Someone recently sent in a question about websites and blogs… “Practically speaking, what is the real difference between a website and a blog, or between a blog and an online newsletter? And does an author need one of each?”
Practically speaking, there really isn’t any different between them – they are all simply information shared via digital means. But in common parlance, a website is most often a static site that introduces readers to a person or organization, and a blog is an active commentary about topics of interest to the writer(s).
Think about it this way: a blog provides more commentary than a website, and is updated regularly, whereas a website often presents some basic information that tends to remain the same for a long time. For that reason, we generally see websites as one-way communication, whereas a blog is more interactive and has multiple communication pathways. Media commentator Jeff Korhan has said that a website is a digital storefront, and a blog is a digital magazine — an image I’ve long found helpful.
A newsletter is similar to a blog, but often is used as a device that is sent out (rather than waiting for people to come visit), and shares information about upcoming events of interest to the regular members or readers of the newsletter. I once heard a speaker say that a newsletter is a “push” device (because you push it into people’s email boxes to get noticed) while a blog is a “pull” device (because you offer writing and ideas that pulls people in).
Does a writer need all of these? Well… no. There’s no “one right method” for every writer. But I think most writers these days have some sort of website, so that new or potential readers can go and research them. For whatever reason, readers enjoy seeing photos of the writer, reading a bio, hearing him or her say a few personal things in their own words. And, of course, it’s also a great place to cross-sell your various books. So some type of introduction via a website (a “store,” if you will) is pretty much assumed in today’s publishing world. But a blog, which requires constant updating and attention, is a lot more work — and some authors feel it’s unnecessary because it simply pulls them away from writing their book in order to write something more ephemeral. Research has shown that a blog that is not updated regularly simply doesn’t garner much of a readership. And the fact is, a blog is a monster that has to be fed. It needs words, on a regular basis, and that takes a lot of writing effort.
I’d love to hear from the writers — How important is your website? What sort of effort do you put into a blog or newsletter? What tips would you offer other writers?