Illustrating the Law of the Many

Alan Nelson, co-founder of The Command Post political blog, posted an exceptionally good commentary last week with the full text of a speech he made to managing editors of major North American newspapers that subscribe to the Associated Press newswire service.

What’s exceptional about Nelson’s post is that, while it focuses on one specific audience (the media), everything it addresses is wholly relevant to what’s happening in the wider world of business blogging, and is especially relevant to anyone considering starting or already running a corporate blog.

Nelson speaks about how the balance of power has changed with the rapid advent of blogs and the speed with which bloggers disseminate news and information, faster and with shorter cycle times than traditional channels. The consumer is now in charge, Nelson says. Right on! That fits completely with my view on how organizations should consider blogs, whether those blogs are focused outside the organziation or wholly within. Whichever they are, the audience is in charge:

Bloggers should not be underestimated. They are not just average people … they are people who, long before blogs came along … had the ability to surface information and present it to others in a persuasive and compelling way. They are opinion leaders, and weblogs have only served to exponentially increase their reach and their power.

There’s a second lesson here: and it’s that weblogs, are also read by other mavens. And so there’s an accelerant effect for information flowing through the network. When something comes up in the blogosphere it’s talked about by a few thousand people who drive opinion for large networks of people around them … which is why the mainstream media ultimately has had to recognize issues raised by bloggers … they’re things people are talking about.

I especially like how Nelson uses the word ‘mavens’. As he defines it: “Mavens are information geeks – people who live on information, love to surface new information and share that with others.” There are lots of these types of people in organizations, and they are the ones who are driving blogging in their companies.

The key message in Nelson’s post is the Law of the Many:

When a marketplace of tens of thousands of people considers a piece of information, the truth inevitably will surface with greater speed and efficiency than when only a few people consider that information, just as surely as an internet-driven global market for diamond rings or interest rates drives price down and quality up.

And it works both ways … when a blogger posts something dubious, those same tens of thousands of readers and mavens quickly debunk and dismiss that information as not factual, and it goes nowhere.

Required reading.

The Command Post | Full Text Of My Speech To AP Managing Editors