This marks my 250th blog posting. I moved from itinerant to semi-regular blogger, I left the nightmare of Blogger for the safe pool of WordPress, and apparently more folks than my immediate family typically take a gander at my posts. Things have changed, and I thought I would take this time to ruminate about the blogosphere…because the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same.
Blogs still stand as outposts in the cyberworld where anyone can state their opinion on any subject they want. One can rail, rant, and bay at the moon. One can post everything from pictures to political positions and everything in between.
There have been many changes. The world is much more aware of blogs, especially in the political forum. Blogs have become a handy way for organizations to have a website without having an official website. More folks are blogging, with a wide variety of businesses including blogs as part of their customer/user feedback process
There are numerous new factors driving blogs faster and with more velocity than ever before, but I will just touch on a few: immediacy, anonimity, unity, and money.
The immediacy has always been there…after all, what is the point of an online journal if not to share thoughts quickly with the world? But the blogs are now a recognized fast response medium. From the bloggers who took issue with Dan Rather and his GWB National Guard report to George Allen’s Macaca Moment we have seen blogs provide a way to get information to support attacks and coutner-attacks up quickly. They also provide a way to spread the word of the “inside baseball” that goes on within any realm of activity…and that is especially true about Virginia politics, where we have an election every year.
Well…duh, you might say. So what else is new?
What is new is that at the same time that the public is coming to terms with the ability of blogs to pump out information fast, the MSM media is cutting back. The MSM is trying to save money, and is cutting lose reporters left and right. The WaPo had a couple of well publicized cuts, and we fans of NBC-4 in DC have seen several familiar and favorite figures leave as the National Broadcasting System moved to NBC 2.0. Result? While there may be as many talking heads on TV, there are fewer human assets under the corporate umbrella providing news. They are losing not only reporters, but also the network of contacts that reporter has built.
The MSM needs to be able to go somewhere to generate leads and ideas…and that is where Blogs come in.
Your typical MSM reporter can now speed click though the web, find some blogs that cover his subject matters/area…you know, like-say-Virginia Politics…and keep an eye on them for leads. It is quick, easy, and cheap.
That doesn’t mean it works…
Example-in the Virgina 10th Congressional district last fall the blogs and the MSM followed each other around on the same track, noting that Judy Feder was raising a bazillion dollars, that the 10th district demographics were changing, and look at that non-partisan poll that had Frank Wolf leading by only 47-42. Apparently wanting to be able to say they had been the first to say they saw an upset, bloggers and MSM refused to listen to suggestions that the poll had over sampled democrats, that Wolf had plenty of money, that folks were hapyy with the job he was doing. Instead, the term “stealth campaign” was used to refer to a supposedly somnolent Wolf campaign.
So the MSM and bloggers followed each other round and round about the competitve Virginia 10th district congressional race. Imagine their surprise when Judy Feder was blown out of the water by over 16%.
MSM cuts will mean a greater use of blogs to generate new leads and find current “information. How accurate those leads are depends on the judgement and research of the blogger…so I imagine it will be a much used, albeit risky, new source.
Anonimity, or lack of verifiability, is a terrible issue in many forms across the internet. The issue arises everywhere from chat rooms to MySpace…is the person you are communicating with really who/what they say they are? Anonimity will continue to drive the blog world…which is sort of sad. Bloggers like me will adopt pseudonyms. Some will do so to avoid identification due to work or political issues.
Those like me will do it to protect their privacy and potentially their family. I still shudder that the BVBL/Greg Letieq-Daily Whackjob/Greg Bouchillon throwdown of last spring and the vicious postings that followed.
But at least pseudonyms allow an ideological identity to be established and create a degree of responsibility. I have no idea who “t” is, but if postings count then I can say with some confidence that he/she is a devoted pro-life advocate. If someone posts as “t” and makes a claim that is contrary to the profile “t” has built, the poseur poster will quickly be denounced.
Unfortunately, many posters simply use anonymity to spit fire and brimstone.
A prime example came last November when Commonwealth Conservative went dark. Chad Dotson made the announcement a week or so after the 2006 elections that he was closing up due to increasing job pressures plus the need to run for reelection. The closing was mentioned in several blogs, including Not Larry Sabato…where the anonymous dogs began to bay and call him a “loser” and implied he is a hypocrite. Not one of the blogosphere’s happier moments.
The tone of a blog is set by the blogger, and posters follow suit. However, that is not the way it always is, and…unfortunately…that is the way it will continue to be…I doubt the bushwhack brigade will be decamping anytime soon. Conaway Haskins proposed the idea of “Society of Bloggers” to set standards by which blogs would be conducted. The aside has much to say for it beyond a hot acronym. The problem is typically not the bloggers-although it would be good if were always on our best behavior-it’s the posters who use anonimity as a shield to say whatever they want without any sense of decorum or constraint.
