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Demise of blogging?

By April 6, 2008websites

Picture_1Doc Searls is the co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, one of the first books to discuss the Internet’s subversive de-centralizing powers. Recently, he began lamenting the demise of blogging, saying this: “I want something new. Something for which the making of money is at most a secondary or lower priority.” He references Blogfather Dave Winer (who recently proclaimed “it’s time to decentralize again. Head for the hills”) as being sympathetic with this view .

I understand that people are using blogs in the same way as traditional media: i.e. crass appeal to people’s love of gossip and conflict. This isn’t something new, however; this was embedded into blogging’s DNA from the beginning. Or it’s been in the DNA of some of our ‘blogging forefathers.’

Robert Scoble was one of the first bloggers I followed when I started out. Today he has thousands of ‘followers’ and has tremendous access to new products and technologies. When the Amazon Kindle came out he got one and used it for a week and then offered up a surprisingly puerile review (i.e. “Usability sucks…, UI sucks, Did they hire some out of work Microsoft employees?”). Scoble’s assessment of the Kindle’s value was based on what he wanted the product to do, not what Amazon’s target market would want. And yet his blog post was captioned “Dear Jeff Bezos” as though his thoughts were points that Jeff Bezos (the CEO of Amazon) should have considered in creating the product.

The Amazon Kindle, user-interface aside, is by some accounts a breakthrough product. The task of making ‘digital books’ appealing has been daunting, and Amazon spent 3 years developing this product. Go to the Amazon product page and watch the video review given by author Michael Lewis. Mr. Lewis is a very successful author, but not someone who’s particularly ‘tech savvy.’ He was not compensated for his review. He believes that the Kindle is a truly revolutionary product, and offers some interesting observations about why the Kindle is revolutionary.

Robert Scoble has many followers principally because he puts out information quickly. Michael Lewis offers his observations less frequently, and doesn’t even have a blog. Scoble offers his thoughts for free, but Lewis generally requires remuneration. I don’t follow Scoble anymore. But I still buy Michael Lewis’ books. Is that observation something that portends any kind of trend? Almost certainly not.

From what I can tell blogging has always had two strong trends, one that was not-so-good and that was one more promising: 1) people making provocative, outlandish statements to attract or hold attention, and 2) people providing quick analysis based on specialized knowledge. So why are the old-time bloggers so disappointed now? If anything it seems there are now more bloggers in the second category. If I were going to be disappointed with blogging, I’d be disappointed that some of the early pioneers have turned to path #1.

Doc Searls says he is hoping that “this thing that will come after blogging” will be “more like what he valued when blogging first began.” He says he’s “not sure what that should be, but [is] sure, if it ever happens, it won’t be called blogging.”

I don’t know either, but I know it won’t be called thoughtfulness—something that’s been around for a very long time, but for whatever reason never seems to catch on.

(Oh, and for what it’s worth, after watching Michael Lewis’ review of the Kindle, I went ahead and ordered one.)

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  • Rex Hammock says:

    Several things:

    1. I think people missed some nuance in what Doc Searls was writing. Blogging comes after blogging, yes, but everything from Facebook to Twitter is also blogging — using different terms and metaphors.

    2. When a blogger goes commercial, it becomes something that has ‘a business model.’ If my blog had a business model, I doubt I would have kept it up for 8 years.

    3. It’s ok if a blog supports a business model, but when a blog IS a business, then it is a media business. And if you want to be in the media business, you better find a model that generates more revenue that Adsense clicks.

    4. I own and use a Kindle. I read 2-3 books on it each month. I like the way I can download books on it and always have alot of books with me when I travel (which I do a lot). However, Scoble’s review was dead on. The Kindle’s hardware design and user interface are incredibly bad. Great function: Horrific design.

  • Tom O'Connor says:

    I thought the Scoble review was right on point and the device deserved a sarcastic review. Another reviewer called it the best use of Soviet space technology he had seen and I aggreed. . When I tried the Kindle I gave up halfway thru the first book on a coast to coast flight: big, clunky, counter-intuitive, expensive and worst of all, no PDF support. In short, it was so anti-Mac that when friends asked me how I liked it, I referred to it as the Whopper.

  • Dave Winer says:

    Yo Ernie!

    I don’t think we’re at the demise of blogging, but we are surrounded by vapidness, and the MSM, which last year didn’t think blogging existed (it did) now thinks they own it. Except bloggers work for slave wages in horrible working conditions. Just like the Chinese who steal jobs from manufacturers in the US.

    What comes after blogging is more blogging.

    It never ends. It’ll just get easier and cheaper.

  • Yup, good point. Interesting, though, that I did six Kindle videos and you only heard about the over-the-top one. The other five were much calmer and more journalistic.

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