'Blogging' failed to challenge mainstream media

'Blogging' failed to challenge mainstream media

Summary: When it first emerged, blogging was considered revolutionary and would result in armies of citizen journalists revealing misdeeds in government and commerce...

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

Om Malik, publisher of GigaOm, recently posted some thoughts about his 12 years of blogging and he came to the conclusion that blogs today are where he can aggregate all his fractured expressions across the web: Instagram photos, articles, comments, and whimsical musings.

But he writes, “The concept of blogging as we knew it has lost some of its meaning and even a bit of meaningfulness.” It certainly has and Om is being too gentle in his criticism because blogging has fallen very far from the promise it once had, and in attaining real meaningfulness.

I started blogging in mid-2004 when I left my job as Technology Correspondent at the Financial Times to become a journalist-blogger. At the time I didn’t know I was the first newspaper journalist to leave his job journalist to become a professional “blogger.” I did it because I felt something fundamental had changed in the media industry and that it wouldn’t be the same again, the media jobs would not come back, and the media business model had seismically shifted.

I wasn’t  sure what I was doing since I had never blogged before. This was when Om was still working his day job at Business 2.0 magazine and I remember at the time that he was very much an evangelist for blogging, urging me to start. 

Dave Galbraith, co-founder of Moreover and Yelp was also urging me to start blogging. I was thinking what is it? I already write five news stories a day plus news analysis and features during the week, blogging can’t be much different. So I left my newspaper job to become a blogger even though I had never blogged before.

Om and Dave were right about blogging, and its importance. I started to see blogging as an incredible superset of all other media.

I found that I could write stories in the same way as at the Financial Times, same interviews, news analysis; but I could also write those 3am posts that played with ideas and even the format of the text, hiding hyperlinks inside a period; writing stories that had text hidden in the source code of the page; playing with it because I could and because of the wonderful flexibility of the medium.

It was intoxicating because I could be creative and innovative in ways that no one had considered before, and that’s still true today. Digital media is an incredibly innovative space.

My Homebrew Club…

Back in 2004 there was a very small blogging community and I was suddenly part of it. They became my “Homebrew Club,” people like Robert Scoble, Dave Winer, Om Malik, Dave Galbraith, Gabe Rivera, Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton, Dan Farber, Steve Gillmor, Chris Pirillo, Shel Israel, Shel Holtz, Jeremiah Owyang, Dan Farber, Doc Searls, Rene Blodgett, Anil Dash, Steve Gillmor, Dan Gillmor, Ross Mayfield, Jeff Jarvis, Mike Arrington,  Scott Beale, Craig Newmark, Marc Canter, Stowe Boyd, John Furrier, John Battelle, Richard MacManus, JP Rangaswami, Richard Edelman, Steve Rubel, Jeff Clavier, Jeff Nolan, Loic Le Meur, Loren Feldman, Andy Lark, Sam Whitmore, Nick Carr, Danny Sullivan, JD Lassica, Charlene Li, Dennis Howlett, and more (see my Twitter “Original Thinkers” list and a description here).

There was much excitement in the air, there was a palpable sense of change, that big changes were about to happen. 

A media meritocracy

There was a widespread belief that blogging would become a serious challenge to the establishment and its control of ideas, that the blogging movement was intrinsically revolutionary, that it would disrupt everything, and it would topple mass media.  

Armies of of citizen journalists would arise and in their vigilance they would make transparent all government and corporate misdeeds. The hated gatekeepers of mass media would be swept away and their censorship of the truth would be vanquished.

Sadly, things turned out differently. Blogging, and other forms of social media, became mostly amplifiers of establishment ideas, a place for people to share links to mass media content.  Social media became social distribution of mass media (SoDOMM). 

And now with the trend toward paid traffic, it’s even worse because money speaks loudest and free speech becomes worthless when no one can hear it, unless someone paid for the traffic.

[The disruption of the media industry is solely due to the devaluation of its business model by low cost advertising by Google, and other technology-enabled media companies — and not because of blogging, or any other social media.]

There used to be a strong camaraderie among the early blog sites and bloggers, yet today, they don’t even link to each other. 

All the blogs/news sites look alike, they look like the mainstream media they were once trying to disrupt. 

We should bring back blogging and some of those early ideals. And bring back the fun and the variety of writing styles. There’s a lot of mainstream-looking media to disrupt.



Topic: Emerging Tech

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  • Almost right

    Blogging has lost some of it's meaningfulness BECAUSE of it's meritocracy - any Joe with a computer can be a blogger.

    People don't want to sift through the tons of garbage for the few good nuggets.

    I know I have about 3 different blogs, and I know a lot of people who do as well. The proliferation of bloggers has devalued the industry. If I hear someone is a blogger, I immediately think it's because they can't get paid for their writing (I know it's not always true, but it quite often is).

    Not unlike the explosion of Podcasts, because the people doing them can't get regular TV or radio work (again, not always true, but...)
    • Meritocracy is not equality...

