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Last month, I touched very briefly on the difference between articles and blogs. This subject came up again recently when I was talking with my good friend and business associate Tom Schroth, the founder of Whiteboard Group LLC, about revamping my website and online content strategy.

Of course, I already write this newsletter once a month, so Tom’s first question to me was: “How will your blog content be different from your newsletter article?”

“Rules” For Blogs

I remember when blogging first became widespread back around 2008 or so. At that time, one of the main “rules” (as they were) for blogging was that blogs should be short and sweet — typically, no more than 300-400 words tops. Another rule was that blogs should be written in a casual and informal style and express the author’s viewpoint about a subject.

To see whether these rules still apply, I checked in with freelance writer and frequent bloggerCarol Tice. “I think the line between articles and blogs is blurring more all the time,” Carol said. “In general, a blog post tends to be shorter and written based on the author’s experience, and it features the author’s point of view.”

Following these rules, then, would help differentiate a blog from an online article in at least two key respects: length and style. Articles are usually longer than blogs, and they usually aren’t written for the purpose of expressing an opinion or viewpoint. Instead, they are written to share value-added information about a topic the author knows something about.

In my mind, these remain the primary (but not only) differences between articles and blogs. In browsing the web these days, though, I agree with Carol: There’s a whole lot of blurring of the article/blog line — mainly in the form of blog content that, to me, is really more of an article.

I hear the same thing when talking to clients and prospects about content generation. Many want to call virtually anything that they plan to post online a blog, regardless of length, tone, style, frequency or the content itself.

Lots of Confusion

Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein has a great take on the difference between blogs and articles in this blog post. This is how he describes (very accurately, I think) the confusion: “I repost my articles on my blog, as blog posts, and I work out many of the ideas for my articles on the blog. So as far as technology and topic go, there’s no difference. An article can be on a blog and/or its subject matter can be on a blog. You can blog anything these days.”

Klein mentions another important article vs. blog distinction: Blogs are more likely to include links readers can click on for more details and to get other perspectives — like I just did with the link to Klein’s blog.

A final distinction I want to mention is content distribution. Articles in the form of an e-newsletter like this can be sent to an email distribution list. But with blogs, you mostly have to rely on readers finding your blog via a keyword search or when they visit your website, and then hope they will “follow” your blog.

Therefore, I consider a newsletter article to be more of a “push” content strategy, and a blog to be more of a “pull” strategy. Sure, you can send a blog link to your email list, but I don’t recommend this: Personally, I almost never click on links to blogs that I get in emails.

What’s Your Goal?

So which strategy is best: article or blog? To me, it comes down to one very important question: What are you trying to accomplish with your content?

• If you want to share fairly detailed (and perhaps technical) information about a subject, an article is your best bet. Your readers will expect (and be prepared to read) something that’s longer and more in-depth.

• If you want to offer your opinions and viewpoint about a subject in a quick-hit format and inject some of your personality, a blog may be your best bet.

• If you are trying to boost your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), both formats can be effective, although they will utilize different strategies (more on this in a future issue).

• And if you want to position yourself as a subject matter expert, both formats can be effective as well.

“If your goal is to build your own brand or express your opinion, write a
blog post,” said Carol. “If your goal is to inform readers through multiple points of view, not just your own, write an article.”