What Is A Blog? The Question That Won't Go Away

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By the way the conversation flowed at this year’s BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Los Angeles, you would think that Blogging was brand new.

Rick Calvert (the CEO and co-founder of BlogWorld and New Media Expo) invited me down to moderate a panel called, Building A New Media Empire> The panel also featured Deanna Brown (CEO of Federated Media), Lisa Stone (co-founder of BlogHer) and Michael Stelzner (found of Social Media Examiner). It was yesterday morning’s keynote (which was also the last day of this three-day long conference) that brought out a ton of in-person discourse on Blogs, Blogging, Social Media and the future of media. In all of that, it seemed like everyone (including yours truly) grapples and struggles with the definition of a "Blog." In more than a few sessions, speakers and participants would ask questions like, "is The Huffington Post a Blog?" or "is TechCrunch a Blog?"

What is a Blog?

While some may call me a traditionalist, I think there are certain aspects of online publishing that does identify something as a Blog, and they include:

  • RSS feed.
  • Comments.
  • Journal like publishing design – meaning the content runs chronologically from newest to oldest.
  • Trackbacks.
  • Permalinks.
  • Archive by date.
  • A semblance of opinion and character in the content.

Do you need to have all of them?

Absolutely not. The real challenge is that many news websites reside on a Blogging platform and this causes some confusion. We also see many more corporations building websites on WordPress platforms because the content management system is just that much easier. Yes, it’s increasingly difficult to say, "this is a website, but this is a Blog," and perhaps we are closely getting to that moment in time when it becomes identifiable simply by, "knowing it when you see it." As Blogging became more pervasive (back in the early 2000s) and then audio Podcasting (followed shortly thereafter by video podcasting), I made the argument to simply call it all "publishing" (actually my original term was, "instant publishing"). At the end of the day, Blogging is a publishing platform. It allows anybody to have a thought, and to share that thought in text, images, audio and video, instantly and for free for the world to see.

Instant publishing.

Is Twitter a Blog (some call in micro-blogging)? Is flickr a Blog (you can post pictures, comment on them, archive them date, etc…)? Is tumblr a Blog (some would argue that tumblr is a Blog mixed with more social layers)? Michael from Social Media Examiner agrees. He prefers to call himself a publisher over a Blogger. I’m quick to agree that whether it’s the business book, Six Pixels of Separation, the Blog or the Podcast, it is just publishing, but I still prefer to say that I’m a Blogger and Podcaster (especially over titles like, "journalist" and "writer"). For some reason, those words resonate with me. They make me feel like I don’t have to hold myself to the standards of a traditional media (and if you’re asking, yes I do write differently when it’s for this Blog or when it’s for a newspaper). The content that I publish here – by the sheer fact that it’s a called a Blog or a Podcast – gives me the right to experiment more text and audio. To be more irreverent and to test the waters of text and audio.

Blogging still feels more punk to me… and I like it that way just fine, thank you very much.

(No, this is not a new thought. More riffing on this from 2006: A Blog Is Like Lemmy From Motorhead).


  1. My question is: who cares? I read good content regardless of whether it is a blog, a website, a newspaper, a magazine, a letter, or a scrap of paper with handwritten notes. I think other folks are the same. If anything, calling something a blog may diminish its significance in the minds of some.
    To me there may be some value in distinguishing between professional media, owned/sponsored media, and amateur media, but even then the lines get blurry at times.
    Let’s focus on encouraging the production of useful content without worrying about the labels and definitions.

  2. Its definitely a grey area, and as you point out, there are several companies that overlap the definitions. But I think most publishing platforms can be put into one of four categories, Social Publishing (Youtube, Slideshare, Scribd), Social Media, Curation (Scoop.it, Storify) and Blogging. Ultimately I think a blog as a tool is something that helps you to create and share any kind of information from one location.

  3. You are so right Mitch. People love to argue about the definition of the blog. imho you have to allow comments, publish in reverse chronological order and have permalinks to be considered a blog. I think including an RSS feed/s and trackbacks while not 100% required are definitely recommended and preferable.
    Everything else is up to the author/s.
    Thank you for taking time away from your family and your work to come spend a couple of days with us and share some of your wisdom. I hope to see you again at our future events.

  4. In my experience nothing can set a dinner party discussion off into firecracker mode more than the mention of blogging. My journalist friends become non coherent, everyone else rolls their eyes, the timid are just quiet. When I first heard about blogging and checked a few out (circ 2005/06) I wrote it off as the latest way slimy advertisers were making money off of ordinary people. I didn’t actually like the sound of the word ‘blog’.
    But fast forward to the last 2 years, and as a self employed person trying to keep up with the latest way to promote my own work, – I have come round to seeing not only the value to business but to myself personally. I have a feeling that in a few short years having a blog or something like it will be as required as a telephone to stay connected to your family, friends, and world wide communities of shared interests.
    We are a society so used to having limited distribution networks telling us what to think and its taking a while to shake that ingrained way of being. I think the digital age brings with it an acceleration of consciousness where self-responsibility is a requirement for living and using communication channels like blogging, or YouTube etc is like breathing air. Sorry – didn’t mean to ramble like this but you are inspiring.

  5. Loving the comment at the end that says that blogging is punk. as a previous punk (there goes my age hiding) I know exactly what you mean: the bad boy at the back of the class with the smart but true comments; the one who wore his tie differently
    Blog the casbah!

  6. We’re getting to the point when blog and website are interchangeable. That’s an important moment in time because by definition it’s free (or very close to) to create a website, a publishing platform, a place to share ideas. You summed it up here:
    “Blogging is a publishing platform. It allows anybody to have a thought, and to share that thought in text, images, audio and video, instantly and for free for the world to see.”
    More people need to understand what this means and at a younger age. The barriers to entry into the market of any online based industry are pretty close to zero. Now anyone has the opportunity to create.
    It is not a question of what the term blogging means, it’s how people will take advantage of the opportunity to use free, user-friendly publishing platforms.
    Bob Dylan was right, the times, they are a changin’.

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