You are here

Open Thread Thursday: Does The Official Blogger Concept Need Updating?

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

The concept of having a set of “official bloggers” to help publicize a genealogy conference, event or project via social media has some precedence in the genealogy industry.

Do you think the concept of Official Bloggers is a good thing for our community? Or should there be a level playing field where anyone can help crowd source an event or project within the genealogy industry, with or without “perks” involved?

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.

* * *

Official Bloggers – The Concept

True confession: I’ll admit that I’ve helped develop the concept of Official Bloggers for many genealogy conferences and events.  I’ll also admit that at the time, the focus was on ways to help publicize an event through social media and the power of the genealogy blogging community.

After a few years of  being involved in the process of selecting bloggers to be designated as Official Bloggers, I’m re-examining the concept.  Back tracking?  Not necessarily.  For me, many concepts are in constant evolution and one way I keep tabs on that process is to look at what other parallel industries are doing with that same concept.

Official Bloggers – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

What I like about the Official Blogger concept:

  • It can really boost publicity for an event and tap into multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) depending upon the bloggers selected for the Official Bloggers program.
  • It can give a blogger the “inside track” as to an event or a product.
  • It can increase blog traffic for the selected bloggers.
  • It can help build buzz and excitement about an event or product.

What I dislike about the Official Blogger concept:

  • It sets up a hierarchy of bloggers and smacks of elitism and cliquishness.
  • It seems that often the same bloggers are selected to be Official Bloggers.
  • It creates a perception that some bloggers are always on the receiving end of perks and goodies.
  • It creates an expectation from some bloggers that they deserve to be Official Bloggers whether or not they do.

Are Some Bloggers More Equal Than Others?

The truth is that some genealogy bloggers do a better job at bringing attention to genealogy events and projects.  Plain and simple.  It isn’t “magic” – it involves the skillful use of various tools and concepts that are available to everyone.

And many genealogy bloggers are either open about how they “do it” or are willing to give advice if you ask them. But the fact is that some bloggers do provide better content, have a larger readership and get more traffic.  And these are the ones most likely to be selected as Official Bloggers.

Towards A Better Official Blogger Concept

What if the concept of Official Bloggers were to evolve to something similar to what Fiskars (the  immediately recognizable orange-handled scissors used by scrapbookers, crafters and quilters) is doing? They have a concept called Fiskateers in which any blogger can sign up to become an “ambassador” for their product.

With this model, the playing field is level and bloggers are rewarded based on their efforts within the program. A blogger who posts good content can become a “Fiskateer of the Week” and more.

The 1940 U.S. Census Community Project has developed a similar concept with its 1940 Blog Ambassador program. The program is open to any blogger and based on content and the ability to publicize not just the release of the 1940 Federal Census images on April 2, 2012, but also the indexing program, a blogger can be rewarded for those efforts. [Full disclosure: I am a social media consultant for FamilySearch for the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project.]

Personally, I think we’re headed in the right direction.  Over time I’d like to see the end of Official Blogger programs and more initiatives like the 1940 Blog Ambassador program.  Keep in mind that leveraging social media in the genealogy community is still a relatively new thing and certain concepts are still evolving.


This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

Disclosure:  Please see Disclosure Statements for more information on my material connection with genealogy vendors and organizations.

©2012, copyright Thomas MacEntee

20 thoughts on “Open Thread Thursday: Does The Official Blogger Concept Need Updating?

  1. I don’t think it’s so much a clique or elitist thing as it is a case of there are some bloggers who can afford to attend one or more events while there are a larger group of people like myself who can’t. So naturally there are going to be people who get chosen as Official Bloggers more often. I don’t resent that at all.

  2. I know that there are bloggers who are more experienced and widely followed than others. They have a lot more influence. Their posts are impressive and inspiring. Being Official Bloggers lends an authority to their posts and adds an obligation to be responsive to the genealogy community. Any “perks” are certainly deserved. Maybe there should be periodic reviews of the work of Official Bloggers to maintain the current quality of the blogs associated with various events.

  3. I would much prefer a single official blog for an event than to get the same information sent to me from ten official bloggers. Nothing says that official blog can’t have multiple contributors – each bringing their own expertise or perspective regarding the event. Take advantage of the “official” Twitter feed to curate (retweet) outside comments and articles about the event and/or presenters to help keep the buzz level up.

    The issues with Internet access at the event site means little or no live updates during the day. Once again, Twitter would be a better option since it can be done with phones that aren’t dependent on wi-fi to publish. The few smartphone photos sent via Twitter each day were much more appreciated than recaps 2 or 3 days after the conference ended.

    Several official Tweeporters sending updates and photos in real time would not only keep the long distance attendees in the loop, but also let the in-house attendees know where the action is.

  4. I don’t mind the concept of “Official Bloggers” and the perks that go with that. What I DO get tired of is the endless fawning and promotion of said bloggers as “rock stars” and such, and posts on clique-like parties and get-togethers. I do appreciate the reports on the conferences I’d never be able to attend (even if they are a few days late). I like Denise’s ideas of a single official blog for an event, and her ideas for using Twitter (especially since about my only use for Twitter is to help me pay attention during webinars and conferences by tweeting what I’m hearing!).

