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Why Blogs Can't Be Trusted

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When was the last time you had a total mental breakthrough?

Do you remember the last time you got information so valuable to you that it changed your life? Was it from a book? Did a mentor teach it to you? Or did it come from a blog or a newspaper?

Call me presumptuous, but I’m going to guess it wasn’t a blog.

Blogs work better with an editorial calendar– ie, you publish New Year’s posts, Valentine’s Day posts, etc., because that’s when people want to hear them… and makes a blog more widely read. Likewise newspapers– they won’t write bad stuff about real estate during a boom– it doesn’t sell papers and doesn’t help subscriptions. Because going with the flow leads to subscribers and dollars, it’s the only feasible thing for a periodical (magazine, newspaper, or blog) to do if it wants to stay competitive.

Anything that has a moneymaking/subscription agenda cannot be trusted. Because the lowest common denominator is popular and profitable, in a market with unlimited competitors, it’s a race to the bottom that will stupefy the audience in the long term.

Of course, some blogs can be trusted– but they aren’t those that will give you top 10 lists or have smashing headlines. Nor are they the ones that make Delicious Popular, so finding them is tough. I’d even argue that most people are duped into reading lots of terrible ones through the impact of things like social proof, etc., largely wasting their time, but considering them invaluable because they want to stay “up to date.”

Indispensable is a myth. You have to cull the herd.

Working against the grain is essential to breakthroughs, critical to profitability (financial or otherwise). You will not get this while reading what everyone else is. Secrets are profitable because nobody knows them, and once things are published, they’re no longer secrets and, as such, no longer valuable.

What are your favourite blogs? What can you absolutely not go without?

My list right now is very short… and secret. 😉 Is yours?

* Filed by at 2:16 pm under blogging


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16 Responses to “Why Blogs Can't Be Trusted”

  1. Dad is in the House Says:

    Yeah but. I totally agree with you, but in the same vein as your post on self-help books, if you’re interested in tips, then you’re just sifting through a ton of content to harvest nuggets. And in an RSS reader, you can sift pretty fast. I’m not looking for them to fix my life (although that would be nice). Just a tweak here or there.

  2. Blork Says:

    I think you’re painting with an awfully wide brush. When you say something like “Anything that has a moneymaking/subscription agenda cannot be trusted” you are completely ignoring one huge factor: reputation. (There’s also, authority but that’s another — related — conversation.)

    There are plenty of magazines and newspapers out there that will gladly sacrifice an easy buck for the sake of creating and maintaining a reputation for being a reliable source of news and information. It’s not just a matter of pride; a good reputation is worth gold in the information business.

    The same applies to blogs, although blogs have a much harder time establishing a reputation because they generally have a lot fewer readers, there is less at stake, and they usually have virtually no authority (there’s that word again) as compared to a newspaper or magazine.

    But in either case, a reputation has to be earned, and one way to earn it is to not join the race to the bottom that you mention.

    Sadly, in today’s information market — where so much is free (and so much of that free stuff is crap) — it’s that much harder for something like the New York Times or The Economist to demonstrate the value of their reputation to their consumers. After all, when the Big Macs are free, most people will ignore the $$$ filet mignon.

    • Julien Says:

      @Blork– don’t you think it’s the other way around– that they will make as much money as possible as long as they don’t tarnish their reputations, and this only because this would impact their bottom line?

  3. Daniel Kuperman Says:

    “You will not get this while reading what everyone else is.” – completely agree!

    The problem is finding those hidden gems, the people who are posting really good stuff on their blogs and not caring whether people like it or not.

    And then… as readership grows, keeping these same blogs the way they were before ‘fame’ came around.

  4. Susan Murphy Says:

    Mine’s secret too. Your blog may or may not be on it. 😉

    Bottom line, it’s trust. Common sense plays into it as well. For example, I signed up with your “sign up list” pop up without giving it much thought. Why? Because I trust that you’re not going to spam me, and that whatever you do send will be well thought out and well executed. How do I know that? Because I’ve been following you for some time (not in a creepy way). I see the value you provide to the space (for me) and so if you’re reaching out in a new way I want to experience that too.

    Do we trust media makers who make money? Absolutely. Should we? That depends. I agree with Blork that reputation has at least something to do with it.

    But really, doesn’t it all come down to taking in the information, and making our own decisions about what we believe and what we don’t? I was brought up with the attitude that you “shouldn’t believe everything you hear”. So my technique is to always check the “facts” and form my own opinions. That way it doesn’t matter whether it’s a newspaper, a TV show, or a blog – eventually I am able to fit the pieces together in a way that makes sense to me.

  5. Daryl Woods Says:

    I have to admit the Top 10 lists and smashing headlines get a little tiresome. Thanks Google!

    On the other hand, I find something in a blog post almost every day that is extremely useful to me or my clients. Sometimes the info just clarifies my own thoughts on something or points me in a new direction. I come up with my own secrets but the inspiration comes from the great blog posts I find.

    I don’t have a blog list per se. I follow great people on Twitter and click the links they provide when the subject interests me. I’ve been lucky.

    Can’t say what possessed me to follow Chris’s link to this post.

