Classifying Types Of Tech Blogging

Lately, the topic of “types” of technology blogging has come up more often in my conversations. I’ll briefly share how I classify different types of content, and would love to get your opinion on this breakdown. At a high-level, the majority of content (excluding conferences, etc.) is in text form, with a bit in slideshow or video formats (a la Business Insider, for instance). With that caveat, here is my classification system for tech blog content:

  • News & Information: These authors are usually full-time writers, correspondents, and bloggers who cover immediate and/or breaking news (or writing in line with a scheduled embargo), how personnel shifts, and other reporting activities. Some also write feature stories or track down a story which isn’t timely but exposes or “scoops” something that’s unknown beforehand.
  • Coverage & Analysis: These authors can be working for the various tech blogs as journalists or bloggers, but are also analysts or investors at venture capital firms, research firms, or places that are similar. While the main tech blogs produce this type of content often, the most attention in the for startups and technology goes to the investor-types. This is partly because investors control venture capital pursestrings and therefore, if done smartly, can be leveraged to create an audience, who want their money and/or attention, but also because many of them have serious operation and/or investing experience to share that only a small handful of people in the world have. Sharing their views publicly help some investors build an audience (at scale), or helps an analyst etc. general new leads, new business, new connections, and a greater reputation.
  • Primary (Operational) Knowledge: These blog posts are more rare, penned by people who are writing about their particular craft (which can include investing) and sharing it widely. This group can include founders, operators, investors, and current journalists or analysts who demonstrably hold this type of relevant experience. Examples of this type of content could be engineering blogs about scaling architectures or blog posts that help an audience understand how someone increased email click conversion by removing images in their newsletters. This type of content can sometimes surface on the tech blogs, or on Quora or Stack Overflow, among others, or usually on the author’s personal blog. These authors are people who have been working on something very specific and/or deep in their jobs. The best blog posts in this category are when the author has gone deep in one area and then surfaces to share that journey and spread their knowledge. Usually, this content doesn’t exist elsewhere on the web, and cannot easily be produced by journalists or analysts. [Note: This includes (1) investors who share their knowledge of the market, and (2) journalists who shine a light on their own craft, though in technology blog circles today, audiences aren’t really interested in either topic, I’m sorry to say!]

As with most goods, the amount of content in each category is probably inversely proportional to its intrinsic value. Put more bluntly, for a news story like Facebook’s Graph Search earlier this week, the tech blogs “covering” the news would likely have 10+ blog posts on the topic itself in one day, while the analyst-types may lob their thoughts across Twitter with a few tweets or one post (this includes investors and experts like John Battelle, who has covered search for years or Steve Cheney who penned a characteristically sharp and contrarian blog post on Graph Search), and while those with truly relevant operational context who create content as a reaction to this development are much harder to find. For instance, take Satya Patel, who spent years at Google and became an Ad Words guru, and then was most recently at Twitter working on ads. Satya probably knows a thing or two about search, ad models, Google, and by proxy, what all of this could mean for Facebook. Ironically, he didn’t write a post in honor of Facebook’s announcement this week, but instead shared a link to a blog post he wrote two years ago while was at Battery ventures in “analyst” mode — and even at two years old, his post is short, crisp, to the point, and conveys a strong opinion rooted in expertise: that Facebook’s Open Graph is less about individual search (though there is utility here), but more about brands being able to hyper-segment audiences for even more targeting.

I wrote this, partly, because people conflate people who “blog” equally. In fact, there are three very different categories. The first conveys “information,” the second shares “analysis,” and the third shares “knowledge.” Each type of blog content has its time and place, but readers should be clearly aware of the differences while considering their sources.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2016 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus