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what's become of the blogosphere?

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Aleks Krotoski | 09:37 UK time, Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The blogsophere is dying, apparently. The long tail of user-generated content, brimming with idiosyncrasy and experimentation - the great hope of the libertarian levelling ground promoted by the Web's founding fathers - is petering out. The anecdotal 1% of content creators (versus the 99% of content consumers) is moving away from the more formal end of story-telling/reporting (a process that takes time to craft, link, illustrate and post) because they prefer to keep in touch using quick-fire, low-cost tools like Twitter and Facebook. The result is a ghost town - nay, a ghost metropolis - of blogs that are, well, dead.
 
Oh the fickle, fickle Web. Oh the Ridalin-smoking, post-MTV, fast-edit generation. What have you done to our new media revolution? Don't you realise that in your absence, the new media mega corps are stepping in to perpetuate the old media models, to establish Old Boy hierarchies and to open and close the gates of information at their whims and inclinations?
 
Huffington, Gawker, Digg: these are the establishment figures for the next generation - the Hearsts and the Murdochs of the blogosphere. They may have started out pushing the boundaries, but now they've cemented their foundations as bridges between the people who understand the power of this new medium and those who desperately want to.
 
And what of the rare and the obscure ephemera that captured the imaginations of the Great Blogger Rush of 2004, when the world and its grandma got a blog because it seemed like the thing to do, and there might be a book deal at the end of it? Has the world really lost interest in, oh, I don't know - Smell-o-Vision, or has the person behind http://digiscents.com/blog/ simply realised that typing into a vacuum isn't much fun?
 
Of course, out of the vast sea of digital nonsense, hierarchy was inevitable. In the lean communication Internet platform, we seek out sources of information that we can trust. To establish a new resource's credibility, we must rely on heuristics of similarity and familiarity. We have to thank Arianna HuffingtonNick Denton, Kevin Rose and their media revolutionary contemporaries for standing firm at the precipice of the chasm between them and the offline big brands, otherwise we'd simply be reading the same content from the same sources. These new rebel aggregators provided a point of focus for blog consumers to gather around, highlighting quality and popular content that was an alternative to the content that Old Media thought was worthy. They've done it faster and more transparently and are more accountable to their readers.
 
But the result is that the great levelling ground has morphed into a giant virtual pyramid. Yesterday's revolutionary has become the today's institution. Where will the next upstarts come from?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    this, along with monday's news about the drop in illegal filesharing as users prefer to get music (legally) on youtube and spotify, seems to confirm a lot of what N. Carr's been writing recently, about the general, popular movement toward 'streaming' content, immediacy, and above all, convenience. and isn't the latter a fundamental psycho-social engine of technological innovation, the web being the ne plus ultra of a certain kind of communicative ease? (as Arthur writes: 'More and more of the feeds I follow are turning brown. Why? Because blogging isn't easy. More precisely, other things are easier and it's to easier things that people are turning.') not self-expression, much less utopia, but practical, as instant as possible results in the here-and-now. no more, no less. the web theorized as anything else says more about the theorists than the thing itself. euro-american libertarians, new media revolutionaries and avant-garde artists of all stripes got all exited about teh internets, their baby- this thing that simply makes it easier for them to talk to themselves, and for everyone else to watch them doing it. i think the first problem the next upstarts will have to deal with is being branded and perceived as 'conservative'.

  • Comment number 2.

    @digimarx - you may be right. Are we mostly too lazy for the liberty the web offers? Ben Hammersley (of UK Wired) recently spoke of the high efforts required to successfully pirate/torrent a tv programme or a movie (in a context of indicating you someone had to create something worthy of that effort of 'appropriation'. "Nobody ever pirated Ant & Dec..." were his closing words). File-sharing is also a security risk, and (I'm told) often fails mid-point anyway; far simpler to buy the thing.

    As Charles Arthur intimates, blogging is an art in itself. It's easy to do badly; much more difficult to do well (something we may be proving on this very blog...!). So is it only natural that those who do it well would be attracted by (and to) enterprises that aggregate and present (and reward) quality?

    Is this the inevitable model then? Charles Leadbeater's new media pebbles http://www.charlesleadbeater.net/cms/xstandard/Boulders%20and%20Pebbles.pdf are destined to coagulate and ossify as boulders again in the old media ways?

