Editor's note: Welcome to the forty-second in our regular weekly series of PowerBlog Reviews of business weblogs.
Opportunity Wales is a blog serving small and medium sized businesses, (SMEs), which make up 99.9% of the businesses in Wales. The site is a European-funded initiative designed to help SMEs with eCommerce.
The blog was launched in the spring of 2003 and is one section of a larger site. Anyone can register to post on the blog. The site gets registered users from all over the world.
This is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill blog. It is unusual, even unique, in several ways.
First, it is bilingual, with most of it written in both English and Welsh. The bilingual aspect is a legal requirement in Wales. As Paul Squires, the Head of Web Services, tells me:
"...our site is almost completely bilingual in terms of original content - several thousand pages. This makes our site one of the largest Welsh-language sites on the Internet. Where we don't translate is in content sourced externally - including Weblog entries written by users. This is due to both resource impact our side, and the possibility that certain mannerisms (inflections, humour, slang etc) that one uses everyday in English may be mis-interpreted in Welsh - or indeed vice-versa. We overcome this by our 'Best of the Weblog' which is a commentary on the best postings each week, which we write up in both languages.
Another unusual attribute is that the weblog engine was built completely from scratch -- something you don't see everyday. The weblog was also a finalist in the UK government Web awards 2003 and finalist in the Information Management Awards 2003.
So, whilst the interface of the Weblog can be swapped around, we leave it to the user to decide what they want to write and in what language, and then round up the best stuff in a commentary style for everyone to read each week in both English and Welsh."
A third unique factor is how precisely targeted a niche blog it is. The site is designed for Welsh SMEs located in special development zones, who want to learn more about eCommerce strategies. Reading this site you have no doubt who the target audience is. The target audience is rarely so clear on other blogs.
Yet as targeted as the blog is to Welsh businesses, at the same time the site opens up a new world to non-Welsh readers. Through the blog, readers outside of Wales can learn about Wales and the Welsh language. The site operates as a kind of online ambassador, helping spread news and information about Welsh culture, language and business.
A notable feature of the weblog -- and one of the best features in my opinion -- is the section entitled "Using Weblogs in Business." This is an 8-page resource section describing how small businesses can use blogs. This section of the site gives specific examples. It helps SMEs get up to speed quickly on business blogs. For anyone wanting to know how to leverage a business blog for their business, this section is a must read.
The Opportunity Wales blog is maintained in Abercynon, Wales, about 15 miles north of the capital city of Cardiff.
The Power: Opportunity Wales proves that a blog can be used to serve a niche audience and at the same time introduce the world to that niche audience, its culture and its language.