BLOGS: Why blogging matters, even if it’s only a little

I wrestle everyday with whether writing this or any blog makes any sense from a business or personal perspective. I cringe when friends and colleagues tell me they’re starting a blog, because I know how hard it is to keep going. I also know how long it takes to build readership. But every so often I go back and read something I wrote and forgot about, and I’m more than a little impressed with myself.

So for my last post of the year I want to rebut the recent article by Joseph Rago of the WSJ in which he basically said blogs are a boring waste of time and that bloggers don’t do original work.

There are three reasons why he’s wrong.

First, new information. While it’s true that most bloggers (like me)
predominantly comment rather than investigate new stories, there are
things that you can get reading blogs that you can’t get elsewhere—for
example, Andrew Wiesenthal and Justen Deal’s
views on HealthConnect. A real story from the horses’ mouths appearing
in two blogs. And as the importance of openness grows that amount of
original journalism will increase. Already, for just one example, Talking Points Memo is employing muck-raking reporters,
and picking up the slack from the MSM which has been cutting down (but
not out) its investigative reporting. Yes, of course most reporting is
done by journalists working for MSM publications—the WSJ’s Barbara Martinez is my favorite in health care with yet another good one today (with the LA Times’ Lisa
Girion running her hard!)—but that’s because they have the money for
full time staff. As little niche blogs grow, wait for much more.

Second, niche bloggers. Of course I think this is the most important
reason. You may think that health care is unimportant, or very
important. But whatever you think, there’s way more information online
about the health care business now than there was three years ago. Some
of it is in very niche blogs like HISTalk looking at the hospital IT market, other focus on particular issues, like Health Care Renewal’s
conflict of interest focus. But it’s all stuff that wasn’t easily
available or searchable And 80% of that is in the blogosphere.

Third, talking against the trend and remembering what was said. You
may remember that all Americans were in favor of the War in Iraq until
it started going wrong in 2005. You would be wrong. My favorite current
writer of any type, BillMon, is an on again, off again blogger who just
did a huge retrospective on his work in 2003. Whiskey Bar: An Iraq Retrospective.
It is fascinating reading and it’s totally prescient on what was going
to happen. Now you can read what the “losers” never got to write in the
history books. And we’d all be better off for remembering that.


I’ll be posting my end of year personal letter elsewhere over the
weekend. This blog will be a little more famous on Sunday with an
interesting guest column on Peak Oil and health care, and there’ll be
my forecast for the year 2007 on Jan 2. Have a very happy New Year.

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9 replies »

  1. There definitely are many blogs out there, and few get read often. Makes you think that someday the weak will die off and give up. Only those with the original thoughts will survive.
    By the way, the url: http://www.unifyinglife.com is not MY site. I’m not an original thinker that will survive the blog die-off. 🙂 It is a great site though.

  2. Matt:
    For someone, like myself, who is not a professional in the medical world, there is no better way to learn about the health care industry than to read through the blog dialogues. I appreciate the efforts of all participants to make the blogging exercise fruitful. I have learned a great deal reading through your postings. Please continue your good work -you have reached many more people than you may have imagined!

  3. I agree, blogs are a great way to get new perspectives and information, whether from the original posts or the subsequent comments. They’re also a novel new way to network. I’m a pediatrician on the MS Gulf Coast trying to explore new payment models to rescue this post-Katrina health care system, and I’ve made many contacts through blogs–many of which I came across only by exploring links from other blogs. As an example, I’ve made a couple of contacts through Jim Chen’s Jurisdynamics (www.jurisdynamics.org), which I came across through the excellent The Debate Link (dsadevil.blogspot.com), which I think I found via some other political blog. So I went from politics (for my personal entertainment) to a niche blog covering, among other things, the intersection of law, disaster, and healthcare (for professional purposes).
    Not every word on every post has to be a gem–or even relevant to everyone–but blogs most definitely can be useful and enlightening. And this one certainly fits that description–keep up the good work, Matt!

  4. Matt:
    Great points. As for what you’ve posted, about the only thing I can think to add pertains to your first argument – sometimes the commentary itself *becomes* the story.
    Depending on what flavor of politics you like, I’ll give two examples: Trent Lott’s comment about the U.S. being better off if racist Jesse Helms had become president during the civil rights movement, and the flap over the CBS memo about Bush’s National Guard record (the content of which was apparently valid) that cost Dan Rather is job.
    Neither of those topics were particularly new or surprising, but the controversy they generated once they hit the blogosphere brought them into focus – right, wrong, or indifferent – in a way that they hadn’t been before. There’s no shame in that!

  5. Michelle–Thanks. Although I’m not sure what you’re doing to that dog! Shouldn’t you Magdelene grads be carrying a shotgun when you’re out on the moors or am I out of date! (PS the book looks very interesting)

  6. As the recent winner of “Best Blog of the Day” (*pats self on the back*) I’d like to weigh in: blogging matters in precisely the same way discussion groups mattered in the past. You don’t go to blogs for information, per se– though that comes often enough– but rather for new ideas.
    Metafilter is a great example. The stories posted aren’t necessary to the process. Simply reading the comments is an excellent learning process.
    I’ve had my own ideas criticized in ways I could never have predicted. That makes my own ideas stronger.