Tuesday, December 21, 2004

More Thoughts on Blogs and the MSM

Joe Gandleman linked to an interesting story about a blog-community and newspaper in Greensboro, North Carolina. Is it a sign of things to come? Or an eventually fruitless experiment? I certainly don’t know. But Joe says Jay Rosen's PressThink is the hub for the story, so that’s a good place to dive in deep.

Personally, I really enjoyed Gandleman’s own roundup of different perspectives on the issue, where discussion seems to be developing around all sorts of interesting things: the nature of blogging itself; the economic potential of it; the nature of blogging communities; and how all of this might change an old media source that is truly willing to embrace it.

The perspective I most related to was from a blog called Southern Rants:

“Blogging isn't an industry; rather, it's a pastime. It's a way of sharing, meeting new folks, enjoying online chat in a controlled setting. I can read what you have to say without paying you a nickel or responding. I respond to get more links back to my blog (for which I still haven't made any money). If there's a magic way of creating income streams for blogs, then they will develop over time and with solid entrepreneurial risk-taking. If the newspaper scraped my blog, then I'd feel honored. But money? Heck, newspapers don't pay real money. I should know, my son's in the field”

Not all that far from the perspective I offered a few days ago.

It does mark one of the peculiarities between bloggers and traditional media types when they interact though. The vast majority of bloggers write with no expectation of financial reward. Traditional journalists see that same activity as their primary source of income. Friction is guaranteed whenever the two try to come together at this point.

Is the average newspaper journalist a superior writer to the average blogger? Yes. No question. And on that basis many professional journalists like to dismiss the blogosphere in general.

But that dismissal doesn’t really doesn’t work when you factor in the high-end of the blogosphere, like Powerline or Captain’s Quarters (or Joe Gandleman for that matter), and this is where things are sure to get interesting.

The other interesting element is that blogs haven’t just created a new kind of writer. They’ve created a new kind of reader – one who often expects a more interactive relationship, and one with loyalty to an individual writer which doesn’t necessarily translate into any additional loyalty to a larger media entity.

This has often underappreciated ramifications. For example, many months ago I started getting my morning editorials - the mainstream media kind - largely via Real Clear Politics. Why rely on the editors of a local paper – like the Star Tribune, or even a national paper, like the New York Times? Real Clear Politics can perform the editorial function of selecting which columnists I might care to read just as well – and it costs me nothing to direct my browser that way rather than another.

No necessary summarizing point here, other than the observation that the economic model behind the traditional media is falling apart, and the blogosphere is blazing ahead without concern for replacing it. Experimentation in the midst of this is crucial, yet much of it will surely fail. It certainly is an interesting time to be a (very tiny) part of it though.

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