Because the word "blog" is abstract -- even confusing -- for some people, it's tempting to begin this article with the classic high school lede, "According to Webster's Dictionary, the definition of 'blog' is..." But don't fret; we're not going to actually stoop to that level. Instead, local media expert Linda Menck dishes up her description.
"For many people, a blog is essentially an online journal. They record musings, rants and day-to-day happenings for friends and family to read and respond to with comments," says Menck, who teaches advertising, public relations and journalism at Marquette University.
"A blog entry is typically a chunk of text with links to other destinations on the Web that have been strategically embedded by the author of the blog."
Blogging is a form of social media that's fundamentally different from traditional media such as newspapers, television, books and radio. Social media includes blogs, vlogs (video blogs), Internet forums, message boards, podcasts -- basically any form of technology that allows readers to become publishers.
Plus, social media, unlike traditional media, isn't finite, and therefore doesn't have a timeframe or a particular number of pages. In the world of blogging, the sky is not the limit.
"A blog means different things to different people, but from our perspective, it levels the playing field. Writers, amateur or professional, now have the opportunity to be published bloggers -- on their own terms," says OnMilwaukee.com publisher and co-founder Andy Tarnoff.
Blogs were called "online diaries" in the early '90s, and at the end of the decade, the word "blog" emerged from the word "weblog." By 2001, the blogosphere exploded with scores of new blogs -- predominantly political blogs -- and the medium received more attention. Originally, blogs were perceived as online gossip columns with little merit, but by 2002, they started to receive credit for breaking stories and shaping perceptions.
"Today, you can forget about being a journalist if you don't know how blogs, other forms of social media and digital technology have changed how we tell stories and deliver news," says Menck.
Every day, a dozen or more fresh blogs appear on OnMilwaukee.com, written by the site's editors, readers and guest writers, including Michael Stodola, creative director at Boelter + Lincoln.
"I love blogging because, while it gives me yet another creative outlet, more importantly I feel connected to the larger world around me. I write what I know, but in the process, I always learn more," says Stodola.
Timothy Twaddle, 40, is a carpenter who started blogging two years ago on MySpace.
"I blog to hone my writing skills, as an outlet and as a promotional tool for my artistic endeavors. Most of the blogs I post contain my poetry, or occasionally some daily living tidbits of interest," says Twaddle.
Menck uses blogs in her college classes every day. She teaches students how to write and design blogs, and she communicates with them via her own blog. She says most people who don't understand the concept are from older generations.
"Teenagers and young adults love their social media. It would be a real challenge to find a teenager who didn't know what a blog is," says Menck. "By no means am I saying older folks aren't in the know, but let's face it, some of us are digital natives and some are digital immigrants.
"Communication is no longer a one-way street. The model used to be businesses and news organizations 'talked,' and as consumers we listened. If we were dissatisfied with something we purchased or disagreed with something a politician said, there was little to nothing we could do."
Steve Jagler, executive editor of Small Business Times, says blogs are still evolving. "The first bloggers know what they do and they do it well. But as it relates to professional media outlets, the world of blogging is still evolving as we go along," says Jagler.
Blogging is particularly important to non-profit organizations and small businesses that don't have big marketing budgets. It's a free and productive way to reach target markets and hear feedback about a service or product. Blogs also reveal more of the writer to the reader.
"For OnMilwaukee.com, it gave us the chance to write shorter, more informal and more first-person stories that help us inject our own personalities into our magazine," says Tarnoff. "We can better connect with readers through blogs. They also make breaking news even easier -- and considering that the Internet is about as immediate of a medium there is -- that's a big deal."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.