Why People Blog and What We Can Learn From It

I’ve worked with 300 bloggers here at Reed Business Information, and that was split between two groups:

  • Internal editorial staff.
  • External bloggers – professionals who are in the trenches, sharing their experience & insight via blogs.

These are individuals with years of experience in their markets using blogs as a real business tool.

Today, I want to explore the motivations of each of these groups, and what it means to the future of B2B media. Recently I sent a survey around to all of RBI’s bloggers, and captured feedback from editors and external bloggers separately. Below are selected quotes from each group as to the value they find in blogging.

The Goals of Business Media Editors/Staff

Why would an already busy editor want to blog? Here are some reasons:

  • Connect With Their Audience

    • “It forces me to connect with others.”
    • “Readers provide helpful and interesting comments.”
    • “Enables me to better connect with my audience, and get a better understanding of their focuses and thinking.”
    • “Blog provides another vehicle for reaching readers.”
    • “I enjoy having conversations with people I wouldn’t otherwise connect with.”
    • “It opens a dialogue between me and the industry’s manufacturers.”
  • Helping Do Their Job

    • “It’s made me more attuned to interesting developments in my industry & provided a great outlet for sharing these insights (and my perspective on them.)”
    • “I’ve made solid contacts who now feed me ideas and good editorial suggestions on a regular basis.”
  • Expose Their Inner Workings

    • “People are very curious about how the editors work, and the blog has allowed us to give readers an inside look at [our] process.”
    • “It has helped to strengthen our brand and our department’s brand.”
  • Grow Online Skills

    • “The blog reveals a more personal, a more real side – one that is not often afforded an opportunity in this quick-hit business world.”
    • “Blogging moved me into the Internet age. It gave me a voice.”
  • An Outlet for Creativity

    • “The industry and readers get to know more about my style and personality.”
    • “It’s been a great way to re-launch a concept I created at another pub.”
  • Build Their Reputation

    • “Has increased my credibility in the industry. Receive many emails from readers and I’m able to better connect with them.”
    • “It has increased my profile exponentially.”
    • “I love being at… shows and having someone come up to me and say, "I read your blog all the time…”
    • “The blog has raised my personal profile in the industry.”

The Goals of External Contributors

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin, why would a professional working in your industry want to blog for a business media brand? What’s in it for them – to have to create and share content each week, something that most normal human beings avoid. Here are a few reasons:

  • Grow Their Personal Brand
    • “Clarifying my own views and having a forum in which to share them.”
    • “Blogging… has led to increased traffic to our home site and contributed to being an authority within the… community”
  • Connection and Networking

    • “From talking to others I realize it makes a difference to them.”
    • “I get recognized and people recognize my name more often.”
    • “Reader comments have broadened my perspective.”
    • “I find it to be a relatively easy method for sharing my experience and perspective with professionals who are interested in learning.”
  • Build Skills

    • “Learning (by reading and writing and interacting with readers.)”
    • “I’m much more comfortable with Web 2.0 technologies now.”
    • “I did not expect the writing process to get easier than it used to be for me, but it has.”
    • “I am a much better writer than I was two years ago. I write almost every day now and I have noticed that my style has improved, and become more focused.”
    • “Forces me to remain current in the industry.”
  • Unexpected Opportunities

    • “I’m getting comments and reactions from a wider range of readers than I expected.”
    • “Blogging eventually lead to a book deal, which has helped my career immensely.”
    • “It has led to new writing assignments and invitations to speak at conventions and give classes.”
    • “Good comments from my peers and I have been contacted by people outside for stories and profiles.”
  • Personal Fulfillment

    • “It’s surprisingly satisfying to do it. I never expected to feel this way about a blog.”
    • “Making a difference to the profession.”
    • “I have a stronger feeling of ownership [of the blog] than I expected.”

The Future of Business Media Editorial Content

Notice one thing that was not mentioned above: increasing page views to the website. Blogs are a powerful way to do this, but oftentimes the other benefits are overlooked.

Outside of business media, there has been a lot of talk about how to crowdsource content that would create an editorial product that is a reasonable facsimile of traditional media products. EG:

  • Can you create a YouTube channel of funny clips that becomes as watchable as NBC?
  • Can citizen journalists report on breaking events as good or better than local TV stations & newspapers?
  • Can aggregation by keyword (and perhaps a mild editorial hand) drive traffic, engagement and build a media brand with little staffing.

Now, for business media, another disruptive topic has been discussed: content marketing. This could entail a company such as IBM, who serves a business market, creating white papers, webinars, training, media products of their own that shares their expertise, and in doing so, promoting their reputation. They create an audience for themselves by providing useful information to their market. It’s sort of like a passive form of advertising, but one that can offer real value to a market. So instead of an ad that says "IBM is great," it could be a blog that says "The Top 3 Trends on Cloud Computing." Big difference.

What this means is that traditional advertisers could be looking at their ad budgets differently, considering producing their own media and reaching their audience directly, instead of relying trade papers. Companies now have their own robust email lists, their own social media feeds & followers, access to publishing tools and numerous ways to reach potential customers and existing customers in their buying cycle. They have access and analytics that were expensive (or impossible) to come by even a decade ago.

The Unique Value You Offer Your Market

How can business media brands sustain their value and growth as content marketing continues to rise? They should take a good hard look at the lists above as to why people blog. This is not just about scale – about having a lot of page views or a big newsletter list. It’s about real connection, building skills, exposing opportunities, and personal fulfillment.

Consider lessons from the ‘psychology of buying’ from the consumer market: people don’t always buy the car they NEED, they buy the car they WANT, and will do mental acrobatics to convince themselves that what they WANT is what they NEED. And this applies to food purchases, clothing, gadgets, entertainment expenses, and yes, business and media.

Here are two questions you may want to consider about your brand and it’s editorial & sales offerings:

  • Is your audience buying a magazine, or are they buying a solution?
  • Are your advertisers buying access to "an audience," (eg: 20,000 newsletter names) or are they buying a business tool, something that directly moves markets and is not easily replicated?

Sure, these can be sales or business questions, but they are also questions for content creators. Because the answers will steer your career and your brand, as you navigate uncharted waters and a changing marketplace.

Your audience and advertisers are asking new questions about who you are and what you offer. The goals of your market have not changed, but their options have. How are you evolving to meet them in new ways, not to offer some ‘innovative’ new product, but to fulfill the goals listed above. This extends far beyond blogging – this is about solving problems, building careers and growing your market.

Clearly, I don’t have the answers, and quite frankly, no one does. But it’s always helpful to bounce ideas off of someone else. If there is any way you think I can help, reach out to me at dan@danblank.com. You can also follow me on Twitter: @DanBlank


  1. Thanks Dan.
    Lot's of great reasons to keep on blogging. I'm hooked, because it's a great memory assistant. I can whip out a well thought post much faster than a recreated impromptu comment.

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