3 types of blog: closed, conduit and participant in the conversation

Tomorrow I’ll be giving a presentation about blogging to a group of radio producers and executives. I reckon some of them might still be of the persuasion that blogs are simply “web based diaries” and want to do something that shows that, yes, many are, but there are other types of blogs too.

I’ve had a go at producing three different models or types of blogs that, I think, might be useful if one wanted to try to categorise all the blogs out there. Not that I’m sure doing that would actually be useful! But for the purpose of giving an idea of the different types of blogs out there, each of them perfectly valid in their own way, I propose the following, which you can view as a slide show here:

Closedblog Closed Blogs are, as the image here shows, at the centre of an audience that resembles a closed network. Blogs of this type include baby blogs and wedding planning blogs. Characteristically they have a:

* small but extremely passionate and engaged audience
* audience unlikely to grow
* audience potentially super-served – they all have a very strong personal connection, usually running both ways.

See, for example, the Aitken’s wedding blog

Bloginfoconduit Blogs as Conduit of Information are blogs that act as the conduit between individual audience members and information or ideas. That is, the blog is the centre of the relationship between the information consumers and information producers. The blog itself may not be the origin of this content, but may merely pull it together in a useful way. This sort of blog is characterised by:

* potentially larger audience than closed blog model
* audience highly engaged with personality and/or topic
* audience unlikely to grow rapidly because it serves same audience without reaching out

See, for example, the H5N1 blog or SCOTUS blog.

Blogparticipation Blog as Participant in “The Conversation” are connectors of ideas and people, but also of conversations that flow between them. Blogs of this sort have an audience potentially as big as the numbers actively engaged in the conversation. New people who get involved in the conversation, or who discover a node of it, may very well follow contextualised links, visit other sites in the chain, and become regular audience members of those sites. Bloggers who create blogs like this tend to engage with the comments on their blogs and link out heavily, using tools like RSS readers and technorati to follow the "buzz". Some also use social bookmarking or social recommendation tools to save, order and share links.

This is highly evolved blogging as both use of technology and technique which, I think, an ideal that bloggers should strive for.

Did I get the types right? Am I missing any that you can think of? I’m looking forward to some comments on this one as my thoughts are really at the preliminary stages here…

[Update 07 March: This is, apparently, what I said in this post translated into Italian]


  1. As coincidence would have it, I too am giving a presentation on blogs this Wednesday.
    I like how you have categorized blogs by audience and information needs. My own thoughts on this issue have been to break down blogs by how they are authored (solo, group-authored, submission, or some mix). Perhaps since blogs can be so author-driven, there’s some way to capture both ends. Your final community category is quite interesting, but one I unfortunately haven not seen much in practice (yet).
    Thanks also for your insightful comment on my blog.

  2. Interesting. This fits well with the UK blogs I read, but I have an inkling many Scandinavian blogs defy this categorisation. Especially in Norway, blogs tend to be more like conversational web diaries: they are very personality driven, some very literary in style, but many attract big and expanding audiences, without actively using tools like RSS, social bookmarking etc. In UK terms, a bit like a combination of “girlwithaonetrackmind”, “wifefromthenorth” and something that would be “my wry look on politics” – these blogs would probably fit best in the ‘web based diaries’ category people easily brush off as ‘banter’, and second best in your third category: they do keep track of the ‘buzz’, but not with all the technological finesse. The main selling point is probably the strenght of the writing/personality/ability to shock/engage.

  3. Thanks all. John, I’ve gone down that road of looking at how a blog is authored in an attempt to create some sort of dichotomy of blogs like I’ve tried to do here. The thing is, most successful group blogs do still have what successful individual blogs have – a strong sense of personality. Take, for example, the BBC Editors blog (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors) where there are over a dozen authors yet one personality comes through: people who are passionate about news and feel strongly that the editorial decisions they make are based on sound reasoning.
    Paula, just invite me a long…
    Kristine, you might be right. This is a UK centric view. I did try to avoid calling that first group of blogs, the personal ones, rubbish. They are, actually, in most people’s eyes but not to the audience of 3 for which they are intended. I guess someonee like Tom Coates (plasticbag.org) in the UK would bridge the two categories, being very personal in some instances (mostly talking about his sexuality and his birth father) and in other instances being quite professional in discussing social software, etc. So maybe that is a model I need to add – personality driven conversation. Will have to think about that one some more. Thanks for your thoughts which, as ever, were useful.

  4. I’d say mine’s a mix of the first and last categories. As for ‘Your final community category is quite interesting, but one I unfortunately haven not seen much in practice (yet)’, i’d take a look at the poetry blogs, starting with mine. A poet-blogger recently wrote that poblogs are taking the foreground in diary blogs(and i’m sure fiction writers as well) and also then being at the front of social commentary and discussion. That writer bloggers are going to become the history writers.

  5. Hi Robin…interesting model. But I think there are some gray areas that, if your model is presented too rigidly, could lead to some negative judgements of the “value” of some blogs over others (something I see happening over here in the U.S….) This could then lead some to want to market an “industry standard”–esp. for business blogs. How boring! Still, theory is always fun :-)

  6. I’m really hoping that my relatively new blog at http://gotyourhandsfull.com fits with your third example and I’m happy to see lots of comments which I enjoy responding to and commenting elsewhere. But I would say that the perception of so-called “Mummybloggers” having little to say that is of interest to those outside their immediate circle of friends has a negative effect. I am already receiving emails that say: “I don’t usally like these blogs by mothers but….” So I would suggest that in some areas, the development of your third category is disadvantaged by perceptions of the first. :)
    I’m an ex contributor to Shiny Media and I would be interested to know how you would categorise their blogs – they must be seen as taking part in a conversation, but as a commercial enterprise and in competing with mainsteam media, with the backing of major advertisers, do such high profile operations merit a further category?

  7. Good point Tish. I didn’t want to imply any value judgements at all – I think all blogs have value to their authors and their audiences, whether that is two people who look once a month or millions of people spread across the conversation as it snowballs from blog to blog.
    Linda, I’m not sure I would give blogs like those done by Shiny Media a category of their own. They’d usually fit into the conduit and/or conversation models. I also agree with you that it’s possible to do some interesting things by breaking down preconceptions from type to type, so a mummy blog that pulls in all sorts of outside information and media and engages with the conversation sounds a great – even groundbreaking – idea.

  8. Alzo bandiera bianca, I post che non ho scritto

    Ultimamente sono stato così preso dal battere su questa tastiera per un lavoro che mi è stato commissionato (in libreria tra un paio di mesi) da non avere altra voglia e tempo di scrivere per Pandemia. Non che le notizie…

  9. Just to confirm: yes my post is in Italian a summary of what you wrote here. Thanks for the link

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