Not the revolution, per se

Kevin Drum has a thoughtful extended post about Billmon's column in the LA Times today that is worth a read. Billmon takes a pretty straight "if it hasn't already, the blogosphere is due for some big time selling out". Kevin, in response, says, yes, yes, and so?

I think there are a few major reasons why we shouldn't fear the corruption and decline of the blogosphere quite so soon, many of which closely overlap with Kevin's.

1) What do you mean by "blog" anyhow? Just because the top bloggers have now enetered a realm where their popularity might bring them into the orbit of unwelcome influence doesn't mean regular people can't blog anymore. In fact, it only means more people will become aware of the format and try it. To suggest that one category of discouse we call "blog" is on its way out is to overestimate the medium, which is really very simple.

2) Certain blogs are popular not because they're blogs. The reason that a handful of blogs have achieved the dangerous popularity which Billmon describes is not some maturation of the blogosphere. Rather, it is a quite natural outgrowth of the Internetization of news junkie-ism. The reason why certain blogs are attaining mainstream cred is because they fill a niche in the Internet news universe.

Regular newspapers, while still the center of that universe because they are the ones that can actually supply new information from, um, the real world, move too slowly for the million or so people that keep an Internet explorer window open all day, trying to get a constant fix of news and debate. Their op-ed columns only appear once every 24 hours, and there's no guarantee they will follow the story you're interested in, especially when you're checking back 3 hours after the initial news story was posted. Cable news made a valiant try, but ultimately it was just too stupid, shallow and boring to satisfy an over-educated audience. So, this is the space that the top punditry blogs fill, and it has a lot more to do with making a faster more efficient op-ed column than it does with any high minded blogoshpere ideals.

3) Blog cachet is next to impossible to replicate. We should know, we've been watching as newspapers and other media big and small have tried to replicate the blog as a way of drawing people to their sites. Still, the only successful blogs are ones that do have their own reputation or unique pull. Name me the vacuous coroprate blog that has made it big at the expense of good taste. The audience for blogs is by definition the neurotic news junkie population, and these people are not in the game for whatever's on. Thus, the danger that blogs will be bought and turned towards corporate ends is still great. But I have trouble seeing how a corporate master could degrade and defang the content of these blogs too much before they lose their appeal and the news junkies head elsewhere.

As Kevin concludes, the greatest danger to big-time bloggers is from themselves. They will have to maintain diligence that their own opinions don't succumb to increased pressures. And thankfully, journalism has well worn ethical standards with which to approach these questions. In a medium that turns utterly on how distinctive the writer's personality is, bloggers will confront those debates with a leg up.


Post a Comment

<< Home