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Marketing class explores potential of blogs

2 p.m., June 1, 2005--So, you think you might like having a chinchilla as a pet? Want to talk about the Yankees’ chances for the pennant this year? Interested in the latest news and reviews of Japanese cars? Or, maybe you’re in the market for an engagement ring or a yoga class.

For a mix of information, opinion and chat on all these topics, and approximately 80 others, you can turn to a new resource—student-produced blogs that were created as part of a business administration class. The spring semester class, “Information Technology Applications in Marketing,” required students to create their own blogs, or personal web logs, on a topic of their choice.

“We asked the students to choose topics they were passionate about, not just interested in,” Anu Sivaraman, assistant professor of marketing, said. “We think that passion is reflected in the work they have done, which is on a par with some of the best blogs I’ve seen anywhere.”

Blogs are a recent addition to the curriculum in the Lerner College of Business and Economics, Sivaraman said, reflecting the fact that they are becoming an increasingly important marketing tool. She taught the course this spring with Alex Brown, an instructor in marketing.

Blogs are known to many Internet surfers either as personal journals in which the writers detail the often-mundane aspects of their life or as unedited forums in which bloggers can express—the word “rant” is sometimes used—their opinions on a variety of political topics and conspiracy theories.

But, blogs also are being used by established businesses to reach audiences informally and to counter negative publicity from mainstream media or other blogs. Business Week magazine, in a recent article titled “Blogs Will Change Your Business,” reported that 9 million blogs exist on the Internet, with 40,000 new ones being created daily.

The article, which also served as the magazine’s introduction of its own blog, called the new communications tool “simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself.” It noted that companies are hiring people to monitor blogs to learn what is being said about their own businesses and about their competitors, as well as to create blogs.

“Because blogs are being used more and more in business, we thought it was time that our students get trained in this field,” Sivaraman said. “It’s a very marketable skill to have when you go for that first job interview.”

Students created their blogs from scratch, adding links to other web sites, photos, animation and an assortment of other enhancements. Sivaraman said the 85 students in the class also saw the project as a community-building exercise, in which their classmates and others from throughout the University could add their own comments, ask questions or participate in online discussions about the blog’s topic.

Sivaraman said she and Brown were surprised at the quality and the diversity of the blogs. Topics included cigarette smoking, supporting those in the military, weightlifting, music and movie reviews, a guide to local restaurants and the woes of graduation and job-hunting.

Many of the students said they plan to maintain and update their sites during the summer as a way to stay in touch with the campus community, Sivaraman said.

The blogs can be viewed at the class web site, [www.buad477.blogspot.com].

Article by Ann Manser

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