My friend just called me. He was just talking with someone who runs a professional society. She wants to create a blog for their field and thinks he'd be perfect for it. He's never blogged, but he likes the concept. He agreed. He's going to write the blog for their field! She has all the contacts! It'll be great!
Me: Awesome. How much is she paying you?
Friend: It isn't about that. It is about the chance to influence the field.
Me: Really? How much time are you thinking of spending on this?
Friend: We know it’ll take some time. Five or ten hours a week.
Me: (laughing) Dude. You just signed on for a minimum twenty-five hour a week unpaid job. If you are doing this to reach people, want to change the dialog in your field? That's a full time job or more.
Friend: But she already has all the email lists and it will get unveiled at a big upcoming conference! It has a boost.
Me: Yep. But then they have to come back.
I've seen this a few times, where people who do not blog or read blogs think they should create blogs for some purpose. Couple years back, a respected thinktank advertised for a blogger. Every other person in their office has a Ph.D., but for the blogger they thought an undergraduate degree in Communications was enough. In addition to creating and filling the blog, the blogger was also supposed to handle IT at the office. I know they hired someone, but two years later that blog's not up yet. My friend and the person backing him have never blogged, and my guess is that they don't even read blogs. But they figure they know the topic and know people. They figure the blogging part won't be that hard.
Honestly. Blogging is a skill. We are several years into it, and it is settling out like every other endeavor. The people who do it well and last are the ones who put in work. If you see it done well somewhere, there is a lot of thought and attention behind that. In fact, you should probably estimate that it takes as much work to blog well as it does to do anything well. If you do not think you could draw well, or take professional photographs, or design dresses well without learning how and putting lots of time into it, then you should not think you can blog well without putting time in. The very good subject matter blogs are done by professionals now. There are some natural bloggers, but there are also no barriers to entry. If you're a natural, I suspect you're already blogging.
I'm not quite sure why people who aren't a part of blogland respect it so little that they think it can be done casually. It must not look like work to them. “What? You put up a couple links to some stuff and you write something short and catchy sometimes. Every now and then you write a long essay. You coin catchphrases. I think brilliant thoughts all day long. You just write them down. How much work can it be?” The answer, if you want to run a serious blog that is a major participant in the conversation is, a lot. You are crafting a body of work in public. It is real work.
But here's the most important part. Non-bloggers and non-blogreaders never get this. The only thing that can keep you going is if you feel the call. If you are not driven to write by something within, you can't write a good blog1. If you are driven to write, but not pulled to the blog format, you probably won't write a good blog either. You won't write an influential blog, that's for sure. Readers can tell and they have instantaneous easy exit at every second. The form requires too much small constant effort to fake. I see it all the time, journalists think they know about daily deadlines and writing, so they'll just cross over. People with big names want a new way to influence thought. Even if they're used to writing, they drop out. You specifically want to blog or you can't do it for long.
So, no. I don't think just anyone can blog. I think only people who want to blog can blog2. If you do want to, you can, no matter where you're starting from. In some ways, you should. Blogging for a while will strengthen your voice and clear your thought and help your writing. In other ways, even if you do it well, you won't get that much from it in the end. You’ll have a portfolio of pieces that don’t translate well to other things, a record of a time of your life, a better sense of yourself, and relationships with good people out in the world. You might change some minds or help someone3, but you aren't guaranteed to find out if you do. It might help you professionally, maybe. Really, though? For all the effort it takes, the results are pretty intangible. Doing it, the writing itself, is most of the reward you will ever experience.
I will try to tell my friend this, that he's got to want the writing part and enjoy the work part, since that’s the only part of blogging that is a sure thing. I'll help him with the software and set-up; I'll give him as much advice as he wants. But I'm also going to tell him that he better want it the same way he’d want to play a sport or take up a hobby. If he doesn't, all the connections and support in the world aren't going to make his blog interesting. Readers aren't going to be more interested in his blog than he is. That's not how it works.