Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 16, 2010 9:37 PM

Ghost Blogging And Last Rites

If there's one debate that never gets tired, it's the one about Ghost Blogging.

We've come to this strange intersection with Social Media where companies want to Blog, but they feel like their CEO (or others within the company) would best be served if that voice was created by a ghost writer. It's an issue that irritates me because I don't agree with it, but I do understand why businesses do it (hence my frustration). Mark W. Schaefer (over at Grow) had a great Blog post titled, Why It's Ridiculous To Argue About Ghost Blogging, that ran contrary to a post I had published on this Blog titled, The Death of Social Media (which focused on executives now hiring individuals to tweet for them on Twitter). Mark and I decided to have a debate about the topic, which culminated in this audio Podcast: Six Pixels of Separation - Episode #214 - The Ghost Blogging Debate With Mark W. Schaefer.

The Long Tail kicked in today.

The Spin Sucks Blog by Gini Dietrich published a post today titled, The Ghost Blogging Debate, that re-sparked the conversation (from her Blog and the comments to Twitter, Facebook and even other people picking up on it and Blogging their own take).

My two main reasons for not liking Ghost Blogging:

  1. These Social Media channels fascinate me because they are human channels. They enable people to have real interactions between real human beings. As easy as it is to say that nobody thinks Barack Obama is inauthentic because he doesn't write his own speeches, I believe that Social Media is a different type of media. Blogs are not corporate speeches or annual reports. These are different (you can argue that Blogs are like any other type of publishing or communications, but I'd argue that they are different).
  2. Ask the readers/community. It's just that simple for me. Ask the readers and the community members of a ghost written Blog if they mind that the content is not being written by the person whose name is on it. Let them know that it is ghost-written (you can even walk them through the process of how the Blog posts are created and approved). If nothing changes in terms of your web analytics, sales or level of trust, then who cares what anyone says (and this includes me)?

The best Blogs are personal spaces that share more personal thoughts.

I believe this one thought (and I will stand by it): corporate Blogs being presented as a personal space to share insights have a predisposed and inherent understanding that the person whose name is on it is the actual author. If we agree that Blogs are supposed to be more "human" aren't we undermining them by starting out with a lie (or undisclosed ghostwriter)?

This is why people think that all marketers are liars (to steal a great book title from Seth Godin).

How about we deal with it in a professional and enlightened way be agreeing that a Blog is a part of the Social Media ecosystem. And - if it is - then we should consider the pillars of what makes something "social". I would argue that this begins with transparency, openness, honesty, human and real voices (not corporate mumbo jumbo) and a culture that embraces sharing between these real voices.

Why is everyone who defends ghost blogging so afraid to state that ghost blogging's first act is one of deceit and misdirection?

We're saying we want to be a part of the Social Media conversation, but we're not even willing to be transparent about who the actual voice is? Then again, it's easy to misdirect that point by simply saying that a Blog is just like any other form of publishing, so why should it be any different? I don't believe that to be a valid argument (and no, this isn't a finite rule, it's more of a personal philosophy). If those who defend ghost blogging do think it's just publishing, then why not simply disclose that the Blog is the thoughts of so-and-so, but they are ghost written by an editorial team (or whomever)? Or, do we not even believe in the spirit of what makes a Blog truly a unique publishing platform?

What do you think?

By Mitch Joel