megaphoneSelf-publishing is a term used to describe the publishing of media works by the author of those works, rather than by established, third-party publishers. A conservative estimate would suggest that well over a quarter of Ireland’s population are self-publishing on the Internet. Anyone who has a blog, a social network site, has uploaded videos or photos onto file sharing website such as YouTube of Flickr is already doing this. Is 2008 the year that self-publishing will come of age, becoming more mainstream, purposeful and relevant to business? I think so.

Facebook was certainly the big news story of 2007 with the accumulation of over 100,000 Irish users by the end of the year from a base of zero. However Bebo already had over 1 million Irish subscribers and MySpace claims to have over 100,000 Irish users. Irish social networking site nimble.ie claims to be about to reach the golden 100,000 subscribers and there are many other such sites. There are over 53,000 videos on YouTube with Irish content. Flickr hosts over 1.2 million photos that were taken in Ireland. There are over 4,000 Irish blogs. There are hundreds of Irish discussion boards with tens of thousands of Irish people interacting with them every single day. All of this indicates how active Irish people are in self-publishing online; a nod to our insatiable appetite for chatting, gossiping, bitching and having the last word.

What will be new for 2008 is that self-publishing will continue to grow, becoming evermore mainstream and purposeful. It will be less and less the preserve of the younger generation and become more and more a tool for us oldies (relatively speaking of course). We will use self-publishing to promote ourselves for personal and career reasons (LinkedIn), to advance social and political agendas (politics.ie, irishelection.com), to inform our purchasing decisions (askaboutmoney.ie).

However the time is now right for Irish businesses to actively consider how they might captialise on the phenomenon of self-publishing in order to grow their market share. While most larger businesses have a traditional website from where they publish the content that they want to communicate with their customers, it is the smaller and usually more technology focused operations that are putting more emphasis on their blogs to communicate with customers (cix.ie, Blacknight Solutions, The Log House Company ). And with good reason – a blog allows smaller businesses to differentiate themselves from the larger companies by enabling the establishment of personal relationships with their customers. Larger companies simply don’t have the time for this and are more involved in mass communications (advertisement, PR, DM etc). While this makes sense; larger companies are missing the opportunity being seized by the smaller players to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. There are plenty of arguments against business blogging the general agreement is that the potential benefits outweigh the pitfalls. This year I predict that we will see more larger Irish businesses harnessing self-publishing to build deeper relationships with their customers and ultimately grow revenues.

There are examples of big business making use of the self-publishing to engage more deeply with their customers and thus improve their foothold in their markets:

Novell Blog – Novell is a large technology solutions company that has a number of different blogs that all help to position them as experts in their sphere. One blog comes from the CTO and another from the CMO and two other blogs are co-authored by a number of key employees.

Palm Blog – From the people who bring us Palm Pilots, this blog is a marketing blog that provides a platform for Palm to talk about their product features, demonstrate these and highlight how others are using them.

Johnson & Johnson Blog – From the media relations team in J&J with a very good rationale – “everyone else is talking about our company, so why can’t we?” and “we will try to find a voice that often gets lost in formal communications”. Its a nice read too.