Archive | metablogging

That’s It, In a Nutshell

Per Slate’s In Other Magazines, Reason‘s Matt Welch writes that the big media companies are jumping on the blogwagon because they’re

“history’s cheapest publishing system in the world’s cheapest distribution system.”

Not magic, just cheap and simple. That’s what I was trying to say several years ago when I more actively took up the “what’s special about blogging” question.

Unfortunately I couldn’t put it into just one sentence, but you can see my point:

What’s key here is that with both an on-line newspaper and a weblog there is a mechanism that makes it easy to update, edit and add new content.

And when you put it that way, blogging doesn’t seem so exciting, or different. But there’s an important distinction — one that has been pretty well identified by nearly every commentator: blogs let anybody do it. A blog lets you be your own little New York Times, Chicago Tribune or Associated Press. They make it easy by giving you a version of the same tools that previously only such big on-line news sources (or good database programmers) had.

Cheap and easy means a low price of entry — it doesn’t give the same advantages to big powerful players that complex and expensive does.

That doesn’t mean the media giants don’t still have massive advantages. These advantages just don’t buy as much in the cheap and easy realm.

Writers, columnists and commentators don’t necessarily do their best work in the blog format, and doing a good, useful blog isn’t necessarily as easy as it looks. A shitty blog is a shitty blog, whether it’s Jane Blow or Larry King who does it. It may be cheap, but it’s also cheaper for an independent to do it better, though she might not yet have the resources to attract the big audience right away… or ever.

But the potential to reach thousands or millions is there much moreso than with other media.

I may only reach an average of 190 readers a day, but that’s more than I would reach otherwise, using any other medium, for the price it costs me to “distribute” mediageek. I’ll take it.

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Any Bloggers Going to AMC?

I’m looking for indie-minded bloggers who’ve been blogging for at least a year, but preferrably 2 years or longer who are planning to attend (or thinking about attending) the Allied Media Conference in June.

Please send me an e-mail: paul (at)

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All Your Blog Are Belong to Google; Will (the A-List) Bloggers Tolerate the Masses?

It was bound to happen — Google is buying Blogger, the seminal blogging ap that put thousands of weblogs (including this one) on the ‘net. Logically, in the short term this will amount to a major step up in reliability for Blogger and Blogspot hosted users.

In a way this sort of fulfills part of the promise of Blogspot to become the Tripod or Geocities of blogs — a simple, no hassle, not techie way to get your blog on-line for free. What remains to be seen is if an expanded–and probably more popular–Blogspot will suffer the same problems as the likes of Geocities and Tripod–bandwidth limitations, crazy ads and banners, etc.

I think this deal also radically reveals the fact that weblogs are simply tools, despite all the yak (meta-blogging) about blogging as journalism, democratized publishing, and on and on. The only idifference about the blogging world two years ago and the blogging world now is that it is exponentially bigger at this moment. Interest in blogging has now reached a sufficient critical mass for a large ‘net company like Google to consider it a reasonable business to get into — either as a directly profitable service or a way to link people into profitable services (kind of like loss-leaders).

At the moment Google is still largely considered a benevolent company and so reception to this deal will likely be more optimistic than if Blogger were acquired by AOL or even Yahoo. Nevertheless, there will probably be those who also view this as an evil co-opt of a grassroots phenomenon.

But given that Pyra, the company behind Blogger, was always conceived as a for-profit entity–even if there wasn’t much in the way of profits–this Google buyout isn’t so monumentally different in essence. The only difference is scale.

Like I’ve argued before, the tool isn’t so important as what people do with the tool. If Google extends the blog tool to more people, then the likelihood that some new, previously unheard voices will enter the mix goes way up. It also means that it gets harder for one voice to gain a large audience, even though that one voice may indeed gain a bigger audience than it once had. For instance, even if only a few dozen of people tune in to a late-night public access cable TV show, the producers of that show are still likely reaching more people than if they didn’t have access to such a tool.

Tangentally, popularity and mass audience are fickle mistresses, and the earliest and most popular bloggers had the luck to be big fishes in a small pond, and some had the luck of getting bigger as the pond got bigger. But the growth of audience and producers also tends to make some folks declare the end of blogging as something special. I argue the opposite is true.

The simple fact is, when we democratize the tools of mass media, we increase the number of voices and channels exponentially. The audience for each voice is arguably bigger than it would be without the tools, but it does get harder for someone to have a truly mass audience of the scale of Yahoo or even Salon.

Which leads to a very logical, but nonetheless hard question: do any of us really need a mass audience? Beyond the ego boost, what is the real purpose?

Fame, celebrity and mass audiences are the product of inequality. They’re the product of a monopolization of the tools for making media.
When there were only 3 TV networks, anyone appearing on one of them immediately became a star. It’s even sort of true with 150 cable networks. But it becomes less true with 10,000 or 10,000,000 channels.

Personally, I have no use for stars or celebrity. If expanding the accessability of media tools creates more voices and chips away at the power of celebrity then I’m all for it. Let’s recognize that democratizing the tools of communication means eroding our own inflated egos.

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Pew Study Says Americans More Interested in DIY Journalism, but Still Serves Warning

This story on Cyberjournalist reports that Americans became more interested in amateur reporting as a result of relying on such accounts, primarily found on the Internet, during the events of Sept. 11. ” Most notable, the study said, were the widespread first-person accounts, which most frequently appeared on personal Web logs, but also appeared on […]

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