October 20, 2004

Blogvergence, or: The Revolution Will Be Establishmentified

A great number of people have commented on the recent article "The Revolution will be commercialized" on Jason Kotke's site, but I thought, hey, what do I think about it?

First off, in this age of Adsense, the actual presence of an ad on a webpage should be considered a given, not a surprise. A much more interesting number would be the number of the top 100 blogs that have advertising in their feeds, not their page content.

As you may know, Engadget has been running ads for some Bose ipod craptraption in its feed (I don't like Bose's products, marketing or legal tactics, but that's a later, longer post, perhaps on my friend Michael's site as he has more experience dealing with that company.) At the recent BlogOn conference where I spoke many of the talks and discussions centered around monetization of feeds and weblogs.

I have to say that I found the whole topic of monetization of blogs leaves me kind of bored. I know that this is all very exciting, and money, and all that. Don't get me wrong, I like and could use some extra money, who couldn't? But isn't all this feed ad talk really just converging on regular syndication?

For instance, what is a blog with an ad? How is it different from the new York times, or cnn.com , which is just reporters writing stories with ads around them. What is a podcast with an Ad? It's radio.

Then, I ask and answer, How are weblogs any different (note I said different, not better or worse)

  • They're outside the current power structure:

    The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the rest don't pick who do or do not get to blog. Thank god for that. That said, we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that there is no controlling power structure in the sphere o' blogs. I'm not saying it is bad or good, but it is what it is.

    For instance, I know people read this blog, but the immediacy that I enjoyed when I was an author for Slashdot isn't there and won't be for some time, if ever. Right now I'd be surprised if more than 200 people read this site when I post. I'm okay with this, I'm doing my blog for my own reasons (See title :-).

    That said, you can be guaranteed that there is a blog that is read by maybe just the author and his friends that is more cogent, informed and follows the rules of grammar and spelling better than any of those top 100. You can be guaranteed that there are likely thousands of unknown blogs that fall into this category, trying to break through into the public consciousness. Some will, some won't, that's the nature of media.

  • They aren't held to the same kind of scrutiny

    Most blogs don't report to an editorial staff, a legal department, an advertising department or a ombudsman. Many blogs have a very broken relationship with the truth. You might say: "But Chris, CNN and/or Fox News lies all the time!", and I'd say that in fact suing those organizations for libel is a practical way of attacking the problem of Fox/CNN libeling you, but the only thing you can do to effectively fight perception problems in blogs is to blog yourself, comment on other blogs etc... one might say that suing bloggers is an effective remedy, but I'd disagree. (More on that in a later column...)

  • They're a bit more portable:

    This is the only real difference in my mind, I can take blogs with me more often than not. Despite my current aggregation love affair with Bloglines, offline readers are legion and work quite well. Some bloggers don't do full posts in feeds, but enough do that it's not awful to read them this way.

    Podcasting is like this as well.

  • They're more immediate:

    No New York Times/CNN can be faster than the distributed madness that is the internet. No new York Times/CNN/Fox can be as wrong as the internet.

  • They're more personally liable and accountable:

    This is interesting in that I'm basically contradicting my earlier post. I'm okay with that. In theory the corporate shell that protects a Bill O'Reilly or a Dan Rather doesn't exist for a prominent blogger, so in a way, their are more personally vulnerable.

    This isn't a good thing, mind you, as people could be easily intimidated into self censure, something that the powerful love. I think that this will become a big issue over the next year, someone will get sued, then a year or so on, they'll lose a lot of money/their house/etc, and then some enterprising insurance company will come up with blogging insurance or something related, which will just be "traditional" media liability insurance in new clothes.

  • They bring expertise to the conversation:

    This is the very good thing that I think is truly different about blogs when compared to the regular media. The fact is that when it comes to truly technical topics, whether it is commentary on the gritty details of information technology, biology, medicine, finance or art, there are only so many people in large media organizations that have the background to even begin to write about a topic.

    In fact, there is one magazine that pulls it off in the sciences, and that's science news (which is so worth the subscription). In the blog world, the same people in a field can write about what they're up to. The world need not rely on the Mossbergs, the Markoffs or the Ira Flatows for all their science reporting needs. Don't read this as a slam of those three, I mostly really like their work, but they can't compete with the actually scientist at his or her most lucid.

    Anyhow, just some random thoughts about the nature of media. More later...

    Chris DiBona
    Location: Mountain View, Ca
    Post Via: Blogger Interface.
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