Seems like the buzz about social media is never ending these days–so much so, in fact, that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has not heard of a blog or a podcast. That’s the good news. The bad news is that digging a bit deeper, you’ll probably find that most folks are almost clueless about why they should spend any time reading or listening to one, much less building one of their own.
Despite the hype, the technology needed to find and subscribe to a blog or its sister application–the podcast–is lost on many, even pilots. Many of these new media resources are worth their weight in gold, so perhaps a better way to think about blogging–and all social media, for that matter–is as a work in progress.
Blogging is short for Weblog, an ongoing stream of consciousness-like diary about a particular topic or group of topics that exists outside the realm of traditional print media. Blogs and the art of writing one–blogging–have recently delivered the power of newspapers and magazines into the hands of non-media mogul types like the local aircraft mechanic, an Orlando air traffic controller or even an international corporate pilot on layover in Hong Kong.
Because blogs and podcasts don’t need to coddle advertisers, for the most part, their authors can offer a passionate perspective–a voice–that is often unavailable in the mainstream press and often more quickly than the mainstream press. It’s up to you as the reader to decide whether they’re credible, though, because not every blogger or podcaster is a journalist.
One of the true added-value highlights of blogs and podcasts is their interactivity through the “comment” feature. If you liked or hated the blog post or podcast, you can tell the author directly. Comments can also steer a blog post or podcast conversation in an entirely different direction, often offering valuable new reader insights, especially when the link to a post is passed on to others.
Build It and They Will Come
Have something to say? Blogging requires only a minimal amount of technical expertise to set up a public online information destination. The good ones use a unique Web URL (address), like a Web site, although it is not required. Some authors have made the natural leap past print blogs to audio podcasts because they can be indexed with iTunes and are downloadable to MP3 players 24/7. At last count, Google says 75,000 new blogs are being created every day all over the globe.
Before your mind melts down at the thought of picking your way through tens of thousands of sites in search of a gem, consider Max Flight, a pseudonym for the creator of thirtythousandfeet.com, a search engine that has been cataloging almost everything aviation online since 1996 and contains about 15,000 listings. The site also appears at the top of the Google search list for “aviation blogs.” Max says when it comes to aviation blogs at his site, “the number in the database is closer to about 300 to 400. Many, though, have not been updated in some time.”
Don’t forget to check out the blog rolls, those lists of writer-endorsed competitors that serve as an excellent source of referrals to other useful blogs and podcasts. Max Flight offers a word of caution: “If I see a blog roll that runs on for pages, I discount it some since it makes me think they’ll link to anyone who asks. The good blogs are a bit more particular about who they’ll link up to.”
The true value of a blog is making sure that the person writing it not only has something useful and interesting to say, but is willing to put in the work necessary to keep information fresh. Max Flight said, “The numbers of good blogs that survive past the one-year mark are few. Those that survive past two or three years almost deserve a milestone.”
Molly McMillin is the senior aerospace/aviation reporter at The Wichita Eagle and author of the blog Air Capital Insider, a look at the business of aviation from the Mecca of our industry. McMillin is a student pilot and the daughter of a retired Boeing employee. “Blogs are a way to share snippets that often might not make a story by themselves,” she said. And where better to hear useful aviation gossip than in Wichita? McMillin understands the new-media frustration of many aviation people. “I think we’re still all trying to figure this [blogging and podcasting] out. Everyone is not always sure of what they should be doing next.”
Rob Mark is editor of the blog, Jetwhine (www.jetwhine.com), which was selected as Best Aviation-related blog in 2008 by Flightglobal.com, and a frequent contributor to Airplane Geeks podcasts.