Monday, February 20, 2006

Blogging is dead. Go back to the 6pm news.

There has been a bit of wishful thinking out there in LeftyLand; hoping that blogs, like all other voices besides theirs, would just go away. Nosomuch.

Well, it's time for me to pack it in -- blogs are finished, caput, history.

How do I know this? Why, I've been reading what the media has said about it this month. They're doomed economically -- Slate's Daniel Gross says, "as businesses, blogs may have peaked. There are troubling signs—akin to the 1999 warnings about the Internet bubble—that suggest blogs have just hit their top."

Gross is just following up on a New York cover story by Clive Thompson, in which it turns out that it's difficult to eke out a living from blogging:

Like only a 100# head Economists can, Daniel Drezner takes the idea apart (read the links).
All of these articles do a decent job of puncturing the "blog triumphalist balloon" -- it's just that a lot of bloggers have been stomping on that balloon for years now. The key question to ask about blogs is the counterfactual -- do any of these writers truly believe that the information ecosystem would be more democratic, more entrepreneurial, or more culturally interesting if blogs did not exist?

In this way, these stories are correct in asserting that blogs are a synecdoche for the Internet as a whole -- they don't quite live up to the hype, but then again, the hype is so damn impressive that even if they live up to some of it, we should be impressed.

Hey, mainstream media types, I'll cut you a deal -- I will never say that the blogosphere is a harbinger of egalitarian democracy if you acknowledge that blogs, flawed though they may be, nudge the information ecosystem in many constructive ways.
Though in the end, there are some truths.
1) Not a lot of people will make a living off of blogging;

2) Power laws create an unequal structure in the blogosphere that gives power to those at the top of the pyramid -- the linkers rather than the thinkers, as it were;

3) Blogs will become co-opted by the mainstream media.

4) There are inherent constraints on the influence of blogs.
Read the whole thing. I do have one question. Money? Who, honestly, started this to make money? Am I missing something? Oh, money.

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