  6. Prince Says:

    Haha :))

    I have a sneaking suspicion you do not subscribe to the notion of what the title in this post suggests :))

    Keep attracting!!

    Cheers,
    Prince

  7. Khaled El-Hage Says:

    What interests me in (certain) blogs is how they allow me to evolve my thinking about a subject matter. True value resides in the relationship between the blog post and me.

    In this regard, I can get something very unique “while reading what everyone else is” as I’m using my very own dictionary (made of my values, culture, past experience and what I’m looking for) to interpret and make sens of what I’m reading. This sens making process can be very personal and unique.

    I trust a blog as long as what I read participates in enhancing my thinking. I trust yours.

  8. Dalit Bouboul Says:

    I find it amazing that we’ve embraced so many ways of ‘culling’ information in such a short time. It all began with email, a couple of years ago it was RSS and Google Reader, then all the social medias and finally Twitter. In order to avoid total submerssionvI follow trusted agents, like #chrisbrogan, mentioned above who lead me here.
    I use all the tools above and don’t feel overwhelmed, probably because I’ve had to learn how to sift very quickly, and delete the nonsense even faster.

    The bottom line is we’re learning new skills that help us quickly decide what’s worthwhile to follow and what’s not. I can only say that when a day of sifting has taught me naught – I go to ted.com and watch a movie there. Guaranteed insights there.

  9. Paul Stoltzfus Says:

    The best beers aren’t popular. Well not widely popular. But deeply satisfying. I.E dogfishhead beer.

    I guess this is what you are saying about blogs.

  10. John McLachlan Says:

    The blogs I most like and go back to regularly (there are only a few) are ones that, though they don’t necessarily “change my life,” they do get me thinking differently about something.

    If I compare a couple of very good blogs: yours and Chris Brogan’s, I use read both for very different reasons. Chris usually has posts with some solid “how and why” material that has made me do things differently. Your blog, Julien, is totally different and is more from left field, which is EXACTLY why I like what you write so much.

    I wish I could find more abstract bloggers out there (like yours, Julien) that I could follow, but they are hard to find. One thing is for certain, I’ve been doing a lot of culling of my subscribed blog list lately and in particular, blogs about blogging. OMG, we don’t need any more.

    I’m still finding my way with my own blog. Right now, it’s a mix between tips and more philosophical stuff that I’m facing. I enjoy writing the esoteric stuff the best though sometimes wonder “who cares?”

  11. Blork Says:

    But Julien, what often gets lost in this kind of discussion is that big name, high-reputation magazines and newspapers are run by people. The entity itself might be a corporation, but the editors and publisher are people — and often they are people who take great pride in doing good work and keeping up their products’ reputations. These people rarely *own* the publications they work for (although they usually have some financial stake in it). That’s not to say the financial people don’t meddle, but you can’t dismiss an entire industry based on your lowest-common denominator. If that were true then every restaurant in town would be serving re-heated frozen burgers and factory-made fries.

    The biggest problems with blogs when it comes to “trust” is that for the vast majority of blogs, nothing is at stake. They’re just people shooting off their mouths with no sense of fact-checking or integrity or anything. The blogs that draw a lot of eyeballs are the ones (by far a minority) that do feel something is at stake — their reputations.

  12. Scott Hepburn Says:

    X-Files had it right: “Trust No One.”

    Whether blogs are inherently less trustworthy than other formats is debatable. I challenge the premise that following an editorial calendar, in and of itself, makes you untrustworthy. Could it not also make you MORE trustworthy because you’re taking time to think about content in advance, rather than reacting immediately and rushing a post? Couldn’t fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants blogging lead to factual inaccuracies and “first-draft” analysis.

    If working against the grain is “critical to profitability,” and “going with the flow leads to subscribers and dollars,” we’ve got a conflict.

    Maybe profit-motive isn’t a good barometer of credibility?

    But…I’ll come back to the X-Files line: Trust No One. Trust benefits the speaker (or marketer or publisher or…). Skepticism benefits the listener (or reader or buyer or….).

  13. Lisa Says:

    The reason why I’m stuck on your blog Julien is because it’s a great blog! I think I started reading it about two months ago now – you always make me think and feel. That’s what I call real engagement. Most people aren’t going to comment but they love to be entertained. Love the playful nature of your blog with links to photo streams and you appearing and disappearing – so there’s added depth.

  14. Ric Dragon Says:

    Well, right now, you’re on my list. And two others are on my list that I really value: Copyblogger and Avinash Kaushik’s blog, “Occam’s Razor”.

    The latter has particularly solid material.

  15. Tyler Fisher Says:

    Yours, alljapaneseallthetime.com (which claims to be about learning japanese but is actually how to accomplish any goal), and stevepavlina.com (interesting, logical viewpoints, as well as viewpoints that are a bit out of my comfort zone to challenge me to question assumptions). Maybe Mark’s Daily Apple also. Also, I just feel like saying that your blog has had a significant impact on my actual behavior, before I read it I would have wimped out of posting a link to the music I’ve written as the website, and I probably would have decided not to comment because this post is old because commenting on old posts is a little against the social norm.

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