Any article that begins: “How big are blogs? Bigger than Jesus. Bigger than sex” sounds like it’s going to be yet another blogsploitation spiel. However Daniel Rubin’s article in the Philadelphia Inquirer is a pretty good summary of major blogging trends.
If 2004 was the year blogs entered the language (so says Merriam-Webster), then 2005 was the year they found their voice. Mainstream media embraced blogs, corporations embraced blogs, spammers embraced blogs.
It was a time of great convergence, with indie blogs joining together to capture audience and advertising, as brand-name media shed their institutional voices to go unfiltered where the readers were.
I think it is this friction between the institutional adoption of blogs and their original independent impulse that is one of the most interesting things about the current evolution of the blogsphere. Lee Rainie, director of the Pew internet project makes the point that we are in a key transitional moment:
“The mainstream media opened its arms to bloggers in crisis moments in all sorts of ways,” Rainie says. “We have entered this melding stage of thinking… . We’ve been through anger and fighting. Now we are in the wary-embrace stage. At some point, it will be wholesale endorsement.”
The question becomes will it be endorsement of the form or endorsement of the ethos of the blogsphere.
The Sydney Morning Herald produced one of the earliest mainstream experiments with Margo Kingston’s webdiary. It was a genuine evolving space with a commitment to diversity and discussion that became a community for negotiated discussion not just a bullitedn board. For reasons that still remain unclear Kingston was shafted and had to go independent. She has now retired from the blogsphere, even though others have continued her project.
The Herald has replaced her with The Contrarian which like many mainstream media blogs is a traditional column with a comments facility
The real change will come when mainstream media realise that blogging is a new way of relating to content not just a new way of disseminating it.