Death in the Afternoon

Nicholas Carr laments the death of the independent blogosphere:

Blogging seems to have entered its midlife crisis, with much existential gnashing-of-teeth about the state and fate of a literary form that once seemed new and fresh and now seems familiar and tired. And there’s good reason for the teeth-gnashing. While there continue to be many blogs, including a lot of very good ones, it seems to me that one would be hard pressed to make the case that there’s still a “blogosphere.” That vast, free-wheeling, and surprisingly intimate forum where individual writers shared their observations, thoughts, and arguments outside the bounds of the traditional media is gone. Almost all of the popular blogs today are commercial ventures with teams of writers, aggressive ad-sales operations, bloated sites, and strategies of self-linking. Some are good, some are boring, but to argue that they’re part of a “blogosphere” that is distinguishable from the “mainstream media” seems more and more like an act of nostalgia, if not self-delusion.

That’s not to say that the amateur radio operators didn’t change the mainstream media. They did. And so, too, have bloggers. Allowing readers to post comments on stories has now, thanks to blogging, become commonplace throughout online publishing. But the once popular idea that blogs would prove to be an alternative to, or even a devastating attack on, corporate media has proven naive.

Who killed the blogosphere? No one did. Its death was natural, and foretold.

Read the whole thing – it’s quite good (and depressing). If I was blogging for fame and fortune, I’m sure I’d lose all hope, but fortunately, I’m just in it to sharpen my writing. That said, here are a few thoughts on why the blogosphere will remain lively and vibrant for the foreseeable future:

  1. Low barrier to entry. As long as WordPress and Typepad provide free blogging platforms, I’m sure people will continue to post their thoughts, diaries, and experiences online. Many blogs will be temporary, ramshackle affairs, but a few talented writers will persist. I also think that today’s A-list bloggers remember their own humble beginnings and do a decent job of highlighting sharp up-and-comers.
  2. Even as blogs are co-opted by corporate media outlets, they retain the style and tone of their amateur predecessors. The Atlantic’s stable of A-listers is a good example of this tendency. Ta-Nehisi Coates rarely goes a day without mentioning his son or his upbringing, and the Daily Dish wouldn’t be the Dish without Sullivan’s obligatory references to his husband. Professional blogs aren’t as romantic or pioneering as their amateur forbears, but they haven’t lost sight of what made blogging so interesting in the first place.
  3. Interactivity drives the medium. It’s incredibly satisfying to carry on a running conversation among several different blogs. Commenting captures some of this, but it can’t compare to sitting down and writing a long, ruminative post responding to someone else’s well-thought out ideas (come to think of it, this is exactly what I’m doing right now).
  4. Co-option requires a steady pool of amateur talent. With the proliferation of blogs hosted by mainstream publications, it’s incumbent upon said media outlets to cultivate up-and-coming bloggers. The trend of late has been for major publications to adopt individual bloggers’ homepages or offer talented amateurs the chance to contribute to a group blog.

Have I left anything out?

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1 Comment

Filed under Culture, The Media

One response to “Death in the Afternoon

  1. Pingback: Rumors of the Independent Blogosphere’s Imminent Demise «

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