Blogging is dead; long live blogging

The Economist put out a short article on Nov. 6, commenting on Jason Calacanis’ retirement from blogging. Calacanis founded Weblogs Inc., and the Economist compares his retirement from blogging to Michael Jordan leaving basketball. It is, in other words, a big deal.

Calacanis left blogging because he felt like it had grown too impersonal. The direct connection with readers and commentators was gone, replaced by big, anonymous, “important” articles designed to keep his blog on the A-list. This was not what he wanted out of blogging, apparently, so Calacanis retired, moving to a large e-mail distribution list to keep his ideas flowing into cyberspace.

This happened some time ago. In fact, I remember reading about it almost a month ago, it seems. Calacanis’ departure shook up the blogosphere, which has gone decidedly mainstream. The big blogs, the popular blogs, are all run by media companies now, updating, as the Economist points out, faster than any solo blogger could from home. And now these big blogs have to worry about the same sorts of things that worry big media, namely advertising revenue and attracting readers.

“Blogging has entered the mainstream,” says the Economist, “which — as with every new medium in history — looks to its pioneers suspiciously like death.” Indeed, few smalltime bloggers will ever attract much in the way of attention or visitors without the helping link of a major site like Digg.com or Boing Boing. The small voices, which is what blogging was supposed to be about in the first place, cannot make themselves heard (something I am painfully aware of at times).

Some suggest that Twitter and Facebook-type microblogging is the wave of blogging’s future. Microblogging — posting tiny updates about yourself, brief thoughts to be consumed in a few seconds, posted many, many times a day — is actually more akin to blogging’s true roots as Web logging than the essay-like posts we see in the blogosphere today. Perhaps these kinds of services are where we’ll find the next generation of interesting people firing off messages to one another and provoking new thought.

So whither blogging? The Economist suggests that, like PDAs, blogging will become ubiquitous. That is, it will be everywhere all the time, and its presence will be so inconspicuous that we’ll hardly notice blogging anymore. Rather than being a sort of political statement about your occupation — “I’m a blogger”; “I blog” — a blog will become nothing more than another medium, a way for information to reach the masses. Blog will cease to be a verb and retired to the comfortable world of common nouns that nobody pays much attention to.

There are still going to be good blogs out there. Remember, rock and roll “died” a long time ago too, and there are still good musicians making good rock music today. And, just as with the aficionados who hunt for “good” music, the people who can find the good blogs in this blog-noun future will consider themselves better than the people who consume the mainstream tripe.

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