Blogging 101 for CPAs

By Guido L. Geerts and Myunghee Kim

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JULY 2005 - In its most basic form, a weblog (blog) is an electronic diary published on the web. The following FAQs should help you better understand all the hype.

What technological skills do I need to create and use blogs? None. You don’t even need to know hyptertext markup language (HTML). You need only an Internet connection and a web browser.

What can I put in my blog? Text, links, pictures, charts—almost anything found on the Internet can go into a blog.

Who is in charge of my blog? You are. You decide everything, including the content, whether readers can comment, and who can access the blog site. Most blog software offers a variety of tools to manage ownership.

What audience do I reach? Blogs are published on the Internet and allow you to reach millions of readers. Two easy ways to get noticed are to submit the blog at www.google.com/addurl.html and to add it to blog lists (e.g., www.blogger.com) and blog directories (e.g., www.blogarama.com). Syndicating is another way to increase readership. Syndication means publishing the content of the blog in a standardized format (e.g., Really Simple Syndication, or RSS) so other applications (e.g., websites, newsreaders, and other blogs) can read your posts and present them in the format they want.

If you don’t want lots of people to read your blog, software allows you to define who can and cannot access your blog.

What makes blogs special? Can’t all of this be done with websites, newsgroups, and other existing web technologies? Blogs blend features of different web technologies into a new form. What makes blogs unique is that they are inexpensive, easy to create, and dynamic. The big thing is that blogs make creating dynamic websites available to everyone.

There is, however, no free lunch. You need to consider at least the following:

  • You may face risks if you outsource a software application (e.g., a blog) for free. What if your blog becomes popular, even generating revenue, and then the software becomes unavailable? Software like blogger.com is probably here to stay, but a blogger who doesn’t want to take the risk might want to install other blog software. Also, free blog software often adds advertisements to blogs, and not all bloggers want such advertisements.
  • Maintaining a blog takes time and requires content. The blogger needs to update it frequently with meaningful content that others are interested in. A sloppy or outdated blog might do the blogger harm.
  • There are legal issues. The blogger should establish guidelines on information that can and cannot be discussed on the blog.

What Is Right for Me?

There are personal blogs, service blogs, and corporate blogs. Personal blogs are currently the most common. They provide information about the interests, thoughts, and activities of an individual or a particular group of people. Service blogs are informative and often topic-oriented. For example, the service blog sox.weblog.gartner.com informs you about the latest developments regarding Sarbanes-Oxley. A corporate blog, created and maintained by a business entity, is used to provide information about the company’s products and services and to interact with clients and customers. Corporations also use blogs for internal communication purposes or as knowledge-management systems. The latter are known as K-logs or knowledge logs—blogs used as an environment for knowledge sharing.

Most blogs take the form of a diary, with content listed as text entries in chronological order. Text can be supplemented with links, pictures, audio messages, and even movies. Interaction with a blog, and thus communication, is accomplished by allowing readers to add comments to posts or to create their own posts.

Create Your Own Blog

The fictitious CPA firm Brady, Monk &White decides to use the service Blogger to create its own blog.

  • A designated member of the firm goes to the website www.blogger.com to create the blog. The website states that she can create her own blog in three steps: 1) create your account; 2) name your blog; and 3) choose your template.
  • Create the account. The Blogger website will lead you through creating an account. You will become the administrator of your blog and use a username and password to access the blog.
    n Name your blog, defining its name and location. Our fictitious example could use its company as the name for its blog: “Brady, Monk & White CPAs.” The location refers to the blog’s URL—how you get access to your blog using the Internet.
  • Choose your template. Blogger lets you choose among many different predefined templates. The template defines what the blog looks like, including the background color and where comments are listed. You can switch templates at any time.

After those steps and clicking on Continue, Blogger will create your blog and you’re ready to start delivering content using content management tools. There are various options for formatting text, inserting links, inserting pictures, and setting whether readers can comment on posts.

Customizing Your Blog

Blogging software provides tools for customization without programming. Using Blogger software, this is done through the Settings menu. Blogger’s Basic settings allow you to change general information, such as the name of the blog, and to include your blog in Blogger’s listing. The Publishing settings allow you to determine where to put the blog. The Formatting settings help you adapt the appearance of some blog elements to your specific needs, such as how the date, time, archives, and other information appear. The Comments settings help manage comments, including whether comments will be shown, and deciding who can comment (i.e., anyone, or only registered users or blog members). The Archiving settings let you determine the archiving frequency (e.g., monthly or daily). The Site Feed settings let you syndicate your blog (i.e., make the content available to other applications, such as newsreaders). The e-mail settings are for specifying readers to be notified when you add new posts to the blog. These settings also make it possible to set up an e-mail address by which you can post to your blog. Finally, the Members settings let you add members to your blog and assign them specific privileges.

Getting Information from Blogs

There are two ways CPAs can effectively integrate blogs into their business practice:

  • Use a blog as an additional information source, and
  • Use a blog to improve communication with clients, or as a knowledge-management tool.

Numerous blogs are helpful information sources for an accounting practice. Some blogs provide up-to-date accounting information. The Financial Accounting Blog (accounting.blogspot.com/) provides updates on accounting-related articles that have been published in magazines and newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal. The Accounting Observer Weblog
(www.accountingobserver.com/blog) deals with accounting topics in the news. Several blogs provide the latest news related to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (e.g.,
www.insidesarbanesoxley.com/sarbanes_oxley_blog/).

Certain nonaccounting blogs might be of tremendous use to accounting firms as well. For example, many practices use QuickBooks or MicroSoft Excel software. Blogs provide the latest news as well as tips and tricks on a continuous basis. An Excel blog can be found at
www.dicks-blog.com; a QuickBooks blog can be found at quickbooks_online_blog.typepad.com.

A caveat about using blogs as an information source: Often, blogs are created and maintained by a few individuals, and the content is not subjected to any kind of review. Therefore, readers should check out who maintains the blog. Official corporate blogs such as the aforementioned QuickBooks blog are generally more trustworthy than those created by individuals.

Because new blogs are constantly being created, signing up for a newsreader such as Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) can help blog aficionados organize their blogs in one place, get update notices, and search all their favorite blogs at once.

Click here to see an Exhibit.


Guido L. Geerts, PhD, is an associate professor of accounting and MIS at the University of Delaware.
Myunghee Kim is an MBA Student at the University of Delaware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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