only 11% of people in the US who use the internet at work are using it to read blogs. We've seen other studies that put this number much higher, but Pew's is probably the most objective.Yesterday we wrote about a new Pew study that found that
It's really a shame that more people aren't reading blogs at work, and we don't just say that because we'd like the increased readership. If you're not reading blogs at work, you may not be doing your job as well as you could be. Below we discuss three advantages to reading blogs on the job and offer examples of the kinds of blogs that people could benefit from reading in three different non-tech professions.
We recognize that the single biggest barrier to feeling justified in reading blogs on the clock may be that most people simply don't know how to find the best blogs that are relevant to their work. For that we refer you to our recent post Comparing Six Ways to Find the Best Blogs on Any Topic and we discuss specific tactics you can use below.
Think there's not blogs you should be reading on your particular job? We tested our theory in the second half of this post by finding the top blogs for Human Resources professionals, Physical Therapists and Fire Inspectors. We found good work blogs for them all!
The Advantages of Reading Blogs on the Job
Staying Up to the Moment on News
You may think you don't need to be any more up to date on the news in your field than traditional media already makes you - but those who hold that belief do so to their own strategic detriment. While blogs may suffer from looser editorial standards and fewer resources for in-depth research than traditional media does - those disadvantages are often less important than might be assumed. Meanwhile, blogs have a major advantage in terms of speed. Blogs write about things first and people who read blogs thus know things first. That creates what's called First Mover Advantage.
The Wikipedia entry on First Mover Advantage is an interesting collection of academic findings on the topic. Much of it comes from a study by MB Lieberman and DB Montgomery twenty years ago in 1987. To summarize: Being the first to know about important information allows you to do things like secure resources for which the cost will increase once the news increasing their value is more widely known. It allows you to position yourself as the incumbent party responsible for certain tasks, after which point others are unlikely to take the risk of looking elsewhere if you've already got that base covered. Knowing important information first, consistently, puts you in a position of leadership and opens doors for opportunities in general.
Admittedly this is an extrapolation to reference first mover advantage in the context of individual work performance, as it tends to be studied in reference to the performance of entire businesses. Even that research has come under question - Pieter A. Van der Werf and John F. Mahon argued a decade ago, for example, that studies supporting the existence of first mover advantage depended on particular research methodology and worked only when market share was measured instead of other criteria like profitability or survival. They argued that more objective study found no first mover advantage superior to random statistical chance.
All that said, we find the concepts articulated by Lieberman and Montgomery about first mover advantage to be compelling and valid in our experience.
Tools to Use
Knowing What People are Talking About
The ClueTrain Manifesto famously said almost 10 years ago that "markets are conversations." What does that mean? That business in the age of the internet is done properly through communicative input and output. Reading blogs at work is an important part of that conversation.
The ClueTrain framed its insight largely in language of fear, that businesses who don't get a clue risk watching the train leave them behind at the station. The benefits of listening to what people are saying online can be articulated in a positive sense, though, as well.
Peter G.P. Walters recently published an article titled "Adding value in global B2B supply chains: Strategic directions and the role of the Internet as a driver of competitive advantage." In that article Walters explains that the "disintermediation" [bringing together for direct communication] effect of the internet in business creates new "opportunities for intermediaries [in a supply chain] to generate incremental value for other channel members." In other words: the internet lets us know more about each others' needs and thus see opportunities to fill them. Very few things are as helpful in learning about how people are doing business as the easy publishing of blogs and blog comments.
Are blogs representative of market needs in general? They may or may not be, but at the very least they will point you directly to particular business opportunities among their writers and readers. In as much as blogs tend to write about the world at large, we do think they are a good place to find an orientation with regards to larger emerging market trends.
Tools to Use
There are a lot of different ways to pay attention to what people are talking about in your industry's blogs. Some people subscribe to blog search for keywords instead of subscribing to individual blogs. Many good RSS readers allow you to create "smart folders" containing only the posts from your subscriptions that contain certain keywords. Our favorite method? A service called AideRSS will show you just the most talked about posts on any blog.
While many allege that bloggers cannot be trusted further than we can be thrown, in practice there are many fields in which professionalism and blogging are no longer opposites. In search results, in mainstream media and in other places where bloggers used not to be welcome - we now are referenced as working experts on our respective topics. That's more true in some fields than in others, but the point is that there is a whole lot of useful information to be found in the archives of leading blogs.
Tools to Use
We've said it before and we'll say it again: few simple services on the web today are as powerfully useful as Google's Custom Search Engines (CSEs). Make a list, give it a name and Google will give you a link you can visit to search only inside the websites you put on your list. Here at RWW we use CSEs built from lists of top blogs in various niche topics all the time. We love them. They are timely, thorough and super efficient.
But I Work in Field XYZ - Are There Blogs I Should Read?
Yes. There almost definitely are. As we mentioned above, we've written here before about a number of ways to find the top blogs on any topic. Just to test our own theory, we used those methods to find some top blogs in three different fields outside of technology. Here's what we found.
If you work in Human Resources then you've got it made. There are a huge number of great looking HR blogs on the web, particularly when it comes to employment law.
We found active community and useful looking information on the KnowHR blog, which specializes in discussing issues regarding HR communication. The Employment Law Post is home to a number of popular HR blogs as well.
We'll stop there for now but there are a whole lot more to discover in the Technorati index of HR blogs. Give it a look and pay attention to each blog's "authority," that's the number of other blogs have linked to that one in the past 6 months.
If you are a Physical Therapist there is a smaller field of expert blogs but there are still plenty of options. We found the NPA Think Tank by looking at links tagged physicaltherapist+blog on Delicious. We found the much-commented on blog for MyPhsyicalTherapyspace by looking at the most popular blogs linking to the American Physical Therapists Association webpage via Ask.com's blogsearch. PT practitioners would likely benefit as well from watching the weekly summaries of the best posts from around the medical blogosphere in a years-old series called Grand Rounds. We found that fabulous looking resource via the Health section of blog and news aggregator AllTop.
What if your job is to be a Fire Inspector? Surely you should be checking fire-extinguishers, wandering around industrial facilities and making lists of needed repairs at work - not reading blogs, right?
Well, it turns out that there are some blogs out there for you, too. This was the most obscure corner of the blogosphere we looked at, admittedly, but we still found some good looking blogs on the topic. Inspector911 is appreciated enough to get comments on almost every post on the site. The blog at Fire-professionals doesn't get many comments but does a great job of collecting and commenting on fire-industry news from around the web. We found it by doing a Google Blogsearch for Inspector911.com and found the it via a link. Similar coverage is provided by ConstructionInformer, a blog about construction news around the world.
Finally, if you're a fire inspector then you probably pay attention to the International Code Council. They don't have a blog, but they do have daily news and issue regular news releases. Neither section of their site offers subscription so we scraped an RSS feed using Dapper.net and then ran that feed through Feedburner. Thus you can now subscribe to ICC News Releases in the same RSS reader that you read your fire inspector blogs in.
Conclusion: You Should Read Blogs At Work
That short survey of various non-tech occupations and the blogs that serve them left us comfortable saying that there really are good blogs for you to read at work no matter what you do for a living. We hope the links above are helpful for you to find good blogs about your work.
It's clear, by the numbers and in our anecdotal experience, that very few people who use the internet at work are using it to read blogs. We expect that to change, but for now we'll just argue here on our blog that it would be a very good idea for people to do so. It's an essential daily act of professional development. So get back to work and read some more blogs!
Title pic: "untitled" by Eye of Einstien