netmagInterview

Roger Greene

Roger Greene is CEO of software company Ipswitch. An advocate of corporate blogging, he tells .net how posting your ideas and thoughts can improve business

.net: What’s so different about your corporate blog?
Roger Greene: I don’t read many blogs, other than Jonathan Schwartz’s occasionally, and mine was partly inspired by his. I like the individual and personal voice that it gives. For my blog, I like that each entry doesn’t have to be framed in some broader context; they stand on their own, and it’s easy to jump from topic to topic with no transition. My blog also allows me to share my perspective in a way that’s difficult other than in speech. Until podcasts came along, that really limited the audience of speeches. I wonder if we’ll start to see many more corporate podcasts because of that?

.net: Are companies that have a website but don’t blog falling behind?
RG: I would characterise it differently – each company should understand what value blogs have and decide if they’re important to them. It’s too sweeping to imply that all companies should have blogs. Take Microsoft, for example. A few years ago it may have decided that the company was viewed as an inhuman monolith, and therefore it should have corporate bloggers that would comment objectively. Microsoft either allowed or encouraged blogging, most prominently with Robert Scoble, and it’s been widely viewed as a success for its image. It had a problem, and it used blogging to address it.

I think blogs are helpful for many companies. Retail stores are an exception, particularly small ones, where customers can get a sense of the management, culture and other intangibles by visiting the store and talking with employees. In some other cases, such as law firms or consultants, billable hours drive everything. Since blogs aren’t billable, such companies shouldn’t have blogs unless they increase revenue or reduce costs in other ways – for example, by finding new accounts or recruiting staff.

.net: What are some of the essentials of a good company blog?
RG: Personal perspective, sincerity and relevance to the business are the qualities that I would emphasise. A blog can have different audiences as well – it can be aimed at customers, employees, investors or regulators, for example. Often, the intended audience is some, or even all of these combined.

.net: How can companies get ROI for what they spend on a blog?
RG: I think this comes down to intuition; companies need to consider the following questions: Does it feel like it pays off? Do employees get value from the thinking that goes into blog writing? How many people comment on having read blog postings? Does it seem to be having any effect on the business?

.net: How do you differentiate between what you think and towing the company line?
RG: In general, blogs should support company positions, but only in ways that are sincere and express a personal perspective. If you’re stating a company position, don’t use a blog unless you’re going to interpret it. Credibility is critical to blogs. If blog postings come across as stereotypical press releases, they won’t be read.

.net: In what direction do you think the blogosphere is heading generally?
RG: I think it will become more like the traditional media business. Writing well in volume is a rare skill. In general, those who have the talent and commitment will seek out ways to be paid, and they’ll need an organisation to provide some infrastructure, even if that’s virtual. Sooner or later they’ll start to look like media companies. There will be more of them, because not as much critical mass will be required, but they’ll still have an advantage over most individuals, who won’t have the time, inclination or ability to write and market their blogs. There will, of course, be exceptions – the individual blogger with enough fame to attract readers and advertising – but they will be a minority, and even they will tend to seek economies of scale by hiring staff and distributing some of the writing to them. In essence, forming their own media company.

.net: How important is blog design to the content that you’re talking about?
RG: It should be clean, readable and easily navigated, but the specifics of how to accomplish that don’t matter at all.

.net: What else really interests you about the web at the moment?
RG: The shake-out in digital media is interesting to watch. The EFF and others make compelling cases that the RIAA, and music and video copyright holders, are making a mistake by being so aggressive in sticking with their old business model. Many times in the past when that’s happened, the traditional industries end up being by-passed because they refused to adapt the way they work in order to protect their legacy business.

.net: What do you want to achieve with your blog in the future?
RG: I’d like to use it to explain more about how Ipswitch goes about producing software, both from a market and employee perspective. As a company that has pursued organic growth for more than 15 years, we have a different perspective to other companies, and I’d like to share how that has helped us pave the way for continued growth in the future.

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