When blogs first started back in the late 90s, they gave a voice to people from all walks of life, from "mommy bloggers," to fashion bloggers and political pundits. When businesses caught on to the SEO advantages, it didn't take long before they, too, jumped on the blogging bandwagon. Soon the Internet was filled with corporate blogs hoping to cash in on potential new customers hungry for content.
A challenge soon arose, however. As the blogosphere expanded, it became increasingly difficult for businesses to compete for a share of readers' attention. Before long, many company blog sites were publishing content that few people ever read.
To differentiate, companies have sought more effective ways to engage visitors and convert customers. They experimented with content curation, aggregation and user generated content; developing different kinds of content - videos, podcasts, presentations, articles, Q and A sections, and more, all in hopes of creating something more compelling. They began building communities where users could go beyond reading and commenting to learn, participate and share with other users.
Through this process, blogs evolved into something larger: media hub. These hubs are an online destination where readers, contributors and industry experts can find community and content. They don't just blast content into the ether; they provide value to their readers and industries, and serve as a vital extension of a company's' brand.
What are some of the the signs that blogs are evolving into media hubs?
Many leading news sites are now media hubs
Look at many of the best known news and industry sites and you'll see a similar trend. They have evolved from blog-based platforms that used content to promote a brand, to sites where content is the product. To do this, they have expanded beyond in-house published content, opening up their platforms to users and other contributors. This tactic is cost effective, since content can be produced at lower cost, and also allows the blog to feature a variety of voices. Think of sites like the Digitalist, or industry-specific sites like Txchnologist, GE's version of a media hub.
Readers want a trusted source
As blogs proliferate, readers seek higher quality, more trustworthy content and are tired of searching the entire internet trying to find it. They seek a trusted resource with a more well-rounded, less biased perspective. Media hubs are perfect for this because they often include not just created content but also curated content from multiple sources that are typically more brand agnostic. Examples include Adobe's CMO blog and Inbound.org, a joint effort between HubSpot and MOZ.
Search has evolved
Search algorithms that once made blogging such a compelling way for companies to reach their customers, have made it more difficult to reach customers cost effectively. Google's current search algorithm awards traffic to sites that produce more authoritative, longer form content, more often. This content is expensive to produce, thus user generated content on a media hub is an ideal solution to keep costs lower.
Blogs have lost ground to social media
One of the initial attractions of blogs in the days before social media, was its two-way nature. Blogs were more like a conversation: companies could publish a post and engage with readers via the comments section. However, in recent years companies have struggled to engage blog readers through comments, focusing instead on engaging on social media. Bringing readers back "into the fold" and engaging them on a company's own media hub allows companies to convert them to customers more effectively.
Companies expect their content to do more
Blogs are content assets that must continue to drive value, but a common disadvantage of blogs is that their reverse-chronological, newest first publication style often caused a company's best, "evergreen" content to get lost in the shuffle. It's published and shared, and then too often, it's never seen again unless someone stumbles across it with long tail search. Media hubs allow companies to drive more value from their best content by republishing or repurposing it.
There are other signs that blogs as we've known them will continue to evolve. Transforming the old company blog into an industry, news or lifestyle hub where readers and users contribute and engage is one way businesses can continue develop not just deep troves of content, but true communities of engaged customers.