Blogging is of course a major topic at the SxSW Interactive convention. This morning I started off by attending the “Why Keep Blogging?” panel at the ACC.

Here’s the description of the panel:
Why Keep Blogging?
Now that we think in 140-character strings and live through Facebook, it’s tempting to throw out the blog baby with the bathwater. These seasoned bloggers explain the vitality of this still-revolutionary medium–the resources, community, continuity, and space for real ideas that only blogs can provide–and its infinite future potential.
Presenters: Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Lizzie Skurnick, Scott Rosenberg, Josh Fruhlinger, Emily Gordon

There was a lot of debate about what blogging is becoming in the age of everyone being a microblogger. And there were also many funny, useful anecdotes that were shared by these A-list bloggers. Their stories (how they came to blogging – mostly from leaving/losing a traditional-print media job) were completely fascinating, and inspiring for anyone who aspires to become a Journalist 2.0.

Here were a few of the highlights from the Q/A session:

One of the first questions came on the issue of how much personality and personalization was important in blogging…even trumping the subject matter of the content.

Scott Rosenberg, co-Founder of Salon and author of Say Everything (on blogging) said, “I heard recently from someone that ‘Communities online form around people not content.’ And I really believe that’s true.”

Fruhlinger: volunteered, “You don’t have to have your real name if you don’t want to be a public identity – but it’s important to have a face to your blog.”

Emily Gordon of Emdashes (“The New Yorker Between the Lines”) was moderating. She offered a story about how when she started she was told that the key to blogging is “To have a human face about the fold…I didn’t know anything about blogging so I created a face. It wasn’t my face, but it was a face. And it seemed to work!”

Author and blogger Lizzie Skurnick admitted, “I still have a problem with not being anonymous… A blog is intimate. That’s what makes it fun to read and that’s what makes it scary to write…” But she agreed it’s important to establish yourself as a personality, even if that persona is different in different blog environments, like play-acting a role in a different setting or scene for a different audience.

Scott Rosenberg really felt strongly about this point. “Unless you’re whistle blowing or doing something where you’d be in danger if you’re revealed, I don’t understand anonymous blogging. I’m always amazed when I go to a blog and the “about” pages is still blank. I can’t count the number of times that you find a blogpost and it’s really good and you want to find out ‘who did this?’ and you can’t, that’s a problem!”

Another question was asked about how much the design of a blog mattered, in the opinion of the panelists.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez answered first: “If you’re blogging to engage, make sure it’s easy to comment on your blog.”

Skurnick said, “I think your blog should be pretty so people want to look at it! I can’t read The New Yorker’s web page…it’s too white, it hurts my eyes. So I don’t go on it. But The Atlantic Monthly somehow has the resolution and color right. So I read it all the time.”

Scott Rosenberg countered, “And I don’t care about design at all. If people want to read something they will read it…craigslist is popular and it’s the ugliest site on the web!”

CORPORATE BLOGS – Are They Worth Doing?
The next question came from a woman who asked what the panelists thought about corporate blogs, and whether or not that term was an oxymoron.

Guy started, “I think it depends on what you’re trying to get out of it. And if you have passionate people – and if they have a voice. So if you’re just throwing up a blog and it was obviously written by your PR person…then what’s the point? But if you have someone in your company who is passionate and has a lot of opinions and ideas, than go for it. I think a good recent example of this is in the publishing space, McMillan’s CEO just launched a blog, and he’s writing about the book and publishing industry. If he was just pushing their latest bestseller, then I would prefer to go to a book review site for that. But instead he’s engaged in a dialog about the business, and that’s interesting.”

Emily Gordon agreed, but with a slight revision to that opinion. “Someone like David Pogue is so charismatic and funny and nice…and yes it all links to his books, and his columns, but he still ads more than self-promotion to it so it’s fun to read. So I think it’s possible to do both if you’re tactful.]”

Lizzie added, “I think a if you’re a business person writing a corporate blog you should talk about the business side…and that can be very interesting! But as long as they are being authentic and honest.”

Fruhlinger added, “It’s really hard in a big organization to do blogging well because so many people in an organization are linked to it and feel like they have ownership over it. I think that’s a big reason why so many of us are lone wolves.”

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