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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 3, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Joel Spolsky to stop blogging, says it’s not so great after all

The famous “Joel on Software” blog is coming to an end on March 17, author Joel Spolsky announced in his Inc. magazine column.

Spolsky, a former manager on Microsoft’s Excel team, used the blog to promote his New York-based company, Fog Creek Software, and created a resource for programmers that drew more than a million visits a month.

Blogging was great for Fog Creek, in the early days. But Spolsky now questions whether it’s the best use of time for entrepreneurs and companies.

Spolsky’s candid analysis could be a revelation — or a relief — to companies that feel left behind or frantic to catch up to the latest social media tools. It may also help some calibrate their mix of offline vs. online marketing, if the poster child for promotional blogging now says he overemphasized the online medium.

Spolsky said his success with the medium was unique and, in retrospect, he was putting a lot of effort into reaching a relatively narrow audience. He advised entrepreneurs to consider blogging less about themselves and their products and more about topics that will interest a wider audience and perhaps turn some into customers.

A few excerpts:

“Well, it worked brilliantly for me, but the more I’ve looked around, the more I’ve noticed that plenty of start-ups have managed to get customers and grow nicely without devoting a huge chunk of their early years to building a cool blog.

What’s more, I have trouble pointing to other successful entrepreneurs who have used the same formula and reaped the same dividends I have.

The big-hit technology companies from the past 10 years tend to have pathetic blogs. Twitter’s blog, like Facebook’s and Google’s, is full of utterly boring press releases rewritten to sound a little bit less stuffy. Apple’s employees produce virtually no blogs, even though the company has introduced several game-changing new products in the past decade. Meanwhile, hundreds of Microsoft’s employees have amazing blogs, but these have done nothing to stave off that company’s slide into stodginess.”

On the limited reach:

“The best evidence also suggests that there are many other effective ways to market Fog Creek’s products — and that our historical overreliance on blogging as a marketing channel has meant that we’ve ignored them. I realize now that blogging made me, and Fog Creek, a big fish in a very small pond. As a result, we have the undisputed No. 1 product among the 5 percent to 10 percent of programmers who regularly read blogs about programming. Meanwhile, we’re almost unknown in every other demographic.”

Don’t get him started on Twitter:

“Awful, evil, must die, CB radio, sorry with only 140 chars I can’t tell you why.”

Comments | Topics: blogging, entrepreneurs, joel spolsky

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