      The best blogs rose to the top of people's rss feeds because of consistent quality and by developing a unique personality. That's the meritocracy. Just because someone has a blog doesn't mean they have readers and that was true back then as it is now. But I agree that there's more to sift through to find the good stuff these days but when you do, you tend to stick to it.
      Tom Foremski
  • e-Narcissism

    We all touted blogs as a vehicle for sharing ideas; but it's really just a ""Here's what I think that" fest.
  • You must just read left-wing blogs

    Wow. It is really difficult to understand how you could come to this conclusion. Demand for mainstream media, particularly newspapers has cratered. Look at what the Little Green Footballs blog by Charles Johnson did during the Lebanon-Israel conflict from a few years back to show that photos being published by mainstream media were clearly photoshopped, and to show that pictures being used by Hezbollah to gain sympathy were clearly staged. Charles has proven later to be a certifiable lunatic, but he had a good run. Look at what Michelle Malkin is doing, and Pajamas Media, and Glenn Beck. The Right has a lively Internet-based alternative to the agenda-driven left-wing mainstream media.

    In terms of true citizen journalism, yeah, there is an extremely low signal to noise ratio. But citizens with jobs don't have the time or resources to do the work that needs to be done. The agenda-driven left-wing kook-fringe media just reprints talking points; no need for journalism. But the wheat has separated itself from the chaff on the Right in a number of cases.
    • Citizen journalists...

      ...have a day job. Yes, indeed, and that's why I never sunscribed to the notion that they would replace the professional media, the press corp. who's job it is to write and report every day, whether they feel like it or not.

      However, the broad belief ten years ago was that mainstream media would be toppled by the blogging movement, instead it is getting toppled by search engine marketing taking away its advertising revenues.
      Tom Foremski
      • Work.

        "Armies of citizen journalists would arise and in their vigilance they would make transparent all government and corporate misdeeds."

        This idea is rooted in the same faith in mankind as many of the '60s warm fuzzy movements. It fell apart when the masses discovered that being a journalist is work, at least if you're going to do it properly.
    • re: You must just read left-wing blogs

      A little off-topic but I just want to remark here that this left-right thing is just stupid. I will never understand, even if science has an explanation for it, why many people believe messages in the media they agree with are the truth, and other messages are "agenda-driven kook-fringe."

      The fact of the matter is if they are political messages they all are agenda-driven, and they all are kook-fringe to someone.

      Doesn't anyone know how to think any more?
      none none
      • -GASP- An intelligent, thinking, being on the internet? EGAD!

        Where have you been hiding?!
        • You don't know "none none"

      • There is a big difference between opionions and facts, and messages based

        on facts are not opinions.

        The facts can rest on themselves. Opinions that have no backing with the truth, is where the left-right discussion or fights come from.

        You may not like it, but the fact is that, there are opinions which become fact to many, if they are uttered often enough. On the other hand, a fact is something that can become a lie, if someone decides that they can't deal with it, and then work hard to attack the truth. That is where the left and the right diverge.

        The left depends upon lies and demagoguing of the truth within the issues. The right will often try the same trickery, but with the left, it's a matter of life and death for their positions on the issues, if the truth were to be left untouched.

        Your point sounds reasonable, until one investigates further into your stance on the issues. You are a liberal to the utmost degree. You are one of those that can't stand to hear a republican point of view. You have no credibility whatsoever in trying to sound "reasonable".
  • It's not just blogs.

    Go to CNN.com or any similar sites and look at the comments to most stories. 1000+ comments isn't unusual, and many of the comments have nothing to do with the story. Someone will criticize a pro-left or pro-right position that has nothing to do with the story and the whole thread goes completely off topic.

    The problem is that with no "quality" filter, it's like standing in a stadium and asking "So, what do you think about (topic)?" Everybody's talking, nobody's listening. So what difference does it make if you *do* express an opinion?
    • Always tough being heard...

      I don't see the point in commenting when theres so many comments on a story. However, I'm thinking more about community groups, local organizations, charities, schools, etc that are trying to get attention to key issues, problems and the local town councils, where media coverage is almost non-existent yet people need to know what's going on around them. They won;t see it in their news feeds, etc, even if someone "blogs it" because increasingly Google, Facebook, etc, won't distribute the links, or headlines, widely, unless it's paid for by those organizations. It's GOOG/FB's traffic and they have shareholders, and that means they don't have any responsibilities to be a news source to a community. Where is that community service that was once performed by local media going to come from?
      Tom Foremski
      • There are solutions to the problem...

        and I have some ideas about how to make blogs, and the regular media co-exist, while getting the news and information and opinions to the people.

        BTW, there is nothing wrong with getting paid for hard work of being a blogger or reporter or opinion-writer. It can be done, and the people don't have to pay. In fact, the people paying for the privilege of getting the information to the people, should be the people creating the content, but the content creators, if they're worth anything, could end up being compensated very nicely. The idea I have in mind would not use Google to rank pages, but would use Google and Bing and whatever other advertising resources are out there, to get value to the bloggers and mass media content providers.