Who Owns Your Blog?

In part one, we looked at good reasons to blog -- and good reasons not to blog. Then we visited three random blog sites, including Manyworlds.com, where you can register as an expert and contribute whenever they wish. The service is free, so anyone who wants to read the information is welcome to it. Manyworlds earns revenues from selling the software so that others can build their own applications, and also for compiling private versions that include only those SMEs that the client wishes to receive.

This raises another blog issue, and that's who is going to care about what you say, pick it up, and deliver it to paying users via their own form of electronic media? In the Manyworlds case, you could make the argument that the site is, in effect, making money on your work -- which may be a copyright infringement. Now I know that their editors fill out an application and sign a contract -- so I'm not saying that the site is deliberately doing anything illegal or unethical. I don't think they do.

But, this brings up rights in general, both traditional and electronic. I write a weekly column, Marketing.exe, for ePrairie.com, the Midwest's largest technology site. Because I like to track my reach, I occasionally Google my name and business name. I was surprised to see my articles listed in two blogs. One was a Wisconsin technology marketing blog that's run by a student/consultant. His site seems to be a running collection of who's saying what about marketing technology in general. While I'm not pursuing it, I think it would be fair to ask for a free distribution to that list, because he's using my material without my knowledge and consent. And, since his site is archived, he's also linking me and my work to him in perpetuity. Because his site is free -- I let this one go.

I was also surprised to find my article -- both sites included appropriate citation -- in a human resources (HR) blog. Again, I haven't followed up on it, but I think this site is a subscription site. I feel if they're making money off my work, I deserve some form of compensation. After all, first electronic rights may belong to ePrairie.com, but all subsequent rights belong to me via our contract. I have no contract with the HR site -- but, it's a high quality site, and I'm busy with articles and clients. I don't have time to deal with this right now.

But let's say my work was pulled into the blog of some shoddy site -- IhateBush.com, or IhateKerry.com or whatever. Here, the question is whether the same rules that govern linking to Internet sites apply. If I were on an inside page of the same website, and the site hadn't asked my permission, I would have grounds for a copyright infringement claim. Following that logic path, it would seem that if I'm included in the body of the blog, I would have that same claim -- but I'm guessing. Perhaps one of you out there, with squadrons of attorneys, can get us all an answer to that question -- because it definitely matters.

There's an even more interesting question, and that's whether blogs now represent an alternative form of promotional distribution media. In other words, if I'm an expert on nonprofit strategic planning (I am), and if I can find all blogs that follow that topic, and regularly include those blogs on my media list, then I now have a very long-shelf-life target to distribute to, and another list of people I can call to pitch my ideas to. This, too, is worth thinking through as part of your promotional distribution strategy. Although, the reverse-side risk is that you take a position in a blog, it turns out to be a bad position, and there it is for all eternity. At least when it's in a document, the document disappears or is more difficult to find.

Making blogs work for you

So, to summarize, here are some ways to use blogs in your company that will benefit consumers, and link marketing and other departments:

  • Advertising, marketing communications, employee communications and any other form of internal and/external communications, as part of an integrated marketing communications plan to provide information that is best viewed chronologically.
  • Customer service -- in the form of updates regarding service outages, for example, or to offer an evolved view of how customer service improvements have provided benefits over time.
  • Tech and/or customer support -- to offer pure data about releases, bugs and how to fix them. To create a running chat room, as has the site referenced above.
  • Research and development -- to help marketing understand how better to pitch the solution from the same solution song sheet, to standardize and preserve the process steps so if someone leaves, others understand what, and how, they were thinking.
  • Sales -- to provide a running dialogue of what's happening on strategic accounts to avoid the "keystone cop" effect.
  • Executive appeals -- to track various calls and the output of those calls and make that information available to anyone who needs/wants to know.
  • Human resources -- to provide a running dialogue on what's happening with big initiatives, such as new benefits, for example -- much better than sending out memos ad nauseam.
  • Finance -- OK, I couldn't think of anything, but didn't want to leave it out.
  • Virtual teams -- to facilitate the chatter between global teams in different time zones who need to collaborate on projects.
  • Marketing events teams -- particularly for something like a trade show, to provide updates on what's going on, when things will be ready, etc.

I'm not saying that blogs are the best source for these, that really depends on your existing technology and your customers' access and interest in technology and information cycle time. However, it does seem that anything that requires chronological streams of thoughts that remain relevant over time to audiences with similar information content needs and disparate information cycle time needs might be a good candidate.

A former senior marketing executive for a division of GE Capital, Cheryl Gidley is an independent consultant and author, who creates and delivers custom training on management, marketing and business development topics. Cheryl welcomes your email comments.



roopa mapco
roopa mapco August 13, 2008 at 4:10 AM

Your guys rock. Addressing this issue is so huge. Not only have you guys been building in data portability since the beginning you guys are embracing platform access through your API development and Open Social adoption which really empowers us developers.

Wisconsin Treatment Centers