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Content Mavens: Trump Blog a Slog

The latest high-profile blogger is TV-show host and real estate mogul Donald Trump. Will he make it to the A-list?

The Trump Blog quietly went live on the Trump University Web site last week. Trump posted on August 4 and again on August 10. Other so-called A-list bloggers said the Trump blog has the potential to be widely read, but gave his initial posts a D -- and that's not D for Donald.

As blogger Rex Hammock put it, "Blogging has jumped the shark . . . No, wait, what I meant to say, a shark jumps into blogging." Hammock, president of an eponymous custom publishing company, said initial posts seemed like tests of the software, and predicted parodies if the style didn't change fast. (Jumping the shark refers to the moment when a communications medium begins to go downhill.)

Trump University opened up on May 23 with four online classes; Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Real Estate and Wealth Creation -- the latter taught by the "wealth master himself," as the course description puts it.

Trump University President Michael Sexton wouldn't disclose enrollment numbers, but he said the feedback and market reaction had been gratifying. Classes are self-paced, but have defined starting and ending times, with students working in groups of from 10 to 12 with a facilitator.

"One of the weaknesses in traditional e-learning is that people feel isolated there in front of their computers, and the completion rate is typically around 40 percent. Our completion rate is about 95 percent," he said.

Sexton said Trump had authored the blogs himself. "He isn't typing them, but he wrote them," Sexton said.

He said the company doesn't see the blog as a public relations tool, but rather as another forum for Trump to communicate with students and the rest of his audience. Sexton and university faculty also will add entries to the blog.

"We wanted a forum that was more immediate," Sexton said. "We sit with him on a weekly basis, discuss what's going on and his reactions."

But the result reads like a marketing blog for sure, said Jason Calacanis, CEO of the blog network Weblogs Inc.

"It's incredibly easy to tell if it's a legitimate blog -- unfiltered discussion between a blogger and the audience -- or marketing hype," Calacanis said. "Right now, this is PR nonsense."

Calacanis advised Trump to post entries himself, typos and all. He said fans would love to see a camera phone picture of his dinners at top New York restaurants and read off-the-cuff descriptions of running into celebrities in his condominium building. "He has a huge opportunity to communicate directly with his fan base," he said.

Posting shouldn't be too hard, even if Trump isn't cyber-savvy. Trump University is using software from iUpload that's designed to let non-technical business users create blogs.

The rich and famous Trump is doubtless used to having people pay attention to him, but his blogging would be more effective if it wasn't so one-way, said Robert Scoble, a Microsoft marketing executive who publishes the Scobleizer blog.

"So far, he's been treating it more like an essay thing. He's a bigger than life guy, so it would be very interesting to watch him pay attention to the little people. I'd tell him, 'Start a conversation with somebody you think is doing interesting things that nobody has ever heard of.' By using his bigness to point light that way, he'd get noticed and make that person's day."

Scoble said that pointing to other people's blogs would show that he's part of the conversation. He gave Trump props for leaving comments turned on.

Calacanis agreed, saying it's the give-and-take between the blogger and readers that lead to true communication and a nuanced persona for a celebrity. He said, "Trump could have one of the biggest blogs in the history of blogging, if he has the thick skin for it."

That shouldn't be a problem for The Donald.