Here I share 10 blogs (and videos, podcasts and surprises) that are so good, you’ll want to take them on vacation with you. They’re brimming with intelligent discussion and run the gamut from social media to news, culture and inspiration.
I hope you’ll enjoy them and, while you’re at it, please tell me what you’re reading this summer, whose blogs inspire you, and which podcasts you make a point of downloading.
1) TED Talks
It’s a little awkward, “attending” TED Talks at work, which makes vacation the perfect time for these short downloads of inspiration. Vacation is all about rebooting your energy and enthusiasm; think of TED as your wellspring. The site offers helpful menus to browse subjects, such as technology, entertainment, business, global issues, science and design. You can also search based on ratings – from “jaw-dropping” to “funny” or “informative.” I can think of no better way to get started than to share this talk by a young woman, who was so nervous that her knees buckled when she stepped onstage, but her passion for her subject and deep respect for the audience carried her along on a wave of enthusiasm that enveloped the crowd and made everyone breathless with excitement. You can also access your daily dose of inspiration via @tedtalks on Twitter.
Launching a blog? Have a blog – corporate or personal – that’s lost its audience along with its purpose? You need Darren Rowse. The man has an especially beneficent approach to creating blogging communities and sharing his knowledge. He believes blogs and bloggers should “do good in the world, do something heartfelt,” and he shares that philosophy on his own blog; in an instruction manual (also titled Problogger) that welcomes, guides and comforts newbie bloggers; and at social media conferences around the world. Rowse’s blog offers a wealth of resources, step-by-step guides, and immeasurable amounts of inspiration. Follow Rowse on Twitter @problogger.
3) NPR’s Monkey See Blog
I’d never subscribed to a blog until I read Linda Holmes’s posts on popular culture. This blog is what sold me, and it had everything to do with the strength of Holmes’s writing, the attitude she and others who post at Monkey See bring to the blog, and the vision she has for this medium. Holmes and Co. do not subscribe to what might be called the “King Me” view of many of the pop culturati. This worldview engenders the kind of exclusive club of insiders who know more than you ever will about the minute details of the plots of their favorite TV shows, the origin stories and bizarro world tales of superheroes, the alternate tracks that never made it onto the albums of the bands they idolize. The Monkey See bloggers don’t create divisions between experts and explorers, high art and low.
In a post on just such a divisive issue, Holmes noted: “Fun and art are natural allies (despite often appearing separately), and forcing them to do battle just divides us into tinier and tinier camps, where we can only talk to people who like precisely the same kinds of culture that we do. That benefits absolutely nobody – not artists, not audiences, and not the quality of discourse.”
Monkey See gives away the secret password, so that everyone can enter the clubhouse. And isn’t this what social media engagement, and the communities we’re hoping to engage on social media, are all about? Join the club on the NPR website, check out the Monkey See weekly podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, and follow Linda Holmes on Twitter @nprmonkeysee.
4) KD Paine’s PR Measurement Blog
Katie Delahaye Paine gets it – she understands social media, PR and corporate communications measurement like no one’s business. From strategy to tools to the science, she explains it all on her blog and in her book Measure What Matters. And she does it with a focus on understanding how and why programs perform in order to help companies save money and demonstrate ROI. Sign up for the e-newsletter and follow her on Twitter @kdpaine.
Like K.D. Paine, Tom Webster is here to make science of social media. He is not about the simple solution; he’s wary of data that’s incurious and hasn’t been tested by scientific method. On his blog, and on Twitter (@webby2001), he dissects how we use social media and everything we share there.
6) Hardly Normal
“Change only happens when we have the courage to look at ourselves and our world as it really is. When we do, we’re often brought face-to-face with pain. It’s only when we face suffering, confront it, and work to overcome it, that we experience growth,” writes Mark Horvath about his work and his blog, Hardly Normal, where he provides a robust forum – from the political to the personal – on issues that affect homeless people. Horvath also founded Invisible People TV to help the homeless tell their stories and encourage a community of viewers to act on behalf of their fellow men, women and children who need help, health care, housing and three square meals a day. This is reading and watching that inspires action. You’ll find both @hardlynormal and @invisiblepeople on Twitter.
A traditional website, rather than a blog, Ragan provides comprehensive coverage of the communications, PR and marketing professions and reports regularly on social media, too. Ragan’s free daily e-newsletter is essential reading; the organization also offers webinars, conferences and white papers to keep readers informed and educated. Follow on Twitter @MarkRaganCEO.
8) On the Media
What Wired is to technology (and all the thorny issues we have to reckon with because of technological advances), OTM is to social and traditional media (likewise thorny issue reportage). The weekly newsmagazine can be tough to find on your local public radio station’s schedule, so it’s handy that OTM is available as a podcast and even more helpful that the blog and website are updated regularly in between broadcasts.
9) The Guardian’s Books Blog
In case you want to spend your summer vacation reading things that don’t remind you of work, U.K. newspaper The Guardian’s book blog brings a world of entertaining, absorbing books to your computer or tablet. Thanks to The Guardian’s global perspective, you’ll find the latest from Asia and the Mideast reviewed alongside selections from Africa, Ireland, Oceania, Europe and the United States. Follow them @GuardianBooks on Twitter.
10) The Dinner Party Podcast
You plan to unplug this holiday, but still want to sound erudite at the Labor Day barbeque. Try this painless recap. The Dinner Party is a wry take on the news, politics, arts, sports and assorted oddities that make up the week. Its very purpose is to provide you with on-trend tidbits to make you sound like you’re tuned in, even when you’ve spent your entire vacation snoozing in the hammock.