Editorial: Blogs and work should be mixed

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Blog this: Blogs are not a waste of time. Advertising Age's cover story last week asserted that U.S. workers in 2005 collectively will "waste" the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs unrelated to work. The article's premise is dead-on: Blog reading is sapping employee time. But enlightened employers need to recognize the value they get when staffers are engaged in the world of business and the world of life.

Wired News last week noted employers' growing use of security filters to block access to blogs. That's a flawed idea. Employers need to recognize the new world: If you restrict blogs, instant messaging and other tools of open communication, you won't get the best people. These people aren't time wasters. They are incredibly networked people who develop solutions to your problems from an enormous knowledge base.

This point is doubly important to marketers and old-line media companies: Open communication is the marketing weapon of the near future, and these engaged employees will plug your company in.

Let employees read the damn blogs, do their IMing and visit ESPN.com, Amazon.com and Citibank.com-as long as they deliver. Blog reading and posting should be a way of life at work-job-relevant blogs preferred and promoted, but other blogs acceptable as long as they don't get in the way.

All blogs aren't created equal. Fleshbot (the No. 3 blog earlier this year in unique visitors, according to ComScore) is off limits. Reading personal blogs is a lousy use of time if it gets in the way of getting the job done. Employees shouldn't be posting business plans, new-product plans or other crucial, confidential documents; employees who do so should be fired for their stupidity. Employees who spend too much time blogging and too little time working should be fired for performance.

But if companies really want to cut staff, maybe a good place to start is with executives stuck in a 20th century mind-set (regardless of age). For companies trying to plot the future, narrow-minded thinking is a far bigger problem than work time spent reading blogs.

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