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Using many of the ideas I have learned from Intelliseek's white papers and Webinars, I gave a talk last Friday to "The Marketing Roundtable," a group of Marketing VP's from Atlanta's largest companies (e.g., Coke, UPS, Bellsouth, Cingular, Chic-fil-A, Delta Airlines). Nearly everyone put their hand up when I asked how many people were familiar with blogs, but it became clear early on that only a couple of people understood the scope and growing force of this medium. Toward the end of my talk, one VP said, "We have one of the largest events in my company's history coming up in two weeks, which I'm virtually certain will lead to enormous activity on Blogs and other Internet sites. To the best of my knowledge, we haven't got a clue about what might happen in any of the areas you've discussed." This is a person whose ad budget is $1 billion!

After showing the group the age distribution of bloggers that came from an Intelliseek study--"the bulge in the snake" centers around 18--I asked the group if they thought blogging could be a fad, much as many of us oldsters used to listen to a record 50 times or so to learn the words--but now have real lives to deal with. There were arguments pro and con; the consensus that emerged was that many young bloggers might not stick with it, but (a) the influential bloggers are a different group, probably older and far more likely to keep trucking/blogging, and (b) technological advances will make creation of increasingly interesting blog content easier and viewing it far more prevalent (e.g., in the living room as HDTV/plasma/LCD's and multimedia blogs combine to capture people's attention).

There was agreement that different "blogger worlds" probably exist, each with its own group that knows each other, behavioral norms, and interests. At a luncheon talk to Georgia State's marketing faculty later in the day, I made the point that the CGM area is growing so rapidly and is so rich (i.e., complex) that academic researchers are stymied from the standpoint of conducting rigorous research. They agreed, one person pointing out that research tends to focus on narrow areas, like the characteristics of mavens (scientifically developed questionnaires have been created). What's needed from researchers at this point is descriptive, case-study research that develops theories that plausibly explain various aspects of blogs or, more generally, CGM. A good example of this kind of research is the traits of e-mail and online information set forth in PlanetFeeddback's/Intelliseek's white paper, "Rumors and Issues on the Internet." Once the models are developed and people agree generally with them, the quantitative research that academics are judged on can be done. CGM is an area in which the real world leads academia (as opposed to, say, consumer behavior).

An interesting discussion with both the execs and Georgia State's faculty involved unfounded rumors. Everyone agreed that Intelliseek-type radar is needed to identify potentially damaging rumors. The discussion was about the characteristics of a topic that make it ripe for viral rumor circulation. Characteristics discussed included health, ability to perceive physical changes (e.g., who knows if a toxic chemical is present in something?), percentage of people to whom the topic is relevant, potential seriousness if true--and others. What do you think?

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