Whose Blog Is It Anyway?

by Harry Sheff

A few weeks ago someone asked me to explain the difference between my alumni association’s Web site and its blog. I have to admit, though I designed both, I couldn’t offer a clear explanation. Since we are about to start blogging at MRketplace.com, the magazine’s new Web site, I thought it might behoove us to not only explain what a blog is, but also to ask around about how retailers and vendors could be using blogs as a marketing tool.

One simple definition: according to Wikipedia.com, a blog (a contraction of “web log”) is “a Web-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles, most often in reverse chronological order.”

Did you keep a diary or a journal when you were a kid? Well imagine that your friends, family, classmates… even your sworn enemies could read and respond to your diary entries. Well, that’s basically the idea behind a blog. It’s a truly interactive tool, allowing the “blogger” to publish her thoughts, opinions, rants and raves on an easily accessible Web site, and, if so desired, to open up those entries for discussion and comment.

Replies can usually be made in a format that’s similar to email, and permits the blogger to determine whether or not she will allow them to be seen by others.

At a recent workshop, Sree Sreenivasan, a professor at Columbia Journalism School and WABC-TV’s tech reporter (See sreetips.com), said “Don’t get hung up on the word ‘blogging.’ A few years from now, blogging will transform into something else. Blogging is really just technology allowing us to be interactive….”

“Blogstar” Peter Rojas, editor-in-chief of engadget.com, also spoke at the event. His blog reports news about electronics, from the very latest in computers, cell phones, PDA’s, etc., to a healthy dose of industry news and gossip. “(Blog) readers care most that you are being honest about your passions,” says Rojas.

Last fall, the New York Times reported “Online, Feisty Critics” posting their opinions of the New York runway shows. The Times reported that “bloggers form an opinionated, informed and spirited community…but they are steadily gaining clout with consumers and marketers.”

Now you know that we here at MR are passionate about menswear. I’m sure you’ve heard several of us lamenting the fact that we never seem to have enough pages in the magazine to talk about all the great collections we’ve seen, or the interesting people we’ve met. And Schmoozing can only tell part of the story of the various parties this industry hosts. Or that we sometimes feel like we just can’t react to things quickly enough because by the time a magazine gets printed and distributed, some things are already old news.

Now, on our new Web site, MRketplace.com, we’ll be able to post our observations as we travel this market, or from the floor of MAGIC (well, okay…maybe the floor of our hotel rooms after a long day of trade shows and parties —note to self, use spell check when late-night blogging!).

We’re hoping you’ll be as excited about this medium as we are. We’re looking forward to getting your immediate (dare I say “real time,” now that we’re using the lingo?) response to both our online and print content. Use our blogs as your electronic soapbox—let us know how you really feel about issues affecting our industry.

I was surprised to see that, when I sent a few emails and did some Googling to find out if any menswear retailers were using blogs in any way to promote their businesses, my inquiries came up empty. Learn with us! Start your own store’s blog, and let your customers, your vendors (and us) into the minds of the people behind your store. Create an opportunity to build a relationship with consumers, even when they are not in your store! And share your experiences with us, so we can all learn together.

“Dear diary, Today I changed the face of menswear with a few strokes on my keyboard….”

(This article originally appeared in the June issue of MR.)