    I love the idea of the 1940 Blog Ambassador project. I applied and was accepted, even though my blog doesn’t have many followers. I’d like to see more opportunities like that.

  5. I blog so infrequently, there’s no way I’ll ever warrant “official blogger” status. That’s why my blog is Round Tuit Genealogy; I do it when I get around to it. I’m a procrastinator, and even the blogging prompts aren’t enough to motivate me – yet. But I hope that blogging will push me to write more often, to submit articles once again, to begin speaking once again. I did that in another lifetime, when computer genealogy was in its toddler stages. It’s obvious that in this field, if you snooze, you definitely lose. Maybe we need a new group: No Genealogist Left Behind.

    It is nice to be even an unofficial blogger and receive a “heads-up” briefing from vendors at conferences, etc. Are bloggers cliquish? Weeellll…. kind of. I’ve felt as though I was on the outside looking in. Probably many other genies feel the same. But the technology and concepts are new to me, and I’m glad to have taken enough steps just to be here; to listen to a webinar or BlogTalkRadio; to network and share with colleagues.

    I love the 1940 Blog Ambassador concept of leveling the playing field by providing the tools to everyone. I signed up right away, and did my first related post yesterday. Does my blog have a following? Just a handful. But if I can get even a few of my non-genealogy friends to read the posts, whether they choose to follow me or not, I’ll consider it a success.

  6. I do think that picking “official bloggers” can tend to create a clique-like atmosphere. I think this is often enforced by the fact that the same bloggers are often chosen for multiple events. Obviously there’s a reason they’re chosen: they’re good at what they do and will help get the word out about the event. And it’s great to be chosen – to be recognized. Also, having bloggers is a great PR tactic and a great way for event organizers to receive feedback.

    But I do think that choosing only a few “official bloggers” can be a mistake. It can make someone feel like they weren’t good enough – why weren’t they picked? Should they even bother to blog about the event since they weren’t good enough to be an “official blogger”?

    I love the 1940 Census Blogger Ambassadors idea and my mom has been a “Fiskateer” for years. There’s a sense of instant inclusiveness with these programs. Everyone can be involved and everyone is equal. It makes everyone feel empowered to participate.

  7. @Amanda: I don’t feel as though a meet-up is meant to be a clique-like party; it’s to meet other bloggers, many of whom have never met before. With working online all the time, meeting face-to-face is a special occasion. If some people hear about it and some don’t, it’s not a matter of inclusiveness, but that the organizers contact those they know, with the hope that the word filters to those they don’t know. For example, the Midwest GeneaBloggers meet-up organizers wouldn’t have time to get on every blog and investigate where the author is from.

    I have no idea if such a thing is possible, but it would be helpful to see a list of bloggers searchable by several different fields: where they live; where they are researching, and by the subject of their blog. Not only could it assist in meet-ups, but it would be easier to find someone familiar with a certain repository, or a certain skill set, or to mobilize bloggers in a certain state who could speak out against restricted access, etc.

    The “rock star” thing may seem over the top, but it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek; the equivalent of a viral YouTube video. I felt that for many years, people considered this hobby/vocation (and by association, me) as nerdy, and those involved in it as people who don’t know how to have fun. I think genies had the same undeserved image as librarians, that of little old ladies with gray hair in a bun, wearing orthopedic shoes. WDYTYA et al, plus the meet-ups, bloggers and beads help to show the world that genies come in all colors/ages/sizes/sexual preferences; that while we love libraries, they’re not all we love.

  8. I love the idea of the “Official Bloggers” I believe that they serve a great purpose to the genealogy community. They spread the information that others want to know about and share information from the conferences, all of this is a huge plus in the genealogy community.

    As for who is picked and based on how many readers they have, I am not sure if that is the best method. As it has been stated most of the “Official Bloggers” are utilized for many conferences in a year, which means that readers are being sent to them to find out more information on these events. If someone was chosen that was less familiar or does not have as many readers, we would be doing them a service by sending them new readers, should they be chosen.

    As for the blogging community and the clique like groups, I can definitely understand that feeling. But, one must put themselves into the arena of other bloggers to become a part of it. When I first joined Twitter, I felt like I was interrupting conversations if I added anything. Like I did not belong there. I stepped out for a few months and went back and now, I have met great people in the twitterverse and in Real Life.
    To also mention the parties, I agree with what Linda had to say that we like to get together. These are not meant to slight anyone and if you are not in the area where one is being held. Through a get together yourself, if you need help planning one. Contact me and I would be glad to help.
    In order to accomplish things, we all need to work together. Whether bloggers, societies or individuals, we all want the same thing. Access to records and to be kept current of all that is going on. Thanks Thomas, for all you do for the genealogy community.

  9. I’ve never felt like genealogy blogging was clique-y or exclusive. In fact, that’s been the polar opposite of my own experience. I’ve felt that people are extraordinarily welcoming to strangers in this community. I certainly was a stranger (and also a little strange), and people welcomed me.

