holy brother of jay-suss! Suits!
any one want to comment on this?
Actually, Kate I understand your position, and it's timely, as BlogHer is considering this same issue right now. Gotta figure out how to be able to distinguish between the two kinds of listings, 1) job listings from companies and 2) I heard about this job form a friend.

And once you decide to charge for one you gotta figure out how to keep every company from simply getting someone outside the company to post their listings as a "I heard from a friend" type thing. Interesting challenge to solve.
Im also here about job form one of my friend. this is very much useful to every one. and it will take time to download the procedures.
Thank you so much for this wonderful information.
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