Boston Herald

Blogs Offer Peeks Inside Small Firms

Boston Herald Bizlines / by Cromwell Schubarth, Thursday, September 11, 2003

When Zara Mitchell was caught on TV behind home plate at Fenway Park, chatting on her cell phone and waving to the camera on every pitch, she heard about her "bad fan etiquette'' at work.

And so did anyone else who wandered to, the weblog of Novidian Corp., a Hanover consulting firm serving small and mid-size businesses.

Originally, blogs were logs of Internet links to, and commentary on, interesting stories. But now there are millions of them and they are growing well beyond that mix of soap-boxers, diarists and techies.

Small firms, including Novidian, use blogs much as they used company Web sites, newsletters and e-mail in the past: as a way to reach existing and potential customers.

Part water-cooler chat and part news-referral bulletin board, Novidian's blog is all about "doing the old soft sell,'' says company co-founder Andrew Palmer.

"Our blog gives people a sense of how we speak, how we feel and how we do business,'' says Palmer, a lawyer with a business degree. "We encourage everybody on the staff to contribute.''

Selling a personality or creating a personal relationship is the heart of business blogging, says Dan Bricklin, co-creator of the first PC spreadsheet. He's now chief technology officer at Interland Inc., which sells software integrating Web site creation and blogging.

A year ago, Bricklin speculated that consultants would one day use blogs to establish their expertise, that bed and breakfasts would use them to update visitors on what makes their corner of the world special, or retailers would provide interesting places to browse and, hopefully, buy once in a while.

"Today, there are plenty of consultants using blogs, but the others have been slower to pick it up,'' says Bricklin, whose blog is at "But they will. Having a Web site today is a neccessity for a lot of small businesses and having a weblog is another tool to personalize and update that, inexpensively.''

Not everyone, though, is sold on business blogging.

"Who wants to wade through all the randomness of a blog to get to something useful?'' asks Michael Katz, whose Blue Penguin Development in Hopkinton helps businesses create e-mail newsletters. "It may be voyeuristically appealing if the blogger is a big name… but for the average small business person, there's not enough of a hook for anybody but the blogger's mother to pay attention.''

Dave Winer, a "blogging evangelist'' at Harvard Law School, however, thinks blogging is a must, even for the corner pizza shop.

"People turn to Internet search engines like Google all the time now to find out about businesses like restaurants,'' says Winer, whose blog is at "The question is who will be the authority? You or somebody else? With a blog, you can make sure your story is getting out, and you can get feedback from your customers, too.''