Unity-for lack of a better word-is coming at us fast. While it is not a tsunami, and will not submerge the independent blogger, I predict we will see more blogs like Raising Kaine which is really less a blog than an umbrella “community” that allows for multiple people to blogger without having to arrange the contributor type arrangement seen at Republitarian, Bearing Point, and Tooconservative (to name a few). Of course, this can put the lead dog on the blog in a bit of an embarassing position if one of his diarists posts something the lead dog doesn’t like…C’est la vie, c’est la guerre, c’est la pomme de terre.
These communities create a synergy amoung the diarists/posters…it also provides one stop shopping for the MSM types searching for information!
I think the Unified Blog-be it a Community effort or a joint contributor arrangment-will be seen more and more in the future. Why? The combining of information, the thrill of finding like minded people to work with, and the fact that quality blogging is like work. It may be work you enjoy, it may be work you are passionate about, but writing a quality blog piece (at least for we mere mortals) requires time, concentration, editing, and attention to detail…not what you normally find in a hobby. The time involved may not be worth it, the time involved may not be available, or professional considerations may argue against it. Look on the left side of this blog, and see the Blog Boot Hill section. All quality blogs that have gone dark because of time issues…Chad and work, Norm and burn out (although now reborn at Bearing Drift) Bucky in the Mineshaft, Conaway works with Webb, and the long lamented much missed Sic Semper Tyrannis….all matters of time and burnout.
This does not mean we will lose solo practicioners, but it does mean that the group efforts-no matter the format or partisan standing-will become more prevalent.
Then there is the matter of money, greenbacks, coin of the realm. It surprises folks to see there is money in blogging, but more and more there is. Whether it is on staff for a candidate or posting advertisements on the blog there is some money to be made. Unfortunately, advertising means you need to pull in viewers. Viewers mean you have to provide a hook to get them there. Too often this means sensationalism, or borderline misrepresentation of facts.
Advertising also gives some degree of power to the big volume blogs. They have the traffic to drive folks to other blogs through links and recommendations, which means they can positively impact another blogs bottom line. While I don’t have ads, something that happened here last month is a point in case.
On January 11th I posted a lengthy piece on Jim Gilmore. It was something that was rattling around in my head for some time, took a couple of drafts, and came in at over 2500 words. It started to get some attention, still gets hit each week, and is arguably the second most viewed piece I have posted.
On January 15th I posted a piece on something stupid said by David Albo that I noted in an article in the Washington Post. This little oh-by-the-way piece ended up getting over 500 views over the next two days.
The difference? Ben Tribbett linked to the second one on NLS…and the deluge of link clickers was immense.
The presence of some degree of money may impact how the blogs deal with each other. For instance, will a high volume GOP blog be willing to link to pieces by a high volume democratic blogger they despise just to make money? Hard to say, but the presence of money will start to play a role in considerations.
The list of things that have changed is much longer than this, but prudence, aching fingers and a smoking keyboard suggest I cease and post.
I will say as I pass the 250 mark that this whole blogging thing has been a blast, and I have no doubt it will continue to be…and to that end I will offer a few partiing thoughts to:
My beloved SWMBO-Thank you for getting me going on this blog thing…
Chad Dotson-Thanks for CC, congrats on the judgeship, and I hope to meet you some day.
Norm L-Welcome back to your new home at The Drift
Ben Tribbett-You are the best number cruncher in the Virginia blogosphere. You and Kenton Ngo should self publish a statistical analysis of Virginia politics…Between your analysis and his graphics it could go large.
The Folks at Raising Kaine-I disagree with the vast majority of stuff you post, but your site sets the standard for effective political blogging in Virginia and across the country…regardless of what Kos says!
Conaway, Not Buck Turgidson, the crew at Sic Semper Tyrannis-Happy Trails, and I hope we see you back!
Waldo-Your aggregator-repeat, YOUR aggregator-is a great tool and has revolutionized how much impact blogs can have.
Republitarian-Don’t worry, my stuff is coming soon!
BVBL-Don’t change one thing
James Young-Same thing
Jim Hoeft-You have the finest conservative blog in the state-keep it up!
Barnie Day and James Atticus Bowden-One day I hope I write half as well as you guys.
Anke Cheney-Thank you for keeping us all in line…and finally..
Vivian Paige-Not much to say beyond you are “Simply the Best”
Be good, post often, and I better get started on post #251.