Another day, another politician or high profile executive launches a blog. This time it is FCC Chairman Michael Powell and Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz. According to Michael Powell, he decided to blog because he wants to interact direcly with his constituency, creating a dialogue and urging Silicon Valley to get involved. He goes on to say:
One reason I am participating in AlwaysOn Network’s blog is to hear from the tech community directly and to try to get beyond the traditional inside the Beltway Washington world where lobbyists filter the techies. I am looking forward to an open, transparent and meritocracy-based communication—attributes that bloggers are famous for! Regulated interests have about an 80 year head start on the entrepreneurial tech community when it comes to informing regulators what they want and need, but if anyone can make up for that, Silicon Valley can. This is important not just for Silicon Valley—it’s essential to insure that America has the best, most innovate communications infrastructure.
Both Jonathan and Michael are launching blogs to stay close to their community. What I find interesting about these blogs is that one chose to leave comments open and the other chose to not allow comments. As I have said before in an earlier post about Why I Blog as a VC, it is the 2-way interaction and instant user feedback that makes blogging so valuable for me. I am curious to see how Michael Powell handles the comments on his blog and to understand whether or not he is truly trying to create an “open dialogue” or if he is just blogging for PR value. As for Jonathan, I really believe he is missing out by not opening his blog for comments and allowing his readers to turn his post into living, breathing ones.
Now that high profile executives and politicians have bought into blogs, I am still waiting for product companies to use citizen’s media (blogs, RSS, etc.) as Jeff Jarvis calls it, to create true interaction with their customers. I am not just talking about using RSS to subscribe to a Top 10 list of products sold for the day or week or to update customers on an upcoming product release. What would be great is if product companies could figure out ways to use this new medium to build long-term relationships with its customers, to create ongoing focus groups for a product or service, and to collaborate with customers on product development. Another great way for product companies to leverage this medium would be by allowing me to create custom RSS feeds/stored searches on the fly for certain products or services. Sure, I can do that via email, but the interesting aspect is having it all aggregated in one place using an RSS reader. Rather than have my own custom newspaper like I do today via Bloglines, I create my personalized store, amalgamated from a number of different sites and covering different categories like automobiles, electronics, and even restaurants – basically anything I am in the market for today based on the parameters that I set whether it be price, type of product or service, available appointment, etc, That would be a pretty cool use of RSS.
In fact, that’s a great segway into a question, or plea for help if you prefer. There are not a lot of companies who are leading the way with product weblogs. I’ve not found much in the way of examples for a company who is trying to evangelize and support a hardline product through a weblog. There are some great weblogs for software programs and online activities, but not a lot for products.