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Hullabaloo


Sunday, September 26, 2004

 
Blog Fever

LA Times, today:

Blogging Sells, and Sells Out by Billmon.

By most accounts, blogs — web logs to the uninitiated — scored a major coup last week when CBS News admitted that it couldn't vouch for the authenticity of memos supposedly written by George W. Bush's commander in the Texas Air National Guard. The conservative bloggers who led the charge against the CBS story were hailed as giant slayers. And yet it's the blogging phenomenon itself that may need the last rites.

That may seem a strange thing to say, given the flattering coverage of blogs triggered by the CBS affair. But the media's infatuation has a distinct odor of the deathbed about it — not for the blogosphere, which has a commercially bright future, but for the idea of blogging as a grass-roots challenge to the increasingly sanitized "content" peddled by the Time Warner-Capital Cities-Disney-General Electric-Viacom-Tribune media oligopoly.


Matt Yglesias said more or less the same thing a month or so ago (I can't be bothered to find the link) only his thinking was that blogs were rapidly devolving into an exclusive forum for professional writers in various specialized fields and the amateur players were fading away into obscurity.

Steve Gilliard, (via Atrios,) believes it's commercial advertising that fuels the blogosphere already.

Meanwhile, The NY Times does a big story on liberal bloggers that apparently has the right blogosphere in a complete tizzy.

Blogging as we know it is dead. Long live blogging.

Update:

I should make it clear that I was in no way beDrudging any blogger's success. I'm thrilled if anyone can make a buck doing this thing. If I got any real traffic on a regular basis, I'd think about doing it myself. And, believe me, on the days when I get one of those links from Atrios or some others, I think about it a lot because my traffic goes through the roof.

It's all about linkage, folks.

The blogosphere is a beehive in which the queenbee bloggers (and I'm not just talking about Sullivan) serve and are served by the rest of the colony. As Atrios points out in the comments, as long as some of the top bloggers continue to link to other blogs, the blogosphere as we know it will continue to thrive. People need hubs and starting points to make their way through all the buzzing and that's what the popular blogs provide.

Commercialization in terms of blogads doesn't have much to do with it so far because the ads don't seem to conflict with the content. That could change, I guess, but I think we are dealing more on a Nation model than Newsweek, anyway. Nobody's going to buy an ad on Kos or Atrios who isn't trying to reach liberals. They know exactly what they are getting into.

In my opinion, if there is any real danger of the old political blogosphere going extinct, I think it's more in what Yglesias describes than strict commercialization. It may be moving toward "professionalization" which is truly a big change. Marshall, Drum, Sullivan, Kaus and The Corner may be the new developing paradigm.

It's not that the blogosphere isn't incredibly enhanced by the presence of those writers, it's that they may develop the habit of only reading and linking to each other which, as Billmon points out, takes it one step closer to the insularity of the mainstream media. In academic fields this is generally a good thing --- consult the experts, talk amongst yourselves, get feedback. But, in politics it's not such a good idea. The blogosphere may not be the best sample of regular folks in the world, but it does consist of some intelligent, well informed citizens outside of the political and media world who are not required to please that establishment either socially or professionally and who bring a different perspective that may not make it into the Washington conference room on Monday morning or the cocktail party on Friday night.

In that sense, politics are more like art than science. The pros need fresh insights and passion or they get stale and repetitive. The blogosphere is a very convenient way to access some of that and it would be a shame if it contracted into a mirror image of the professional political media.. If it does,(with some relief I must admit) I'd probably just go back to reading newspapers and magazines and yelling at the TV, both of which I can do from the much more comfortable position of lying flat on my back.

As a political organizing and fund raising tool, the blogosphere has definitely shown its worth this round and it will remain a player, no doubt about it. Look at how much $$$$ just Atrios and Kos have managed to raise. If they were Republicans they'd be called "Conquerors."

But other than that, I think the blogosphere will continue to change in largely unpredictable ways. Certainly, anything the mainstream media says about it (now that they've discovered it like it's the Macarena of 2004) is almost assuredly wrong. So, I think it just keeps keepin on. Who knows what it all means and as long as it provides some good fun then there's really no reason to question it.

And, as I have said many times, it beats putting your fist through a wall or kicking the cat. In fact, it's downright therapeutic. Maybe that's the real point after all.





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