Joshua Porter recently wrote an interesting post, "Why people don’t trust “bloggers” in response to Jeremiah Owyang who claims that people don’t trust bloggers. As Joshua wrote that Jeremiah based his observations on three studies by respected marketing research companies: Forrester, Edelman, and Pollara. These studies found that bloggers do not elicit much trust when compared to other sources of information. Then he makes an excellent observation, “I can’t help but think that these studies weighted the questions…oh just a little bit. I mean, who would trust someone based solely on the fact that they happen to write a blog? Does merely creating a blogger account and whipping out a few blog posts make one a trusted authority on…anything? Of course not.”
I totally agree with Joshua. If the question had been, as he says, “Do you trust bloggers who you read regularly/subscribe to?” most people would answer that they do.” Why would they read them? As Joshua said, I am sure that Jeremiah hopes people trust him. There are many bloggers out there. Just because you know how to start a blog, which is not rocket science, does not mean that you know anything else. As two of the commenters on Jeremiah’s blog posts said:
“Contrary to what you may imply, you are trusted by many of your readers. You’ve earned this trust by being transparent, by being consistent, by slowly building a reputation, and by the multiple channels in which someone can learn about you.”
“I think that you are confusing two categories. Of course people don’t trust a generic category called ‘bloggers’ But they do trust people they ‘know’, and in these days of social networking ‘knowing’ someone may mean you have never met them in real life. But if a relationship of trust & authenticity has been developed between you & them, then they could trust a blogger
Blogs are conversations and they do put more responsibility on the reader to judge the material than say, the New York Times, with its army of fact checkers. But even the NYT gets it wrong some times and everyone has some type of bias. Blogs are also a medium. You could ask, do you trust people on the telephone more than in person? Do you trust a magazine article more than television? In each case, the answer would be it depends on the person. A blogger has to build the trust of his or her audience by being consistent and transparent as the first commenter wrote above.
The Edelman study compared bloggers to academics, industry analysts, CEOs, regular employees of a company, etc. to “bloggers.” Guess what, many of these people in the other categories write blogs. So does the New York Times. The study compared one channel to people who write in multiple channels, including blogs. The Forrester study compared review by a known expert to a review by a blogger. What if the known expert expressed his views through a blog? Blogs offer an expanded platform for business communication. Whether you believe the blogger is more a factor of the blogger than the communication channel.
Many bloggers I read are also friends that I have meet in person. Friends had the highest trust ratings in the Forrester study so where do blogger friends fall in the ratings? I also read other bloggers , like Joshua that I have not met. However, I already respect his thought process. That does not mean that I will trust or agree with everything he writes. But I do think he got this one correct. I have also never met Jeremiah but I know his blog and respect his expertise. I also agree with much of what he writes. I just think he got it wrong this time. But that can happen with close friends. It does not mean I will stop trusting Jeremiah. In the end it is up to the blogger to earn your trust and you to grant it, regardless of the communication channel they are using.
As a post script, I ran across this blog post from Andrew McAfee, Evidence of the Value of a Blog, where he said he was "pretty sure that this blog is the main reason I made the list." The list being the Ziff Davis Enterprise list of the ’100 Most Influential People in IT" where they put him as #38. Andrew is another blogger who earned trust through many sources, but he credits the blog as a major one. I looked at the list and noticed a few other bloggers on it.
What if the question was do you trust what a person says more in his or her own blog or in a magazine interview or a PR release? They are different channels and hopefully the answer is the same in each. But that would make an interesting study.