A few years ago, the PR industry could all but ignore blogs as frivolous and irrelevant. Now, PROs rely increasingly on blogs as a reflection of the zeitgeist, and view them as updating the industry on the latest news, opinion and gossip.
By the 2004 US election, personal blogs and mass media began to compete for attention, with bloggers able to editorialise speeches and political events as they happened by ‘liveblogging’. Suddenly, traditional media needed to employ bloggers just to keep up. And by September 2007, search engine Technorati was tracking more than 106 million blogs worldwide.
Unsurprisingly, the top-ranked UK blogs share the common theme of technology. The top three blogs in the country according to blogging consultancy Blogstorm concern social media, smartphones and digital arts respectively, with more than seven million monthly page views between them. The tech PR industry has been quick to spot the potential of blogs about gadgets, especially around Christmas.
‘It’s no longer somebody in their bedroom with no money and no advertising,’ explains Michael Parsons, editorial director of consumer media at tech website group CNET, which owns gadget blog Crave and video game blog GameSpot.com, among others. ‘Back then, bloggers were exploiting hyperlinking to show how promiscuously involved they were with the internet. There are still people blogging for love, but out of that came superblogs such as TechCrunch (uk.techcrunch.com) and Engadget.com. They are professional, they have advertising and they attract huge audiences.’
These days, the most influential gad-get blogs are generally part of a larger network or publishing company, which has either had to acquire a blog or start its own to stay competitive.
Incisive Media owns the UK version of the enduringly popular Gizmodo. Engadget, another favourite with tech PROs and layman gadget lovers alike, is part of the 75-strong group of blogs, Weblogs Inc. Commercial blog publisher Shiny Media has both Tech-Digest (techdigest.tv) and ShinyShiny under its umbrella.
But PROs should remember that not all bloggers come from traditional journalism backgrounds. One tech PRO tells an amusing anecdote about introducing a high-profile tech client to Blognation UK blogger Hugh Leslie, only to discover he had yet to sit his A-levels. Despite being 16 years old and still in school, Leslie is the founder of gadget blog Gizbuzz (gizbuzz.co.uk).
Bloggers and comms people alike offer similar tips to PROs looking to approach gadget blogs on behalf of clients: do not forget multimedia, and be sure to maintain a thick skin. ‘PROs wanting to target blogs should try to supply a complete story package – a short snappy release, images and product or video demos,’ advises Brands2Life associate director Gareth Davies, who counts CNET as a client. ‘Expect your product to take a few knocks, as these sites tend to be informal or quite cynical and tongue-in-cheek.’
For Davies, the cynical tone is a small price to pay for the coverage generated: ‘Coverage on well-read blogs like those from CNET, Gizmodo or Techcrunch can often result in much higher traffic than traditional media brands.’
As blog coverage is seen as increasingly valuable, established gadget magazines such as Future Publishing’s T3 and Haymarket’s Stuff have had to adapt their online offering to avoid being scooped by bloggers. Haje Jan Kamps, editor of T3.co.uk, has relaunched the magazine’s website to cater to a demanding, blog-savvy audience. ‘The website is updated like a blog, with the addition of special features and opinion,’ says Kamps. ‘We are able to run smaller things that the print magazine won’t touch – or there might be a new MP3 player released between issues.’
Kamps warns PROs looking to target T3’s revamped website to act quickly. ‘If it takes two days for you to get photos to us, the news story has gone cold,’ he says. ‘We need as much information as possible and, of course, good photos. It is all about exciting, sharp, new content.’ The same goes for Future’s newest product, gadget blog TechRadar.com, launching today, to catch the Christmas gift-buying rush.
T3 also recognises the shift in web demographics, and has tailored its online offering. While the print magazine is recognisable by the bikini-clad babe posing on the cover, Kamps says the website is ‘moving away from the naked women’.
Indeed, Future runs T3’s little sister, the GadgetCandy blog (t3.co.uk/news/247/gadgetcandy), aimed squarely at a young female market armed with disposable income and keen on shiny new toys. ‘We’re trying to branch out; it is more lifestyle-oriented,’ says Kamps of GadgetCandy.
Of course, it has not taken PROs long to get into the gadget-blogging game themselves. Waggener Edstrom’s lead consultant on digital, Ged Carroll, writes a popular tech blog called renaissance chambara. Other prolific PRO bloggers include Hotwire director Drew Benvie and Rainier managing director Steve Waddington.
According to Custard PR MD Stuart Campbell, blogging is a skill all PROs should learn as clients come to expect it as part of a campaign. ‘By discussing things in the blogosphere, you can get objective insight,’ he says. ‘It is a great way of keeping your finger on the pulse.’
BLOGS TO WATCH
Ubergizmo.com – Their top ten holiday gadget gifts are right on target
TechRadar.com – The latest Future offering, for those with a passion for small, shiny objects
Pocket-lint.co.uk – News, reviews and the ever-popular GeekBooTeek shop
ShinyShiny.tv – The Naughty Toys section is a hit with girl gadget fans