It's a big internet. There's always something new going on, and there's always something new you need to understand. So what is the essential reading list for people who want to make sense of the digital world? That's what you're going to find in this article. And while you might already be familiar with some of these blogs, there are almost certainly others that you haven't come across before.
Of course, this list isn't comprehensive. In fact, it's a starting point. That's where you come in, dear reader. I know you have a few of your own blogs that are go-to sources for information. All I ask is that you be so kind as to share your essential reading list with the rest of the community in the comments section.
Tech and business
I'm sure you know the usual suspects in this category, such as The WSJ's All Things Digital blog, TechCrunch, The NY Times Bits Blog, and PaidContent. But the truth is that good tech news and business analysis doesn't have to come from a major media company. In fact, some of the best information comes directly from the trenches.
The Counterintuitive CEO
Forrester CEO George Colony can be forgiven for infrequent posts. He updates about once a month, but when he does, Colony can be counted on to share something provocative. Recently, he explained what he learned at Davos and why Apple, without Steve Jobs, will end up like Sony.
Follow the blog at @gcolony.
Technically, Laughing Squid makes its money as a web hosting company. But even if you don't need hosting services, the company's blog is worth a look. Featuring interesting art, culture, and technology from around the web, Laughing Squid is eclectic, to say the least. But it's a great place to go to find cool tech stories that might not necessarily make it to the front page of your favorite tech blog.
Follow the blog at @LaughingSquid.
If you don't subscribe to Mark Cuban's blog, you're really missing out. He doesn't update often, but when he does, Cuban can be counted on to have an original take on big business and tech stories.
Follow the blog at @mcuban.
Agency blogs used to be all the rage. And while they haven't exactly fallen out of favor, people just don't seem to be talking about them as much these days. That's too bad, because agencies that maintain blogs do themselves, their clients, and the industry a great service by sharing the kinds of insights that come from hard-won experience.
Here are some of the agency blogs I routinely check in on.
Visiting the Deep Focus blog is a little like ducking into an ongoing conversation about digital's impact on marketing. Sometimes its writers take big stories and weigh in with their own thoughts. Other times, the Deep Focus blog serves as a distribution network for agency presentations.
How can you resist a post like "9 Digital Storytelling Tips From Star Wars"? You can't. But the best feature of the Big Spaceship blog is the "Forward Thinking" tag, which is a good resource for futurists and those who are interested in, well, the future.
The agency calls it the "dumping grounds for all things interesting on the internets." I call it a legal way to spy on an agency that excels at social media. Either way, 22Squared's blog is a great resource on social if you're looking for a practitioner's perspective.
Follow the blog at @22squared.
Looking for an agency's take on some of the latest news shaping digital? Only a handful of agencies share their news analysis on a blog. Thankfully, 360i is one of them. The agency also mixes in reports and recaps of industry events for good measure.
Follow the blog at @360i.
It seems like the folks at Barbarian are always running some kind of experiment with a new digital tool and platform. And when the results are ready to publish, the agency usually shares them on its blog, which is a good place to go for something new and unexpected.
Follow the blog at @barbariangroup.
Organic's Threeminds blog is big -- really big. With multiple channels, you're bound to get insights on topics ranging from culture to data. Heck, the blogs even offers a roundup of what you need to know from industry events like SXSW, in case you couldn't make it out.
Follow the blog at @organicinc.
Creativity can come from anywhere. But there are some blogs that just flat-out nail the topic on a regular basis. I turn to these blogs often for a little creative pick-me-up.
Vimeo staff blog
If you ask a director to show you his or her reel, there's a good chance you're going to get a Vimeo link. But what I like about the Vimeo staff blog is that they cherry pick some of the best videos out there. Now, I said best -- not most popular. A lot of these videos are portfolios, so the goal isn't necessarily widespread distribution. Instead, what you see on the Vimeo staff blog is a kind of greatest hits for some of the web's best video calling cards. As an editor at a major comedy portal recently told me, "If you want everyone to see it, put it on YouTube; if you want us to see it so we can buy it or hire you, put it on Vimeo."
Follow the blog at @VimeoStaff.
There are a lot of graphic designers who keep really great blogs. But if you're looking to know more about the graphic designer skill set, you couldn't do much better than David Airey, who showcases both his fine eye and his keen insights at a blog that runs the gamut from art to advertising.
Follow the blog at @DavidAirey.
Call it a worthwhile distraction. Call it darkly funny. Or call it just plain wrong. Any which way you slice it, Depressed Copywriter is an essential member of my must-follow list because it serves as a regular reminder that copy should never be ordinary.
Follow the blog at @DepressedCW.
We're always on the lookout for the cool new thing, and what's great about NewWork is that its writers are too. Operating as a community blog, NewWork is a platform for young new media creatives to share their best work. If you're hiring, it's a great place to stop in for a visit, but even if you just need a little inspiration, NewWork is certainly worth the time.
Follow the blog at @NewWork.
For the last few years, we've been talking a lot about the idea that marketing is becoming content. In a way, that idea has touched just about every blog in the space. But when I'm looking for a specific take on branded content, these are the blogs I turn to.
With a platform that features reviews, news, and interviews, Tubefilter bills itself as a curator of all things relating to online video. And while its coverage of web content is really good, what makes it especially useful is the fact that it regularly reviews branded video content. That's invaluable because there aren't many places you can go to get a sense of how a branded web series stacks up, in terms of quality, to the competition.
Follow the blog at @tubefilter.
As brands become content creators, we're certainly seeing a lot of work that might have previously been handled by the agency taken in-house. Often that means that it's up to the marketing department to concept, produce, edit, and post videos on a regular basis. That can be a daunting assignment, but that's exactly why the guys at ReelSEO are so valuable. Day in and day out, they produce high-quality tips for online video producers, and whether you're a newbie or a seasoned pro, you'll learn a lot reading ReelSEO.
Follow the blog at @reelseo.
If your brand produces content in any form -- whether it's Hollywood-style videos or humble tweets and Facebook posts -- it's critical to know which topics are hot and which are not. While there are dozens of tools that can give you up-to-the-second reports, the beauty of What's Trending is that you get that time-critical information with some context and analysis, so you not only know what's happening, but also why it matters.
Follow the blog at @WhatsTrending.
One final note
I didn't include iMedia's own community blog on this list because that seemed like a bit much on the self-promotion front. But if you're looking to hear insights from your peers on a daily basis, you can't do much better than the iMedia blog. And if you find one of the bloggers particularly insightful, by all means, subscribe to that person's feed. After all, the bloggers are professional marketers who share their thoughts because they are passionate about digital -- so subscribing to their feeds is the best way to pat them on the back for a job well done.
Michael Estrin is a freelance writer.
"Old typewriter with text blog" image via Shutterstock.