    During the process of our production discussions I've been (probably foolishly) comparing the blog explosion and fade to the beginning of the universe (a tad overblown, I know, but...) - a big bang, then massive, excited energy spreading out at a terrific rate, giving way to a cooling and eventual contraction; stars are formed, planets orbit those stars, while so much else drifts or dies as debris.

    What comes next then? Another big bang? What waits in the vast, unknown dark matter of the web's potential and the imaginations of those that use it?

    DanB

    PS - Don't worry, they won't be using my space analogues in the final programme!

  • Comment number 3.

    As long as there is a need for lone idiots to spout opinions about legally free Creative Commons albums, someone will answer the call. Today, the gates of liberty, freedom of expression and catastrophically bad prose are protected by @catchingthewave.

    http://soundthefreetrumpet.typepad.com/

    Dry those tears, Aleks (the pages of a thesaurus will do). Some of us are working to reduce the amount of illegal file-sharing by promoting the concept of free albums made available with the full knowledge and approval of the musicians who made them. It's nice to know it's working. ;)

    To sort of answer your question, the next upstarts will come from among those who best exploit layered virtual reality geo-synchronous software embedded in (sun)glass frames. The world is your eyeball. Until it's bought out by Google.

  • Comment number 4.

    "i think the first problem the next upstarts will have to deal with is being branded and perceived as 'conservative'"

    fantastic line, @digimarx.

    Aleks

  • Comment number 5.

    I'd agree having previously written a blog, but moved over to using facebook updates instead, because 200 character or so status updates are quicker and easier to write than blog posts (which should be longer - finely crafted anecdotes), and I was already connected to everyone I wanted to reach on Facebook, who would be instantly notified whenever I posted.

    But there is another angle to this, previously mentioined in the WIRED article from Oct 2008 titled, "Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004", which advised anyone thinking of starting a blog not to, and anyone already writing one to switch to social media sites instead. This it claimed was because professional run blogs with paid staff and freelance writers were becoming so dominant, with viral marketing also making it difficult to tell fact from fiction, it was becoming impossible for anyone else to get noticed.

    The wired article can be found here
    http://www.wired.com/entertainment/theweb/magazine/16-11/st_essay
    p*

  • Comment number 6.

    Are 'blogs' not like the ideas, views and theories put forward by people from all levels in western society in their pamphlets written and distributed for the few centuries right up to the explosion of mass communication post second world war.

    The 'letters to the editor' part of our newspaper history was also the means whereby views could be put forward to a larger audience. With an online population the 'blog' and it's comments raised are surely taking over this role?

    If Bloggers are upset by the arguments put forward and battled out in the ensuing comments (as mentioned in a parallel blog by Rory Cellan-Jones to this one) then one wonders if the Blogger has crafted the piece well enough by not anticipating the response and refuting it in the Blog. If comments are allowed then even with good moderation all views must be allowed and, surely, it is only by reading the comments the Blogger will learn how to deflect that sort of response in future?

    Perhaps this is showing two schools of blogging. One group who wish to engage their readers in a constructive dialogue. The other being merely a statement of fact or opinion offered for information and only to be digested or ignored.

  • Comment number 7.

    @englshfolkfan 'Perhaps this is showing two schools of blogging. One group who wish to engage their readers in a constructive dialogue. The other being merely a statement of fact or opinion offered for information and only to be digested or ignored.'

    Having just written a comment over on Rory Cellan-Jones' post about confirmation bias, I'm reminded that, indeed, there are all sorts of people blogging, many of whom look for debate, look to be challenged in their views; that remember that they are still learning and developing, and that their blog has granted them access to many more voices to help them in that ongoing pursuit than previous media may have offered.

    That's certainly our reason for blogging Digital Revolution - we want to be challenged, we want to learn more about the web!

    Dan

  • Comment number 8.

    I'd agree having previously written a blog, but moved over to using facebook updates instead, because 200 character or so status updates are quicker and easier to write than blog posts (which should be longer - finely crafted anecdotes), and I was already connected to everyone I wanted to reach on Facebook, who would be instantly notified whenever I posted.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 9.

    Personaly I have never been interested in witing my own blog as it would probaly be absorbed into the vast blogosphere. Recent inventions of websites such as 'facebook' and 'twitter', also know as microblogging sites are just a 'fad' in my opinion. I think of blogs as a usefull source of infomation which prove there uses.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

 

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