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As Om and Scoble depart, how does a company value a blogger?


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June 13, 2006

As Om and Scoble depart, how does a company value a blogger?

Stephen Baker

It's only Tuesday, and already this week two big-time bloggers are picking up from their full-time jobs to position their abilities--and their brands--in startups. What do these career moves by Robert Scoble and Om Malik tell us?

It's a bit of a paradox. The Internet has brought astounding tools of measurement into countless marketplaces, starting with advertising. And yet, when it comes to measuring the power or effectiveness of an in-house blogger, companies don't know where to start. How much was Robert Scoble worth to Microsoft? On a bang-per-buck basis, how did he match up to the millions that Microsoft pays for advertising and marketing, both in-house and out? I'd say extremely high. But I don't think there was any way to measure it.

Om Malik is the biggest brand associated with Business 2.0, the magazine's superstar in the blogs. The editor, Josh Quittner, sensibly offered Om a column-writing gig to keep at least one of his feet onboard.

But the fact remains, most corporations and media outlets haven't figured out yet how to revamp compensation for the new age. Very few journalists, for example, are evaluated for customer relations. That's almost sacrilege, the province of the advertising or marketing side of the business. But blogging is blurring the line between these domains. Perhaps the best way to measure the value of bloggers inside the company is to see how they fare when they leave. There's a growing list of case studies out there.

11:09 AM

Inside Companies, blog business, entrepreneurs

I am reminded of Dan Gillmor after he left the San Jose Mercury News.

I think its good that Robert still has the same blog URL.

Posted by: John Cass at June 13, 2006 12:24 PM

Steve, seems to me one easy way to begin the in-house blogger eval process would be to require that the blogger produce what would amount to a business plan for the blog. This "corporate strategy" could include short and long-term goals (what's long-term these days--3 months?), plans for cross-media alliances, a budget (yes! there's something concrete), preferred measurement tools (including a survey of those who visit the blog) and at least one revenue-generating strategy unique to the blog. I agree that these folks are probably creating more value than they're extracting in salary and benefits. But how much more? And, in their infancy, are these blogs also creating collateral damage that such a strategy might uncover? This sort of strategy, one that would be updated every 3 to 6 months, might be a way to begin to measure the individual's worth.

Posted by: Dan Cook at June 13, 2006 01:48 PM

Dan, you forgot to mention the most important part: Taped and transcribed telephone interviews with every reader of the blog, each one deployed in color-coded binders, all of this photocopied and distributed to C-ranking officials of the corporation, as well as officials in related industries and top officials (and staff) of relevant secretariats of the U.N.

Posted by: steve baker at June 13, 2006 02:24 PM

Stephen,

Seems to me that most corporations (wrt tech & new media work, anyways) are woefully unprepared to ascribe relevant value to knowledge workers. Receiving a score of 1-5 in categories like "plays well with others", "arrives to work on time", and "takes direction well" are square-hole-round-peg remnants of the industrial age.

Because work has become increasingly more specialized, and increasingly less tangible, figuring out how to measure results is a task that takes much longer than it used to. The smart companies take the time to align employee performance metrics (and thus incentives) with business goals.

Bloggers have a platform to make their value more easily known, and IMHO, the smart ones use it to improve their situations.

Good meeting you at Tony's dinner over Memorial Day wknd, btw!

Kareem

Posted by: kareem at June 13, 2006 03:04 PM

Steve,

I have a different take on this. It seems to me that these departures signal that the blogosphere is maturing and that proven business models will soon emerge. It reminds me of senior executives like Meg Whitman or Eric Schmidt leaving established companies and joining unproven start ups like Ebay and Google in the web 1.0 era. We all know what happened....

Eric

Posted by: Eric Kintz at June 13, 2006 04:19 PM

Kareem, I agree with you about the square holes and round pegs. Since I've never had what I consider to be a fruitful evaluation or HR process, it's hard for me to imagine aligned performance metrics. But if you've experienced them, I'll keep hope alive.

Eric, good point on the maturing model. Even if the departing bloggers don't build multi-billion-dollar businesses, there is opportunity out there. But given those growing opportunities outside, their value inside the companies clearly should be on the rise.

Posted by: steve baker at June 13, 2006 06:13 PM

Another question: is it beneficial to have an "official" blogger or just tacit approval of someone that blogs on the side?

Posted by: EThan Kaplan at June 13, 2006 06:18 PM

I completely missed this news. The funny thing is that I missed it because I'm eyebrow-deep in work... that came to me largely because of my blog. I doubt there's any way to measure the return I've already received, but I do know one thing: it covers my hosting costs.

Posted by: csven at June 13, 2006 10:28 PM

Ethan,

I would say that it was immensely valuable to Microsoft to have a blogger who could represent the company, with a great deal of authority, in the blog world. They have some 3,000 other bloggers, but I don't know if any of them are positioned to replace Scoble. I was scratching my head, trying to come up with that other scenario where wannabes were lining up to replace a departed leader. Then I remembered: Zarqawi! But carefully considered, I don't think the two examples are exactly parallel.

Posted by: steve baker at June 14, 2006 09:36 AM

I think Robert Scoble become famous because of his position at Microsoft and his own efforts. Robert was not given the position of top blogger at Microsoft he earned it. Mainly by criticizing his employer. That criticism helped to change customer perceptions of Microsoft.

I think you can select a top blogger, but title matter less than content. It's more important what the blogger says, than their position in the company. Yes a CEO blogger like Jonathan Schwartz at SUN will be widely read. But there's a reason why Robert Scoble was considered one of the best-known corporate bloggers.

I hope that a blogger at Microsoft will become top blogger not by a job offer but by effort. And that effort will be recognized and rewarded with time to blog.

Posted by: john cass at July 20, 2006 04:28 PM

Blogging is here to stay at least until the next big

thing on the Internet comes aboard.

Should'nt it be a good thing people are able to advertise on different medias?

Open minded to capitalism is what I thought of America.

Everyone has thier own opinion...I am glad of that.

-Maker Money

Posted by: Maker Money at February 4, 2007 10:03 PM


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