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Insights on Corporate Blogging

Robert Scoble, former lead blogger at Microsoft, was interviewed recently by Ziff-Davis. Some key points:

  • Some corporations are using blogs for internal communication by senior managers. This is an alternative to e-mail, allowing employees to ask questions and also making the archive of the manager’s memos searchable. It’s an interesting approach, but we think companies should make clear where employees should look to know what’s going on. Otherwise they might check e-mails and not the blog, or vice-versa, and miss things.
  • He had an interesting take on Google vs. Microsoft:

    “I don’t see them challenging Microsoft or taking money off the Office team’s plate in the enterprise for the next two years. Further out, however, they are positioned to come in and take some business from Microsoft. If I were still at Microsoft, I would be freaking out. The first thing Google will do is stop the growth of Microsoft Office. Small startups aren’t going to buy Office anymore, they’re going to use the free apps on the Internet. Is Google going to get Chevron to switch from Exchange? No. Not soon. What they are going to do is add new value that Microsoft can’t, like the Google calendar team showing me how to put my calendar on my blog. It’s really nice. Those kinds of things are what you’ll see enterprise companies start to use in little projects here and there. Google will sneak in the back door, just as Microsoft did 25 years ago with DOS and PCs.”

We’re skeptical about the near term prospects for replacing Office with web apps, but overall we think the process Scoble describes is correct and the web apps companies (not just Google) will eat away at the established software franchises, one feature and one vertical market at a time. And new users will be the first to switch.
Scoble also argues that blogs are a great way to have ongoing focus groups with customers. We’d raise a huge red flag about that. Unless you’re making a blogging software program, bloggers are not your typical customers. They are enthusiasts. If you design for them, you may end up putting in a lot of features that will distract and confuse your average user. Product suggestions from the online community should be used very cautiously.

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