    That said, if other people are feeling that way, then a change is in order. Whatever makes this fun and positive and exclusive and mutually beneficial…well, good . If an ambassador does those things and also works for the companies who want to find ambassadors, then YAY.

  10. I judge a blog by the signal/noisel ratio – no matter who writes it.

    Press Release=Noise
    Original Content=Signal

    My idea of a perfect Blog is one that only includes a link to the actual press release and does *NOT* reproduce it it its entirety and then goes on to comment on the press release. I want to see the bloggers, “Official” or otherwise giving their personal take on things- not just regurgitating warmed over press release pap.

    Truth be told- I’d love to see ALL Bloggers refuse to handle Press Releases at all (even links). Make all Press Releases go to one central site and each Blog have a link to that site.

  11. I can see pluses and minuses to both sides. Official bloggers are useful in building momentum, excitement and getting the word out. As long as they are not duplicating content it’s a good thing.

    I like the crowdsourcing idea for leveling the playing field but it sounds like a contest to me. Whoever writes the most gets the prize. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice quality in order to get noticed in a crowd sourcing environment.

    Much food for thought here.

  12. I think every conference needs to leverage social media to its advantage. However they need to do that.

    And I don’t believe the Official Blogger program as it is today does that.

    Why does everyone assume that the marketing of genealogy should only be done within the genealogy community?

    Just some thoughts. I’m at the airport about to board but wanted chime in. The idea of Official Bloggers is a marketing concept and is a transaction between the conference and the blogger. They aren’t perks. That’s pay.


  13. @Linda @Terri – nothing against the get-togethers at all, it’s just not what I (and I suspect others) want to read about in blog posts! I do like hearing what bloggers, official or otherwise, have to say about the sessions they are attending at conferences and events, and what they are learning.

    And @Linda – had to laugh at the image of librarians – because I am one!

  14. I am not the biggest fan of the Official Blogger programs for the reasons you state above. Although it would be great for those chosen, seeing the same people chosen over and over can get frustrating. I have also seen what having the “big 6” bloggers has done in healthy living blogs and would hate to see the same types of things occur on geneablogs.

    The 1940 Blog Ambassador program, on the other hand, is awesome. I am so excited to be a part of it and am looking for ways to change some post ideas so that the overarching theme is the same, but the focus is on census records. I think it will reach the project out beyond the typical genealogy circle. For example, I have a lot of librarian friends who read my blog and this is something they would definitely be interested in, as it effects their work.

    I would like to see (and be a part of) more opportunities such as this in the future.

  15. I enjoy attending conferences and workshops, and have been on all three sides of the blogger status – Official, Un-Official but blogging like I was Official, and “under the radar” doing my own thing. Official Bloggers has a nice ring to it, but it’s a lot of work… after all, you’ve been tapped to perform a service of publicizing the event.

    When I think about the value from tweets, fb posts, and blog posts, some of the best content comes from “freelancers” just reporting because they enjoy it and do a great job. In the end, what they are noticed on Twitter streams and by other posters, as well as by sponsors, so maybe the they are building their own reputations in a kind of free market atmosphere. Thomas’ idea about a Fiskateers-type arrangement does much the same thing — rewarding active participants. It seems like we may be moving that way already within the world genealogy blogging and event promotion.

  16. I don’t have a problem with the “Official Blogger” title at all. I do expect said bloggers to actually blog about the conference…before, during and after the event.

    Without official bloggers how would the media hub (at Rootstech for example) be handled? Anyone could apply for media credentials to be able to use the video and recording booths?

  17. This was an interesting thread and they were some great comments – My two or three cents worth.

    (1) Having someone(s) in the know who share(s) information from a conference with all the rest of us;
    (2) Hearing about the conference before, during and after AND sharing the some insight – what were the blogger’s thoughts and reactions, what were the attendees’ thoughts and reactions, what would they change in the future, what worked great, etc.
    (3) Being introduced to some new blood – pick a few “official bloggers from the area where the conference is being held – give us some local flavor and inside scoop.

    (1) Shilling – for yourself (my book, my course, my book signing) or for the “big boys” – a press release parroting what they sent you with absolutely no content is a big turn-off. I really don’t care that they sent you something if you don’t spend the time to check it out – your readers are depending on you to engage, noodle around, check it out, and have a opinion or thought.
    (2) The “A” Club Atmosphere – If there are 6 spots for Official Bloggers – why not have 2 newer and 4 established – not too hard with all the bloggers out there.

    Other Thoughts:
    I think the 1940 Blog Ambassador program is a great idea and there should be more like it.
    (1) Why not a drawing for someone to attend RootsTech 2013 as an official blogger.
    (2) Why not a drawing for someone(s) to be picked for a WDYTYA show – they could “assist” someone through a brickwall – I definitely think that would add some interest if “it could be you” and they could blog about it OR use an boy or girl Scout genealogy/family history project and coordinate with the Scouts (like they did with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program last week).
    (3) There could be official bloggers for Family History Month in October – with corresponding “get the word out” – perhaps encouraging everyone to do a family group sheet that goes to the local library. There are all kinds of ways to generate interest with official bloggers beyond conferences.

Comments are closed.