Why Blogs Mean Business Today they're lousy media experiences for mere mortals. But that's about to change--and so is the way you gather information for your work.
By John Battelle

(Business 2.0) – The buzz on weblogs is becoming unbearable. Not because I think they don't merit the attention--they do. But the mainstream discussion on the subject misses the point. Nearly everything you read says either that blogs are ill-defined harbingers of a long-foretold Internet media revolution or that they're irrelevant, the ephemeral scribble of teenage girls.

Folks have forgotten that blogs work because people have something to say and others find what they say valuable. Our business culture works the same way--it runs on the currency of influence, authority, and relationships. People who have strong and well-informed opinions command respect and become influencers; they win deals, drive decisions, and ultimately determine the fate of companies. The thirst for high-end business information--the kind that makes people feel like influencers--has created a $15 billion professional publishing market in the United States alone.

So here's my prediction: Blogs will soon become a staple in the information diet of every serious businessperson, not because it's cool to read them, but because those who don't read them will fail. In short, blogs offer an accelerated and efficient approach to acquiring and understanding the kind of information all of us need to make business decisions.

For example, Robert Scoble, a Microsoft marketer, maintains a blog where he comments on just about everything, including his views on Microsoft's role in the industry. You can bet his views are studied by the folks who make decisions over at AOL, Google, and Yahoo--and in Redmond.

Until recently, blogs have proven to be an incredibly lousy source of information for most businesspeople. Finding and keeping up with the relevant ones is far too time-consuming. But I've recently started using a newsreader, and after spending hours setting the damn thing up, my business life has changed forever.

A newsreader is a relatively geeky application that allows me to scan a list of blogs I specify, pull down new posts, and organize them neatly in a single window. Thanks to the combination of using a newsreader and plugging into a few good blogs (which then plug into more, and so on ...), I've created a hot list of business-oriented information that doesn't just rival my old information-gathering habits, it blows them away. Not only do I spend less time searching and more time learning, but I've also joined a challenging and diverse community of minds and business interests. Once you're in this kind of web, you don't leave it--you'd be out of the loop. And in business, being out of the loop means death.

That's why I'm convinced that this newfound habit of mine won't stay in the realm of geeks much longer. Entrepreneurial outfits such as Bloglines, Daypop, Feedster, and Technorati are already finding ways to make blogs easier to use and bring them to the masses. While most of the early products required that you speak geek, second-generation entrepreneurs like Meg Hourihan (co-founder of Blogger) and Nick Denton (the blog pioneer who publishes Gawker and Gizmodo, among others) are also on the case. They've teamed up to create Kinja, a directory that promises to provide not only blog listings (so you can find ones you might like) but also a newsreader-like interface that will allow you to read them easily.

Sound good? I've saved the best part for last. In its second rev (it will launch early this year), Kinja will incorporate a recommendation engine that will work somewhat like Amazon's. When you find a blog you like, Kinja will recommend other, similar blogs. Over time, a Kinja-like approach to the blogosphere's wonderful mass of opinion, interpretation, fact, and fantasy will become standard for nearly everyone. And Kinja isn't alone: AOL, Google, MSN, Yahoo, and even Amazon are paying attention, as are many startups. The race is on to make your blog-reading experience relevant, efficient, and profitable. Who will win? I don't care, as long as it happens quickly and it works. With nearly 10,000 new blogs coming online each day, there's little time to waste.