Today, as I searched for some breaking news and technology insights, I was struck by how much better informed you tend to be after reading a few blogs targeted to a topic (and following related links and sites and ask questions) than when you simply search Google (or Yahoo or MSN or, if you enjoyed the silly and short lived TV campaign, ASK).
Don’t get me wrong – I like the search engines and I love the way you can quickly winnow through billions of pages down to the handful that are relevant and good for your topic. But I’m noticing how increasingly I wind up turning to blogs *first* for the best news, links, and insight. I’m beginning to understand why I’m doing that, and why it’s a big deal.
There are the obvious advantages to blogs over websites. They are fresher (ie recent and new content) – especially compared to Google searches that often yield so much old content. They usually offer some community components so you feel like you are “where the action is” on topics. This is usually true for major blogs. TechCrunch is a key watering hole for startups, HuffingtonPost.com for liberal political folks, etc.
However these advantages are secondary to the fact that as blogs mature they offer an excellent “human powered search engine” for your niche of interest, and as we all know humans still beat out computers in terms of understanding what information is most relevant to our inquiry when it is a broad field of interest.
Again, the TechCrunch Technology blog is a great example of this. A search in Google for “startups” or “technology news” or “venture capital” will give some good results, but even a careful study of those results won’t give you nearly the insight you’ll get from a one hour session at TechCrunch. Even a Silicon Valley startup new arrival – or distant silicon startup wannabe, could sound like a veteran if they simply kept up with the parade of posts from Mike Arrington and his clever crowd at TechCrunch.
I think this blog advantage breaks down as you move into very specific topics, but it’s going way up as an advantage in the study of general topics as blogs explode and gather traction and community. Of course there are caveats to this. Learning in any form takes time, and you would never simply stuble into a blog about a topic without checking other blogs and sites related to that. But my point is that once you find “the key blogs” about a topic, even if it is a contentious one, you’ll find through those blogs links, references, breaking news, and a community of other interested parties. This complex, interactive, cross referenced community experience is how humans learn best, and the internet is making that type of learning exponentially easier to obtain.