Monday, February 07, 2005

Blogging, Hugh Hewitt and Martin Luther

Disclaimer: I have never listened to a Hugh Hewitt radio show, readany of his books or visited his blog before reading his new book andwriting this review. That either makes me an impartial reviewer or anignorant one, depending on how you choose to look at it.

As I wrote in the disclaimer above, I don't know much about HughHewitt. But after reading his new book, Blog: Understanding theInformation Reformation That's Changing Your World, it's fairly easyto see that if you like his radio show, his right-leaning politics orhis blog, you will probably like his book. If you don't, you probably won't.

The book is written much like talk radio, sometimes taunting readersto go read an Al Franken book if they don't agree with what the authoris saying. The book is well written and interesting but it does notdeliver what it promises in the inside flap or the preface.

The flap and the preface read like the book is geared towards a busyexecutive trying to figure out this whole blogosphere thing - anexecutive that knows that he needs to catch up quickly and get on thebandwagon before he gets run over, an executive looking to "gain themindspace" before competitors get it. But much of the book is ahistory of the blogosphere, concentrating almost exclusively on polibloggers and warbloggers.

The tidbits that an executive could use who knew nothing aboutblogging beforehand are few and far between. There is a 10-pagechapter titled "Blogging, You, Your Product or Your Organization tothe World." Only three pages of the chapter are all about blogging,the remainder are about selling blog ads and other topics.

When I read the book's title, I was impressed with his use ofinformation "reformation" rather than the overused information"revolution." And he spends a lot of time setting up his main thesis: Dan Rather, Leo X, Mainstream Media, BAD; polibloggers, Martin Luther, blogosphere, GOOD. And the theme is interesting, though sometimes a bit of a stretch, but he says in the beginning of the book that he's going to leave the arcane history to the grad students and then spends the next hundred pages giving the reader that history...the downfallof the mainstream media (Dan Rather, Howell Raines, Jayson Blair) andpolitics as usual (Trent Lott) and the uprising of the blogosphere.

The danger of dead-tree publishing books about blogs is found in this statistic: 4.5 million blogs in existence as of November 2004. (My guess is he held the presses to make sure Bush won so he could say "I told you so" without fear in the book. The printing date for the book was probably Nov. 5, 2004.) But in mid-January the new 8-million-blogsnumber came out, so in a mere time space of two months his numbers are no longer current.

The appendix in the back of the book is 75 pages, which includes his earlier writings on blogs and comments from his blog on how the blogosphere had changed readers' lives. This makes it seem to be a much thicker book than it actually is. It also begs the question that blogosphere "personalities" will be answering to publishers: What areyou saying in this book that you couldn't just say on your blog?

Throughout the book, he kept making references to checking Web sites that led me to believe he did not use news readers to view updates. Hewitt said, "I consult 20 blogs at least two times a day." He latera dmits he's a technophobe and does not view "feeds" or offer them on his site. (And I checked today for this review...still no feeds at www.hughhewitt.com.)

And that's Hewitt's prerogative. But the problem is that he spends alot of time "worrying" about the right price for ads on his blog (if Instapundit would raise his prices, I could raise mine worrying). What about when his blog readership falls because there is no feed for his site - but there are feeds for others like his (like Instapundit!)? When it comes to feeds, Hugh is going to have to take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide if HE is a Leo or a Martin Luther. (Et tu, Mr. Hewitt?)

Some interesting tidbits I did take away from the book:

- Companies need a two-pronged approach to communications throughblogs - both offensive and defensive.

- Best quote: "Be a Luther - or be a Leo."

- "Blog is a book about trust; how old media - mainstream media - lostit and how the new media is gaining it."

- New word learned: "instanity - news in a pixel instant because NewYork minutes have gotten too slow"

- "In the past, opinion and news purveyors always had to persuadesomeone to be allowed to attempt to persuade someone." But that"information monopoly" is officially over.

- "Writers write for the same reasons today as they did in Homer'sage. Blogging is just a new means of transmitting that writing, onethat bypasses completely all editors."

- Credibility of blogs - timeliness, accuracy and the "qualifications of the blogger matters as well" (and he seems to prefer the qualifications of conservative law professors, of course)

- "the power of the tail" - the 95 to 99 percent of blogs that are notgiant traffic getters are still extremely important (hey, this made mefeel a little better anyways)

- The best goal of a blogger is to get others into the craft.

- And, finally, here are Hewitt's key rules to blogging success: post often, link freely, be generous in praise and attribution, don't be long-winded too often (if at all), paragraphs are your friend, profanity loses audiences, avoid feuds and flame wars, skip the comments section if you're a beginning blogger and keep the title short and easy to remember.

Thanks to 800-CEO-READ for giving me the opportunity to review this book.


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