Thanksgiving is firmly in our rear-view mirror, but I have one more thing that I forgot to be thankful for… Sarah and the good folks at PandoDaily have liberated me from having to re-start and maintain my blog.
“Blog” — Hardly is this word out when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight…
I picture myself feeling obligated to update it daily, even on days when I have nothing at all to say. Nobody should ever have to read the ramblings of a man who has nothing to say that day.
I picture myself incessantly asking my best friends if they “checked out my blog post” and scowling at them when the answer is “No, sorry, I forgot.”
I picture myself treating the blog like a diary, because the format lends itself entirely to that concept — but that is not the narrative ecosystem into which I want to dedicate so much of my time and effort.
I picture myself fighting for attention, creating needless commotion, and using shady tactics to attract readers.
I picture myself achieving success after many, many years, and still being referred to as a “blogger” by people who look down on “bloggers.”
I picture myself feeling ripped off when my commendably-sized audience — perhaps a few thousand readers a week — garners me no revenue.
Indeed, I am so very thankful that I am not a blogger, and that I don’t need to blog to share my views. Blogging was an important step in the history of the Internet. In fact, I would argue that it was the single most important step that the Internet ever took.
Consider this. The early days of the Web were similar to the early days of Film. When the movie was first invented, a lot of filmmakers, especially in Britain, used the technological breakthrough to reformat the things they already knew and loved. That meant that they took this groundbreaking new tool and simply pointed it at a theater stage to document Shakespeare performances. Or, they used the camera to retell stories that their audience knew by heart, famous kings, classical works, etc. Today, we remember the exceptions, like “A Trip to the Moon” or “Nosferatu,” which demonstrated the unique advantages of the medium.
Similarly, when the internet launched, it became a great place to revisit your favorite paper magazines, whose pages were now torn out and re-posted in digital form. Want to read the news? Go to NYT.com. Want to read about sports? Go to SportsIllustrated.com. Want to catch up on celebrities? Go to People.com.
But then, after the Dot Bomb disaster, people realized that the Internet had to do something if it was really this revolutionary breakthrough.
And while the concept of “blogging” existed in the 1990s, the milestone date that should be cited was February, 2003, when Google bought Blogger and helped bring it into the mainstream. Suddenly, the internet allowed us to do things that would never have been physically possible in the print media era.
But as I think about this brief history, I’m ready to say that blogging was not a permanent watershed, but rather a temporary set of training wheels that has broken a cultural barrier more so than the physical barrier that it initially eliminated. Today, the culture of writing — and what it means to be a “journalist” — is totally different.
Journalism is now a civic contribution in much the way that voting for a candidate or volunteering during an emergency have long been civic contributions. Twitter has also contributed to this by enabling newsmakers to break their own stories — athletes announcing an injury, musicians announcing a tour, etc.
Will there still be professional journalists, just as we have professional politicians and professional paramedics? Of course.
But the Internet — and the era of the blogger — has irreversibly turned journalism into something that everyday heroes like Mark Cuban and Fred Wilson can engage in with the same measure of success as Tom Friedman. Yes, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world — a world that was once such a tidy walled garden.
And while titans like Cuban and Wilson can easily attract audience whenever they care to muse, those of us with equal passion — but a lot less renown — will look for faster tracks to achieving audience. This is where existing publications can step in and offer a solution.
Does that mean that PandoDaily and its peers — AllThingsD, TechCrunch, etc. — can kick back and let an army of unpaid contributors beg for real estate? We’re not there yet. But we might be a decade from now. HuffPo’s brand has long relied on great guest contributions. TechCrunch is depending upon them more and more each day.
Economics is on the side of this eventuality, as publications can’t subside on razor-thin margins forever.
Wait and see… The blogger will eventually evolve into the guest columnist will eventually evolve into a real journalist.
And this rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born…
[Image courtesy Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com]