There is an interesting post up at The Daily Beast (I know, but even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then) about how in this year of our Lord Kos, the so-called Netroots are flailing, failing, and wailing that extinction is imminent.
Our friend Jurassic Pork at Welcome Back To Pottersville has a great response, in which he largely concurs, and gives us a bit of history. And Jane Hamsher (yes, FDL’s Jane Hamsher) dissents with what seems like a pretty good argument, too: Google is sucking the ad revenue out of the blog-o-sphere, just the same way that Google has sucked the ad revenue out of the newspapers. Additionally Hamsher calls for an FTC ruling to break up Google, and I hope to have the ice cream concession in Hell when that happens.
So who’s right? Well, they all are.
It Takes a Villager
At one of the recent Netroot Nation gatherings, the big news was that consolidation was the only way to survive, and so Kos, FDL, and others scooped up a lot of indie bloggers, the so-called Front Pager writers. What had been a thousand-voice chorus turned into a small coterie of gated-community blogs, who more often than not, linked to one another and left all the little guys behind to wither on the vine. JP discusses this point in detail, and it is brilliant work, as usual.
There is no doubt that with great popularity there is also great expense as bandwidth charges increase with the more pageviews you have. If you run a community blog with a dozen of Front Page writers to draw in readers, the bandwidth increases exponentially. Arianna never says it as such, but I’m sure that’s why there are so few paid staff at her eponymous blog.
I’m not a economist, but even I can see that at some point blogging becomes a losing proposition (the guns and butter argument), and if your business model (ad revenue in the case of the Big Boy Blogs) takes a hit because Google changes their policy, then something has got to give.
Mom & Pop Shops
We here at the intersection of Spitballing and News did not fall into that trap. We had the chance to join one of the big blogs, but we turned it down after watching what happened to TRex at FDL. Yes, we don’t have ads, hopefully never will, and we don’t run a PayPal button. This is a labor of love.
We’ve stayed distinctly small on purpose because we didn’t want to have these problems; we also didn’t want to become the thing that we mock. Kos, Hamsher, Duncan, and the rest to some degree, more or less, have changed over time: they’ve become like the MSM; they appear as experts on cable shows, they get quoted on news programs. The problems that the A-listers are now facing are the same problems the MSM faces with ad revenue, demographic changes, new media intrusions disrupting their business model.
So what does the future hold for blogging?
The Magic 8-Ball Says…
I suspect that people will continue writing because they love to write and have something to say; blogging isn’t dying, the ad-supported business model is. We are in a time of flux, newspapers (Seattle P-I) are turning into blogs, traditional magazines (Newsweek) are going digital only. Blogging still has the same disruptive power that Gutenberg gave the world of caligraphy: anyone can be a publisher, anyone can be published; the internet gives you a distribution channel. Blogging democratized the media, and the media doesn’t like it.
I don’t know what the future holds, I only know that we are living in a world of disruption brought on by technology and 10 years of war and financial depression. The models are not fixed. Isn’t this exciting?!
UPDATE/Clarification: I am not dissing the Big Blogs, per se. I am dissing the business model…
UPDATE 2: Driftglass shows us a model.