In the space of a short year since our last session in Bloggercon I the medical bloggosphere has really picked up in activity. Then, we mainly had physicians, nurses and EMTs, but now, trainees and patients have come on full board. This pretty much tracks the trend reported by Sifry that the general bloggosphere has doubled every 5 months and posting volume similarly increased.
So what makes medbloggers tick? And who are their readers, and what do they like about medbloggers writing? In the first Bloggercon, Jacob Rieder (the second medblogger ever) lead a discussion focusing on medical professionals and their issues with blogging. [real video stream] These ranged from using pseudonyms to limit liability and maintain confidentiality, assigning blogging as homework for med students, advertising, and CME (continuing education). The interesting thing was that those participating included many physicians, slanting the discussion towards our slice of the medical bloggosphere. This was reasonable at that time since those were the blogs most read then, and were mainly discussed by those within the profession, but times have changed.
Now, the 3 slices that have grown the most are those that are patient authored, patient oriented (grand rounds), diaries (mostly of medical students & residents). It seems that what has inspired recent writers are those themes common to other bloggers but applied to medicine, i.e. politics (presidential healthcare platforms), law (malpractice), current events (flu shot scarcity), and good ‘ole personal diary writing (either patient authored or professionals). There are many reasons why we blog, but mostly, it’s to release this fire in our bellies to have an outlet for our passions.
Reviewing the list of registrants, and emailing others, it looks like few medbloggers will make it. So instead of a discussion amongst writers, this time I’d like to lead a discussion on what is compelling about medical writing, and how that applies to the medical bloggosphere. What’s authentic about the writing? Do the core values Mary will discuss apply? How does patient authored medblogs enhance their emotional life (a la Julie)? How does commercial sponsorship affect persuasiveness (a la Doc)? Where is this all going? Why are weblogs not as embraced by online disease-oriented communities? Not private enough?
Come and discuss these issues and others at the second Medbloggers session.
I'd like to bring a number of questions to the Making Money session at BloggerCon III:
There are exceptions. Some of us make money by selling on the phone. If that's you, think about what trying to sell over your blog (instead of the phone) would do to your relationships with readers.
Of course, lots of people use advertising to defray the costs of blogging. And, to be frank, I really don't care much if you have advertising on your blog, or if you make money that way. If that makes you happy, or makes you money, fine. I expect we'll spend some time comparing various advertising options. But let's also ask, How interesting is that, once you're past describing whatever it takes to get going with Adsense or Blogads? It's cool that they provide a service and an income stream. But I'd like to see us budget time for each of the potential topics we can cover.
One might be the cost side of the equation. There, let's face it: the costs of blogging are relatively small. I'll bet most of us spend more on our monthly phone bills than we spend over a year on our blogs (though maybe I'm wrong... if one or more of you has numbers on the matter, bring them to the session).
On the plus side, blogging and can bring high rates of return in authority and respect just starting with Google juice. In that context alone, blogging is at worst a small expense and at best a high-return investment. Advertising is gravy.
Speaking of which, it's amazing to me that we're still talking, nearly five years after the dot-com bubble burst, about gassing up our blogs with the very thing that inflated the value of countless worthless dot-coms: advertising modeled on the very media that blogging circumvents and in some cases even threatens. We're evn starting to flavor our RSS feeds with advertising too. I think that's a bad idea. (Yes, I can think of some exceptions, but still.)
Of course, you may think otherwise. Either way, bring your thoughts to the Making Money session, and let's see if we can generate some fresh wisdom on the subject. We'll succeed, I believe, if the wisdom we generate is native to blogging, and not just borrowed from The Media.
One last thought. I've worked, one way or another, in or near the advertising business for most of the last four decades. During that time I've always thought the holy grail of advertising was a demand market for its goods by the people who receive them.
Advertising has achieved that state in a few specialized cases. Specialty magazines, for example from women's fashion rags to tech pubs are often improved by advertising that serves as another form of editorial matter. Without advertising, both Vogue and Linux Journal would be less attractive to readers. Can't say the same for Newsweek or the Sunday paper (with certain well-qualified exceptions, such as classifieds).
Still, are even those exceptional cases good models for blogs? Let's put it another way: If there is an ideal advertising model for blogs, what would it be? I suggest it's still one we've barely thought of yet.
Meanwhile, the value blogging brings, to any individual or business with something interesting to say, is often enormous.
How can we make the most the innate value of blogging as an activity, rather than as a medium? That's the real challenge. And that's what I'd like most to see discussed in the Making Money session.
The next BloggerCon is in San Francisco, June 23-24, 2006.