Robert Scoble: Life After Microsoft

 
 
By Edward Cone  |  Posted 2006-10-02 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Q&A: By blogging for the world's largest software company, he changed the way companies communicate with the world and became an industry celebrity in the process. Now Robert Scoble is ready to talk about what he learned inside the belly of the bea

Robert Scoble has earned a place in the history of corporate communications. Starting at Microsoft Corp. in 2003, he became the first high-profile blogger within a large business, ushering in a new era of interaction among companies, customers, critics and the general public. Using his blog, called Scobleizer, and now-familiar tools such as podcasts, RSS and Web video, he helped give Microsoft a human face.
Though knocked by critics as just another tool of the marketing department, Scobles blog showed some genuine independence.
He touted cool products from Apple and criticized Microsofts censorship of a Chinese blogger. People paid attention. By the time he resigned this spring, Microsoft had more than 3,000 blogs (both internal and accessible to the public), and the phrase "enterprise 2.0" was well on its way to becoming a cliché. Scoble had become a brand unto himself, with more than 20,000 subscribers to his Scobleizer blog and a much-hyped book, "Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers," co-authored with Shel Israel (John Wiley & Sons, 2006).
Quite a heady experience for a guy with a low-glamour background in trade publishing and conference organizing. Scoble got turned onto blogging while organizing a tech conference for publisher Fawcette in 2000. "I was looking for the new trends, and Dave Winer and Dori Smith [both programmers, writers and seminal bloggers] pointed me to blogs," he says. "I didnt think it was interesting enough to do a conference session on, but they did talk me into starting one myself." His big break came when a Microsoft executive who read Scobleizer suggested that he work for the company. Through it all, Scoble has maintained the same regular-guy persona that made him—and business blogging—such a hit in the first place. Yet his latest career move (he is now a vice president at PodTech, a Silicon Valley startup that produces Web video and audio programming) raises some questions about the personality-driven model of corporate relations that he pioneered: What happens when the enterprise blogger turns into a star and then leaves? Scoble spoke with Senior Writer Edward Cone about the tools that are changing communications inside and outside the enterprise. An edited version of their conversation follows. CIO Insight: What was the value of your blog at Microsoft? Obviously the public relations benefit was there, but did it make any real impact on the products and culture of the company? Scoble: It allowed Microsoft to demonstrate that it was listening. Listening is more than PR. You get some PR value, but if you dont improve the product at the end of the day, people figure out you are not really listening. It will take a couple of years to see the benefits, but we got it started. We used blog-search engines to find anyone who wrote the word "Microsoft" on their blog. Even if they had no readers and were just ranting, "I hate Microsoft," I could see that and link to it, or I could participate in their comments, or send them an e-mail saying, "Whats going on?" And that told those people that someone was listening to their rants, that this is a different world than the one in which no one listens. It was an invaluable focus group that Microsoft didnt have to pay for. Read the full story on CIOInsight.com: Robert Scoble: Life After Microsoft Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management from CIOInsight.com.
 
 
 
 
Senior Writer and author of the Know It All blog

Ed Cone has worked as a contributing editor at Wired, a staff writer at Forbes, a senior writer for Ziff Davis with Baseline and Interactive Week, and as a freelancer based in Paris and then North Carolina for a wide variety of magazines and papers including the International Herald Tribune, Texas Monthly, and Playboy. He writes an opinion column in his hometown paper, the Greensboro News & Record, and publishes the semi-popular EdCone.com weblog. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa, two kids, and a dog.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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