Mac Scope

Bloggers, Macs, and the OS X Blues

Stephen Van Esch - 2002.10.23

In my previous column, I touched on the idea that as more people switch, Apple will have to become more attentive to customer needs.

In the same vein, Apple has to realize that they are gradually gaining a higher profile in the weblog "blogosphere".

In a very simplified nutshell, weblogs are websites that are updated on a daily basis. These updates may be simple musings, personal opinions, or short articles. They usually contain a smattering of links to other sites or articles. Again, weblogs are much more complex than that. You can find a good overview of weblogs here.

While many people have never heard of weblogs, it's clear that some wield an enormous amount of power. Some of the most popular weblogs can bring in as many as 10,000 readers a day. That's nothing to sneeze at.

While the number of weblogs in existence might be between 250,000 and 500,000, depending upon who you refer to, the number of people who read them is much higher.

Which brings us to Apple. There are many popular weblog writers who are Mac users. There are also a rising number of popular weblog writers who are switching to Apple products. Two popular weblog writers who have recently made the switch (or switched back) are Jason Kottke and Meg Hourihan. Both of these people (along with many others) could be considered founders of the weblog age. Their audiences are substantial. And their audiences differ greatly from other websites that discuss Macintoshes; their audiences are probably not Mac users.

This means that there is a vast audience of potential switchers visiting a weblog every day. While neither Meg nor Jason make the Macintosh the main topic of their weblogs, they do mention them occasionally. So far the mentions have been favorable. That may not always be the case.

Take for example, Jeffrey Zeldman.

Zeldman is one of the most respected web designers on the planet. Thousands read his weblog every day. When Jeffrey ran into serious problems with his Jaguar upgrade, he wasn't shy about sharing his feelings. Witness OS X Blues Part 1 and Part 2.

I think the OS X Blues articles are great. So great, in fact, they have made me think twice before upgrading to 10.2. I'm already a Mac user. Think of the thousands of Zeldman readers who are not Mac users. I'd say that those two articles generated a lot of bad PR for Apple.

I'm not saying that those who have famous weblogs or columns should get better treatment. What I'm saying is that the journalistic topography has and is changing. While sending a machine to David Coursey so that he can test it out is a good idea, there are more and more people who command small audiences that are just as influential, if not more.

In fact, it's likely that weblog writers have more influence over their readers than regular journalists, because they seem to forge real relationships with their readers. Regular readers feel a more personal connection to the weblog writer because a weblog is an inherently personal thing that usually doesn't make the writer any money.

I would trust a software review from Jeffrey Zeldman. I might not place that same level of trust on a review from MacAddict. MacAddict must make money, and, while I don't doubt their journalistic integrity, I never know then they may be skewing some of their writing to favor an advertiser.

So, some weblog writers have large audiences, are trusted by their readers, and can influence their buying decisions. Apple would do well to keep an eye on some of the more prominent weblog writers that use Macintoshes. LEM

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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