The Next Wave and Independent Media

I posted a link to an article about the professionalization of blogging in an earlier link dump post, that I've been thinking about rather a lot in recent days, and I wanted to reflect on this.

The argument of the article, which I think is pretty much spot on, discusses how contemporary blogging has become this thing that that isn't just the sort of thing that "nobodies" can throw up a blog with WordPress and become an Internet sensation in fairly short order. Now setting aside the fact that this might never have been true in the first place, I think there's some serious merit to this argument: blogs have gone mainstream, lots of people read blogs, and the people who have the resources to write blogs tend to be people groups of people who have a lot of resources, and most of the popular/successful blogs these days require a lot of resources and sustained energies.

This isn't a bad thing, of course, but I think it forces us to rethink what it means to be a blogger writer "internet content producer" both in the current moment and looking to the future.

There are a number of different factors contributing to this larger moment. Some of the more prevalent ones are:

  • There are more blogs now today than there used to be, this means both that the "cost of entry" is higher than it was five years ago or even a year ago. This means new blogs will:
    • Need to focus on more unique subject areas, this is the "long tail" or "embrace your niche" approach. Rather than be the most popular blogger on Technoratti (do people still care about technoratti?) be the most popular blogger in the homemade breakfast cereal niche.
    • Blogging can't be the casual thing that it was in the beginning, In the early days people started blogs and posted occasionally and it was just this novel little thing, and they were able to be successful as bloggers. Now, blogging is something that one really has to dedicate an embarrassing amount of energy to to be successful.
  • The "Blog" as a literary genre, or media forum has become much more cemented, so that rather than be this experimental form that really only describes a website that updates regularly in a serialized format, there are now a whole host of expectations regarding the forum.
    • Blogs that reject the primacy of these forms will tend to be more successful, in that readers will tend to find them more innovative. Forum and approach, as much as a subject area, is one way that small independent content producers will be able to differentiate themselves from "big media blogs."
    • Blogs can be projects onto themselves. We've seen a convention where every site uses a blog as a way of providing more up-to-date content, but independent bloggers are able to create independent blogs which accent other projects, but are nonetheless independent and self contained texts.
  • Independent bloggers might not be able start up and field vast readerships on their own any more, but may be able to define their success on their own terms. Old media business models, that rely on advertising revenue and large readership numbers might not be the most stable anyway, and independent bloggers may be able to contemplate success on their own terms. Possible "new media" definitions of success include:
  • Using a blog to support and promote a consulting or services based business, by presenting general information to help justify your expertise in a given area. Think RedMonk, Merlin Mann, and in some ways, me.
  • Using a blog (and its moderate audience) to support some sort of "rockstar" business model, where you sell something (tickets to shows, dead-tree books, tshirts, etc.) that people mostly want because they know you from something which doesn't make you much money (ie. record sales, blogging.)

There's more. And I think that I might be talking about this kind of thing at PodCamp 3 Philly. I'd love to see you there.

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