Reaping the Rewards of Blog Action Day

Lori Halley 15 October 2008 9 comments

Did you catch the buzz? Today is Blog Action Day, when bloggers around the world are asked to bring attention to one social issue. Last year it was the environment; this year, it's poverty. It's the kind of easy feel-good meme that the Internet loves -- and that can reward participating blogs with a boost in web traffic -- but what are the real rewards for the cause?

At first glance, one would be forgiven for wondering. It's one day of blogging with a social conscience — and then back to “business as usual” for the blogosphere. Back to writing about online marketing, or Junior’s first tooth, or whatever a blog’s normal focus might be. Cynics might also point out that many of the bloggers who take part have little or no experience of working for a social cause, so the quality of the posts on poverty are, frankly, variable at best...

So, is Blog Action Day just so much well-intentioned “hot air”?

Or is there a real benefit here to those who live in poverty, and to the organizations that dedicate every day to fighting poverty?

Let’s have a look at the numbers, to start with:

  • 10,998 sites
  • 11,983,780 RSS subscribers
  • and uncountable readers who come to the participating blogs through search engines results or links from other sites and various social media platforms.

Those 10,998 sites are just the ones that registered formally at the Blog Action Day site — and it’s clear from last year’s experience that many more feel moved to participate, even several days later, when they begin to read what others have written.

blogpulse trend graph

What wouldn’t any of us give to draw that kind of public attention to the causes we care most about?

And the conversation doesn’t stop when the clock strikes midnight. The blog posts that went live for Blog Action Day 2007 are still there in the search engine indexes, still turning up to nudge new readers today, a year later. And many of the best will still be out there next year, continuing to raise consciousness, one reader at a time. And the charity websites that got links from all those blogs will continue to benefit, to some extent, from both the boost in search engine rankings and the increased visibility online.

It’s a way of lifting a cause of global concern into the public spotlight, and bringing it front-of-mind to a broader audience.

Among all the poverty-themed blog posts that hit the internet for Blog Action Day 2008,  I find it interesting that some of the most compelling pieces are written by bloggers who’d normally dedicate their pages to business, productivity and technology topics, not to social action.

You’ll find some compelling  reflections on the privileges of the few, what web developer Nick Cernis calls the 22% Club, and how an online movement such as Blog Action Day might help to bring more balance, starting with awareness and fundraising efforts:

While we’re living our online lives, there are hideously large numbers of people fighting tooth-and-claw for theirs. People who share the same planet and breathe the same air and who really need our help. And The 22% Club distracts us from that. By plugging in, we’re switching off.

Blog Action Day exists to help us all wake up to the reality.

Web consultant Jon Bounds, looking at the relationship between technology and poverty, zeroes in on the practical aspects of what he calls the “second digital divide” — not a lack of access to technology as a result of poverty, but the economic disadvantages that come when those who do have access can’t take advantage of their opportunities because they lack the confidence and skills to do so:

In the near future it’s possible that the inability to use (or disinterest in using) the internet will become a contributory factor in poverty — work that doesn’t in some way use it will become rarer and rarer.

Social media can help in the fight against poverty, in a number of ways — but it’s still down to people.

And one of the pleasant surprises this year has been the emphasis that bloggers are placing on the action part of Blog Action Day. (Try a Google Blog Search on “blog action day” to see what I mean.)

From Skelliewag’s suggestions of 30 Simple Ways to Battle Poverty with Technology for Internet users, to the group of Podnosh bloggers who offered free one-on-one social media tutoring to voluntary and community groups in their home city, to an international Design for Poverty Contest at Yanko Design web magazine — the sheer variety of initiatives is inspiring.  

So maybe that’s another benefit of Blog Action Day 2008? 

Not merely “hot air”  but a “breath of fresh air” — an injection of new energy and ideas for those who struggle with the world’s most pressing social issues, day in and day out, from within the nonprofit sector.

What do you think?
What's caught your eye around the 'Net, on this Blog Action Day?

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 15 October 2008 at 5:47 PM

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Comments

  • kouji haiku said:

    Wednesday, 15 October 2008 at 11:05 AM

    indeed. read a post at problogger which was rather surprisingly compelling.

    and i've been seeing a number of blogs offer to donate $x per comment, that sort of thing.

    for my part, i turn to sites like freerice (rice donation), kiva (microfinance), and goodsearch (donation per search), as ways to help alleviate poverty online. i also put up their banners on my blog. :)

    saw this post via the front page of blog action day. it's great that you're participating. :)

  • WordVixen said:

    Wednesday, 15 October 2008 at 11:09 AM

    I say that any time your name is in front of people, it's a good thing. As people begin to ripen for change, any information that comes their way has a higher chance of tipping the scale.

    For example, when I decided that it would be wrong of me to keep profits from my Squidoo lens that featured hand crafted items and was promoting political action to help small businesses, I switched the "profit" mode over to 100% to a micro-loan charity. I'm now considering making all of my food lenses 50% in favor of a world hunger charity, once I pick one. Perhaps my book lenses will donate to a literacy program? And just a few weeks ago, I didn't want to give at all, because I thought I needed the money.

    It makes a difference. Just not necessarily all at once. :-)

  • Alec Satin said:

    Wednesday, 15 October 2008 at 11:09 AM

    Rebecca,

    This is a strong encouragement for the rest of us to get on board for the 2009 Blog Action Day.  Count me in.

    Alec

  • Mitchell Allen said:

    Wednesday, 15 October 2008 at 11:26 AM

    This is a good analysis and I'm glad you shared it!

    Being one of those people without experience working for a social cause, I can certainly understand the cynics who are looking for the Action in today's event.

    However, I felt compelled to participate. It was a chance for me to explore a topic that I take for granted, even though "We're all just two paychecks from the street". I must say this: having participated, I now feel obligated to continue learning as much as I can about the proposed solutions so that, when it IS time for me to take action, I will be taking correct action.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  • Alex said:

    Wednesday, 15 October 2008 at 12:04 PM

    Great post, I myself wrote one at: http://www.guruofsales.com/general/427/fight-poverty-its-blog-action-day-today and the action has not stopped. Would you share your thoughts by a comment there as well?

  • Priscilla said:

    Wednesday, 15 October 2008 at 1:54 PM

    I think the idea behind Blog Action Day is great. I read a few posts that started with "...I didn't know much about this topic before, but..." and they went on to explain some reading they'd done in preparation for their blog post. That in itself tells me that it's a success because self-education can be a powerful thing :)

  • Nick Cernis said:

    Wednesday, 15 October 2008 at 2:23 PM

    A great roundup, Rebecca. You tread the same line between scepticism and enthusiasm for the idea that I followed, but it's great to see that the event looks to have been a success for the charities involved.

    I only wish that participants had been encouraged to promote a single call to action instead of a slightly woolly one; having 12,000 voices asking for the exact same response from their readers could have gone a long way to boosting the impact of such a well-organised and heavily promoted event.

  • Acronym said:

    Thursday, 16 October 2008 at 7:00 AM

    I'd like to welcome two more new association blogs to the blogging community: The "best new blog name" award goes to the Guilt by Association blog, with blogger Frank Fortin (who has been a commenter on Acronym for some time)....

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Thursday, 19 March 2009 at 8:58 AM

    When the venerable Fieldstone Alliance surprised its readers this week with 25 Random Things that Make

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