Wall Street: 'Blogs insignificant'

Wall Street: 'Blogs insignificant'

Summary: In response to my column about monoculture and podcasting, a reporter from a nationally known news organization contacted me for more details in hopes of determining whether a special report on blogging, RSS-type syndication, podcasting, social networking, and monoculture (all interrelated) might be worthwhile.

TOPICS: Browser
In response to my column about monoculture and podcasting, a reporter from a nationally known news organization contacted me for more details in hopes of determining whether a special report on blogging, RSS-type syndication, podcasting, social networking, and monoculture (all interrelated) might be worthwhile. After a phone interview and several e-mails, the reporter checked with her source in the financial sector (a source that probably makes his living sizing up the investment significance of technology) and wrote back to me:

"His perception is that the blogger phenomenon is insignificant, making podcasting negligible. What do you think?"

The analyst said that the number of people engaged in the blogosphere was too small to be noteworthy.

In exchange for a promise not to say who the reporter was or what outfit she worked for, I asked if she wouldn't mind if I also republished my response as a blog entry -- and she agreed. Feel free to comment with your own evidence; the reporter is watching. Here's a cleaned-up version (with some additional material that wasn't in my original reponse) of what I said:

"I disagree. This sounds like the TV executives who initially said the Internet wasn't going to affect their business. A few weeks ago, I caught a broadcast of 48 Hours or 20/20 or one of those TV news magazines, and they were interviewing these kids who said they watched TV, but that their primary source of electronic entertainment was the Internet. It's no secret now that -- years after the Web and instant messaging showed up -- the established media is losing audience minutes to the Internet.

Let's look at blogging. Bloggers like Robert Scoble, Dan Gillmor (formerly of the San Jose Mercury News),and Doc Searls are getting some serious attention. Ask yourself, where is their traffic coming from? Clearly, the people frequenting those personalities were doing something else before blogging came along. Now ask yourself, why is almost every major media organization running RSS feeds? Because RSS is the new killer app of the Web. It is a major content consumption channel and, as with the Web, those media organizations know they can't beat it, so they joined it. Blogs are stealing the time of their audience members. Every minute I spend reading Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz's blog is one less minute I spend looking at CNN.com, some other site, or my television.

Now, not only do these media organizations have RSS feeds (CNN just launched its RSS feeds), many of them also have bloggers. And the political conventions had bloggers. If blogging is so insignificant, why are major executives like Jonathan Schwartz and GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz doing it? Or why is Harvard running conferences on it? Or what about the official blog of the Kerry Edwards campaign? How can anyone say that blogs are insignificant?

As to the negligence of podcasting, well, I agree that podcasting is in an embryonic stage. But negligible? Is that how we should have assessed the Web in 1993? Podcasting is the audio Web. Podcasting got its start barely five months ago and already WGBH is podcasting "The Morning Stories" and WNYC is podcasting "On The Media" and there are so many other quality podcasts on specific topics of interest to focused demographics. For example, Tim Bourquin's Endurance Radio for endurance athletes has interviews with Olympic gold medalists and has sponsorship from Gatorade. How perfect is that? An athlete can use their iPod or MP3 player to listen to relevant content about endurance sports while training? So convinced is Bourquin of podcasting's importance that he's starting a conference called "Podcast & Portable Media Expo" that will launch in November. Imagine that! Since August 2004, with literally no technology support from the vendor community, podcasting has taken off, having gone from 300 Google results in October to over 1 million today (1,070,000 when I last checked), and from zero podcasts last summer to over 2,000 now."

Obviously, there's so much more that could have been said that I didn't have the time to say. For example, after being "Scobleized," Microsoft's JobsBlog netted 6,000 applicants and 55 hires. Or perhaps the same financial community that pushed Google's stock price through the roof is in disagreement with that same company's acquisition of blog infrastructure provider Pyra Labs (Blogger.com). Are you outraged? Particularly at the notion that blogging is insignificant? Must have been a mistake. Or, maybe you're in ZDNet reader Randy Geise's camp. Said Geise in an e-mail to me:

I thought your article was a little ahead of its time. Other than techies and geeks, very few even know what blogs are. Even fewer know what RSS is. And even fewer have ever heard of podcasting. You need to venture out into the real world once in awhile.

Either way, feel free to chime in. A reporter is watching.

