Wikipedia's definition of a blog states, "A blog (a contraction of the term "weblog") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order."
Indeed, a blog is an easy-to-use web site where you can quickly post thoughts, interact with people, and more. Blogs can be personal, written by one person, or they can be produced by the marketing departments of multi-billion dollar corporations. A blog is simply an easy-to-use process that allows anyone, including you, to "get the word out." A blog is a great method of publishing whatever you wish to tell the world.
This newsletter is a blog although I don't use that term very much, preferring to call it a newsletter. I use this newsletter's web site at http://www.eogn.com to publish the articles that I write and to publish articles from a few other writers whose work I admire. If I had been restricted to publishing the old fashioned way, on paper, this newsletter would not exist. Costs of printing and mailing are much too high. However, publishing on the Internet and by e-mail costs very little and often is even free.
What material is suitable for a blog? Almost anything. I use a blog to publish a genealogy newsletter. Some people use blogs as their personal online diaries. Others use blogs to publicize an upcoming genealogy conference, to publish their photographs, to write about political topics of the day, to publish a band's music (often with MP3 audio files embedded in the blog), to publish videos, or to promote a company's products. Name an automobile; it probably has at least one blog and perhaps more. I regularly read a Miata blog and a blog about Corvettes. There are other blogs for almost every automobile ever produced. Still other blogs are devoted to NASCAR racing or Formula One racing or the Saturday night races at a local race track. You can find blogs that cover travel bargains and hints, blogs about boating, or blogs about military topics. I recently read a blog that solely covers luggage: how to find heavy-duty suitcases at bargain prices, how to pack effectively, and similar topics. Most every Hollywood actor has a blog, as do musicians, politicians, and others who are in the public eye. Interested in purchasing a new cell phone or a stereo system or a piece of computer hardware? You can probably find blogs that describe those things in depth.
Blogs can be used to publish most anything although I would suggest that blogs work best when you frequently have new or updated content. Many people use blogs to publicize their family tree research.
In fact, blogs are growing to become the new mass media of the twenty-first century. In years past, we all depended on newspapers, magazines, and printed newsletters for information about our personal interests. Now blogs are taking over, usually delivering more content and more in-depth coverage than we ever had before.
COMMENT: Do you know of any past genealogy publications that delivered three to ten or even more new articles PER DAY? This newsletter does that seven days a week and some other genealogy blogs do the same. Even better, these articles are delivered to you at prices far lower than traditional genealogy magazines.
Are blogs popular? As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs.
Are you actively researching your family tree? If so, are there others with whom you would like to share your findings? Perhaps you are working with a distant cousin in an informal partnership, comparing notes quite often. Perhaps other relatives are less involved but still are interested when you find a new great-great-grandparent. In both cases, a blog with occasional updates can work well to publicize your findings.
I would also suggest that most every genealogy society or local history society needs a blog. So do many family name societies and lineage societies. Some societies publish their newsletters on a blog. That may or may not be a good solution for your society but I would suggest that EVERY society needs to post notices of upcoming meetings, publicize various events in the area (even those events sponsored by other organizations) or to announce new publications and other items produced by the society. A blog is an excellent, low-cost method of "getting the word out."
The best thing of all about blogs is the ease of reaching readers or subscribers. You may be surprised to find that a blog published by a local genealogy society can attract readers from all over the world. These new readers may have been born or raised in your area originally or perhaps their ancestors lived in your area. Others may read (subscribe to) your blog out of simple curiosity -- to see how your society publishes in an effort to gain ideas for their own society's blog. Whatever the reason, RSS feeds and other tools make it easy for people around the world to read your blog.
NOTE: For an explanation of RSS newsfeeds, see my earlier articles: RSS Feeds Explained at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2004/08/rss_feeds_expla.html and What Can RSS Do For You? at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2005/12/rss_explained.html.
Starting a blog is simple. The technical knowledge required can be minimal. In fact, with most of today's blog publishing products, the process of creating a new article in your blog is very similar to writing a new article with a word processor. You possibly could be writing your first blog article within ten minutes after reading these words.
You can create a blog by installing software on a web server and configuring it. That is what I did to create the Plus Edition version of this newsletter at http://www.eogn.com/wp. However, that is probably the most difficult option of all, so I would suggest you first host your blog on someone else's server. After all, why not let them do all the work?
Many blog publishing services are available free of charge, such as Blogger.com, LiveJournal, MySpace, Tumblr.com, Vox.com, Windows Live Spaces, Wordpress.com, and many others. Some of these free blogging services are funded by inserting advertising into your blog pages, which may or may not be a good idea for your blog. If not, you can choose from a long list of paid blogging services that do not insert ads.
The free Standard Edition of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter runs on a for-pay blogging service that I pay for: TypePad. For prices ranging from five to fifteen dollars a month, TypePad provides a very powerful blog hosting service that is almost totally under your control. TypePad never inserts advertising into the blogs it hosts. For more information about TypePad, go to http://www.typepad.com.
For more information about genealogy blogs, along with a very long list of genealogy blogs already in operation, look at Cyndi's List and especially at the page for "Blogs for Genealogy" at http://www.cyndislist.com/blogs.htm. You can spend some time looking at other blogs in order to gain ideas on how you want to publish your own content. Another good way to find genealogy blogs is to use Chris Dunham's Genealogy Blog Finder (which is also a blog) at http://blogfinder.genealogue.com.
How many genealogy blogs are already in operation? I have no idea other than to say it is thousands. The Genealogy Blog Finder states "Now tracking 1,375 genealogy blogs." If you go to Google.com and search for "genealogy blog," Google will return 91,500 occurrences of that phrase. Not all of those occurrences are separate genealogy blogs, but many of them are.
The other thing I wish to stress about blogs is a bit difficult to describe. It is the feeling of self-satisfaction you achieve when you are able to share your ideas and concerns with the world. Whether you have an audience of a dozen or of several thousand readers, publishing is a great method of helping others while simultaneously achieving a feeling that you did something good.