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Sep 25

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Blog Nation

By Richard Potts, Assistant Director of the Washington Journalism Center

Niches, my friends.  And niches within niches.  That is the nature of today’s media world.

Nowhere is this more true than when you start talking about blogs.   By the last count, there are something like 62 million blogs out there worldwide, and at least 36 million in the English-speaking “Anglosphere” alone, or so says The Blog Herald.

Since it’s a lot cheaper to launch a blog than, say, your own cable channel, every conceivable interest and industry has a blog or blogs.  But the odds of one blog being found in that mess (1 in 62 mil) are nowhere near as good the odds of the blog’s author being struck by lightning this year (1 in 400,000).  But even those lucky enough to get noticed aren’t guaranteed respectability.

Blogs have become a big deal–big enough that almost every major news outlet has its reporters blogging.  But not everyone is buying this business about blogs being serious, especially not being serious journalism.  Eric Enberg at CBS News online was not impressed with blogs during the 2004 campaign, when the stories about bed-headed bloggers chomping on the ankles of the “MSM” were just hitting the mainstream:

Big plans and big claims are to be expected from folks – pajama-clad or
not – who are dabbling with new technology and new modalities of public
expression. As a retired mainstream media (“MSM”) journalist – and thus
a double-dinosaur — I don’t begrudge these knights of the blog-table
their grandiose dreams. But I worked on a school paper when I was a kid
and I owned a CB radio when I lived in Texas. And what I saw in the
blogosphere on Nov. 2 was more reminiscent of that school paper or a
“Breaker, breaker 19″ gabfest on CB than anything approaching
journalism.

Ouch.  So, why do it?

Well, when you begin to become knowledgeable about and addicted to a given niche–and want to go deep down into that crevasse (Malaysian auto industry, anyone?) — blogging begins to make a little more sense.

Blogs, when done well, can also serve a very powerful watchdog function.  More often, they’re probably the tree falling in the forest and making no sound.   What’s interesting is that blogs still have to, like the MSM, get people to pay attention.

And when they succeed in getting attention, sometimes things happen, careers are made, and careers are ended.

Terry Mattingly is going to do a talk tomorrow about the development of blogs and a watershed moment in their evolution.  To get an advance look, check out “What Hath Blogs Wrought” at the Weekly Standard.

(Photos courtesy of Flickr)

Permanent link to this article: http://thewashingtonjournalismcenter.com/?p=1236

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