Topic: Browser

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  • Blogs, blogs, blogs

    The underlying premise or concept of blogs have been around as long as man has been able to write! The "diary" form is just the beginning. I got introduced to podcasting a week or so ago. I suspect that P2P will devolve into blogging files back and forth. I think that the real significance of blogging is that if you can get whatever it is you want to share into a digital format, you'll be able to post it and share it. Digital communication and expression can now be done by the masses and not just programmers and Inet geeks. That is the underlying reason the Internet was originally created and not by Al Gore! Now its individuals, organizations, advertisers, political hucksters, religious etc that are doing the file sharing. So in many ways the Internet has finally begun to develop into the fullest expression of the original system designers back in the late sixties and early seventies. From somebody who had to maintain a "phone-book" of IP addresses, I can tell you that the second most significant creation on the Internet was DNS!
  • 'Significant'

    What does 'significant' mean, anyway? You focus on the handful of bloggers that have achieved significant traffic on their own. BFD. The real story is not the AUDIENCE for A-List bloggers but the level of PARTICIPATION in blogging by the ordinary schmuck. Blogger, Movable Type, publications like Salon offering blogging tools and space, et al. Blogging won't compete for eyeballs with mass media by going head to head for mass audience. It'll do it by allowing people to develop and serve their own micromarkets: Jeff Jarvis' example is the "all New Jersey high school wrestling channel." That commenter above who mentions his church's blog is onto this, too. As the blogosphere grows, there's more and more likelihood that there are stamp collectors with a passion for Romanian air mail stamps out there blogging. What the blogosphere needs to be 'significant' are public utilities that would make it easy for me to find my fellow Romanian air mail phreaks.

    The Technorati 100 is a loser. It's an advertising gimmick. But the Technorati search engine is moving in the right direction: I can search for bloggers who write about keywords that lead me to members of my micromarket: "New Jersey" +"wrestling" or "Proust" +"fan club" or "Wiccan" +"nudist" +"stockbroker".

    Podcasting won't take off if there's no incentive to do it, and the best incentive is the knowledge that if I podcast about the contemporary New York punk rock scene, there's a Web site that can attract users and route the Gotham punkers to me. Blogging will be signficant if it can match readers to writers in micromarkets like these. It's lonely being the only nudist Wiccan stockbroker in my town. Surely there must be others like me?
  • What galls is that the podcasters are opportunists...

    ... trying to claim credit for something that's not only a tinily incremental twist on an old idea, but that would have happened anyway entirely without their help.

    All they've done is invent a too-clever name that evokes the Kewlness Symbol du jour, the iPod; there can be little doubt that as a form of blogging as we currenty know blogging, "podcasting" is a niche phenomenon and always will be, for reasons that have been exhaustively gone over elsewhere.

    What Berlind's talking about, for the most part, IS NOT PODCASTING; it's downloadable media. Nothing new. Old as multimedia on the 'net, in fact, which is to say it's OLDER THAN THE WEB. The ONLY thing that's new is the automated insertion of "podcasted" audio onto people's mass-storage audio players. Again, I would be extremely, extremely surprised if that wasn't happening before Curry or Winer or whoever's claiming credit for it this week invented the word "podcasting."

    BTW, if you're looking to RSS for the real future, here, you're looking in the wrong place. Look up. That's where Apple will be looking next: To the satellites....
  • Looking for a few good journalists to do their job

    I wrote the following as a blog comment, apparently about 15 minutes before the comment feature was discontinued in favor of "Talkback". So the comment was buried. Here it is, resurrected because I feel the points are being overlooked:

    Blogging may not be insignificant, but it's clearly too soon to tell whether it's the next paradigm shift. I worry that I'm wasting a lot of my time tracking it.

    On the plus side, <b>there are real news and opinion blogs written by people who know their subject</b>, are fair and impartial in their research and coverage, and take the time to get it right. Keith Olbermann ("Bloggerman") is awesome.

    On the negative side, <b>the signal to noise ratio is very low when you consider the blogosphere as a whole.</b> Any wacko with a strong opinion can start a blog - and many do. Even in the case of the more established and reputable bloggers, it seems to me that the internet format encourages a higher level of speculation and opinion than would be appropriate for general broadcast.

    And I don't know about other readers here, but <b>I'm struggling with practical use of RSS.</b> There's still a lot of wading through articles to do, the readers are very primitive, and developers keep trying to tie RSS back to things like targeted advertising and personal organizer tools. Dudes, I just wanted something that looked like an extra mail feed. I responded to a blog entry on ZDnet a few weeks ago that talked about RSS and laid out some concerns about the protocol that I believe are still valid. We need something better.

    Podcasting is significant in one sense. <b>If a lot of content providers go the route of podcasting, it'll be a gross disservice to the Internet community</b>. I don't know about the rest of you, but I flat out don't have the time to listen to everything. Thank God for Google! Thanks also to reporters who conduct interviews and boil down the content to the paragraph or two I really want to know. David (Berlind), your inaugural podcast was a great example. Loved the music, hated the ~30 minutes of time it cost me, and wished the interview with the MS guy (whose name I forget and cannot find in a print summary of the podcast) had been reduced to one or two pages of print. <b>We all read a lot faster and more comprehensively than we listen.</b>

    Did anyone "hear" that?
    • so much for markup, too!

      And it's a real shame that Talkback does not allow text markup the way the previous blog comment feature did! So much for including links or emphasizing key points.