“The level of credibility and trustworthiness of mass media seems to be at a critical juncture…It is within this current climate that a new type of information source is growing in popularity—the weblog” (Armstrong & McAdams, 2009, p. 435). Establishing a current and relevant blog is a challenge in the oversaturated world of blogging. Now-a-days, everyone and their dog seems to be able to write a blog and the topics are endless. Starting a blog for the first time has proven to be a bit overwhelming.
There is an overwhelming amount of information on how to blog, and figuring out what works is up to the individual blogger. What factors are necessary to help the audience perceive the blog as credible? More importantly what makes a blog valuable to the reader and how to keep them coming back for more? The answers to these questions will be the foundation upon building a credible blog. Establishing and increasing credibility of blogs has become more important than ever before, as more people rely of blogs for news and other information.
However, Banning, & Sweetser (2007), state that when it comes to blogs there are many reasons that impinge on credibility including 1) the fact that anyone can make a blog, 2) the blogger has no responsibility for content, 3) blogs can be anonymous, and 4) bloggers may not have writing ethics (example plagiarizing). Furthermore, blogging is mistrusted in general because of generic doubts about content generated by the public, and that this content is too diverse (Rieh, Jeon, Yang, & Lampe, 2014). As blogging has developed from a personal diary type style to a more informational and news sources, it is important to maintain a blogs credibility.
Credibility has been studied across many disciplines, many factors have been developed to assess the credibility of the person and/or their work. Out of the multitude of articles analyzing credibility, some common findings have emerged and can be applied to blogging (Rieh, Jeon, Yang, & Lampe, 2014):
- Trustworthiness is when the blog is considered good or has moral value.
- Expertise is how the reader perceives the bloggers knowledge, skills, and experience regarding a particular subject of field.
- Believability is when the reader is sure of the information contained in the blog is accurate without having to verify it.
- Information quality is how complete, objective, unbiased, or useful the blog is to the reader.
- Affective value is how the user feels about the information contained in the blog, including how visual design or content layout impacts user impressions of value of the blog.
These five factors will be looked at in more detail with regard to both the credibility of the blog and the blogger themselves:
Trustworthiness. The use of a trusted source, be it a scholarly article or a news documentary, can increase a blogs credibility (Banning, & Sweetser, 2007). However, Armstrong & McAdams (2009), state that blogging differs from professional journalism in that it relies on building a relationship based on trust, and not through quoted sources. In most cases, the relationship is intentionally personal and the blog author is considered the main source and is therefore judged for credibility, not others quoted in the post (Armstrong & McAdams, 2009).
Expertise. Male authors of blogs are considered more credible that women, as gender is a common variable that is used to evaluate written information (Armstrong & McAdams, 2009). Topic of the blog and writing style of the blogger also influenced credibility, political blogs and professional appearance were deemed to be more credible (Armstrong & McAdams, 2009). It is common practice for bloggers to adopt practices that establish and improve the credibility of their blog (Rieh, Jeon, Yang, & Lampe, 2014). Bloggers attempt to build credibility for various reasons, Rieh, Jeon, Yang, & Lampe (2014) have postulated four groups of bloggers and the value they provide to their audience:
- Community builders use audience participation and engagement to get value from their blog.
- Expertise providers offer value through information and education.
- Topic synthesizers use multiple perspectives to analyze content on their blog.
- Information filterers collect content from many sources and then organize it to provide value.
Believability. People and media are now looking at blogs as more than just personal diaries, but as influential sources of information and news (Banning, & Sweetser, 2007). It has been found that the peer-review process in blogging – comments and corrections – will increase the credibility of personal blogs, even making them more credible than traditional media sources (e.g. T.V. news, radio) (Banning, & Sweetser, 2007; Greenberg, Yaari, & Bar-Ilan, 2013).However, believability of the blog may be compromise as users who are on the internet often and use blogs to find their information may have bias. Moreover, Greenberg, Yaari, & Bar-Ilan (2013) found that information found on the internet is credible only because the user has found previous information on the internet. This may also be true for blogs the more users rely on blogs for information, the more they perceive them as credible regardless of how accurate it actually is.
Information Quality. Many studies have compared traditional media and journalistic style of writing to blogs and the blogger, and have found that the individual blogger is seen as more credible. According to Greenberg, Yaari, & Bar-Ilan (2013), information found in blogs in considered to be objective and genuine when compared to other sources. Greenberg, Yaari, & Bar-Ilan (2013), found that the non-journalist blogger was more credible than online newspapers and journalist blogs, as they were not attached to an institution. However, Armstrong & McAdams (2009) found that when readers were information-seeking it affected perceived credibility of the blog in that the writing style of the blog was important, straightforward and not personal were more credible. Moreover, the underlying motivations of readers is important when determining credibility as users that were high information seekers, reliant on information, or were attracted by presentation and style of blog, influenced perceptions that the blog was credible (Rieh, Jeon, Yang, & Lampe, 2014).
Affective Value. According to Banning, & Sweetser (2007), “the message and its construction indeed have a role in determining credibility, and that the medium alone is not the determining factor.” If a blog contains subject matter that is not applicable to the reader or the reader does not have enough knowledge on the subject, the reader will take an alternate route to examining the blog for credibility, focusing on the form and style of the message (Greenberg, Yaari, & Bar-Ilan, 2013).Affective value is more important to the blogs credibility than traditional media, as blogs are deemed to be personal and the structure and design can contribute to the feeling the reader gets. Grammatical correctness of blogs may also influence how users perceive credibility of the post (Greenberg, Yaari, & Bar-Ilan, 2013). Blogs credibility was rated on structure and design, items such as font choice, use of paragraphs with emphasis on subject, professional, creative design, easy and fun to read increased credibility. (Greenberg, Yaari, & Bar-Ilan, 2013).
When establishing a blog and building or maintaining credibility, it is important to consider many factors. Build rapport with your audience gaining their trust, through use of quotes and personal integrity. Determine the value your blog provides to the audience and present articles in a professional and thought-provoking manner. Create a dialogue with your audience to facilitate conversation about the topic, which in turn will increase authenticity. Information included in blogs will be judge on objectiveness and straightforwardness to determine credibility. Presentation of a blog is important, as professional formatting and creative writing bring the readers back for more.
© 2015 Laura Adamson – All Rights Reserved
Armstrong, C. L., & McAdams, M. J. (2009). Blogs of information: How gender cues and individual motivations influence perceptions of credibility. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 14(3), 435-456.
Banning, S. A., & Sweetser, K. D. (2007). How much do they think it affects them and whom do they believe?: Comparing the third-person effect and credibility of blogs and traditional media. Communication Quarterly, 55(4), 451-466.
Greenberg, S., Yaari, E., & Bar-Ilan, J. (2013, January). Perceived credibility of blogs on the internet-the influence of age on the extent of criticism. In Aslib Proceedings (Vol. 65, No. 1, pp. 4-18). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Rieh, S. Y., Jeon, G. Y., Yang, J. Y., & Lampe, C. (2014). Audience-aware credibility: From understanding audience to establishing credible blogs.