Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Would You, Could You, Should You Blog? Flexible, Low-Cost Web Logs Are a Formidable Business Tool

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Would You, Could You, Should You Blog? Flexible, Low-Cost Web Logs Are a Formidable Business Tool

Article excerpt

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

* BLOGS (SHORT FOR WEB LOGS) are an information-sharing tool with many business possibilities. They offer commentary on a variety of topics with links to Web sites or other online resources. Low operating costs make blogging a great marketing and knowledge management option for small firms.

* A BLOG TYPICALLY IS TEXT WITH few graphics. It can be created with blogging software that is free and simple to use. A basic blog requires no special technical skills.

* BESIDES HELPING TO PUBLICIZE A FIRM and showcase its niche specialties, blogs can allow everyone in the firm to share information quickly or to track sales leads.

* FIRMS CAN USE INTERNAL KNOWLEDGE BLOGS to help current employees work more efficiently and to get new hires up to speed quickly. As a repository of "institutional memory," knowledge blogs can remind current employees of policies and procedures, link to documents employees need to read and document best practices. Team members can enter remarks to create a record of actions and decisions.

* SO FAR THERE ARE ONLY A FEW accounting blogs. Most CPA blogs cover tax topics but there are a few in niche areas such as estate planning, business valuation and Sarbanes-Oxley.

* TO CREATE A BLOG A FIRM WILL NEED TO select a blog publisher, create an account and start adding content. Bloggers must scrupulously adhere to the golden rule of blogging: "Thou must update frequently." The door is wide open to new and innovative uses of this technology for accounting firms.

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Comic-sounding "blogs" aren't a Dr. Seuss invention, though a Seussian opening might read something like this: A Blogville accountant was heard to say, "Should I blog or not blog? Should I blog today? Is it true they are tools with much to convey?" Indeed they are. Blogs (short for Web logs), which have been around for a few years, gained credibility during the 2004 presidential campaign when three Minneapolis attorneys used their Power Line blog to disprove CBS news reports about George W. Bush's military service.

Interest in blogs as an information-sharing tool with many business possibilities has been growing. Fortune magazine called blogging one of the Top 10 Tech Trends in 2004 and the February 2005 Harvard Business Review cited it as one of the "breakthrough ideas for 2005." There is even an international CEO Bloggers Club (http: //prplanet.typepad.com/ceobloggers). This article will tell CPAs how blogging can advance a firm's marketing, project management and research efforts.

WHAT ARE BLOGS?

A blog is an online journal that offers commentary on topics ranging from the general (weather: www.capital weather.com) to the comedic (Dave Barry: http://weblog. herald.com/column/davebarry) to the obscure (London Underground: http://london-underground.blogspot.com). The Oxford English Dictionary added the word blog in 2003, defining it as "a frequently updated Web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary." California attorney Denise M. Howell defines a blog as "a Web page so simple that its basic functions are well within the grasp of those who may have only basic technical ability."

In general, a blog differs from a commercial Web page in two ways:

* It is predominantly text with few graphics.

* It is usually the commentary of a single author with links to Web sites or other online resources.

BLOGS ARE ABOUT ACCESS

Low entry costs make blogging accessible to small firms, and a basic blog is easy to establish and to update, requiring no special technical skills. Blog services offer software to help you build a simple blog, and provide server space for free or for a nominal fee (see "Starting a Blog," page 42). If you have a Web site, check with your current Web hosting service to see whether it offers blog hosting. …

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