The First Age of blogging – the age of novelty – is coming to an end.
It was fun, wasn’t it? The bloggers who blogged about blogging, the apoplectic glee over the beta releases of innocuous software tools, the autoerotic joy of being an “A-lister.” The professional communicators who urged their peers to start blogging, only to skewer them in a global display of schaedenfreude when they failed to follow some unwritten rule of blog etiquette.
Oh, and all the PR bloggers who now thought they were journalists because they were getting “pitched” stories, and then publicly complained about receiving poorly crafted or off-topic pitches – the same complaint made by journalists since the invention of the byline. I’ll miss that the most.
All good things must come to an end. The First Age was great, but now it’s time to move on.
From Novelty to Utility
2006 is the year when blogging moves from novelty into the “utility” phase, where the mere act of blogging is subsumed by what is being published, as well as how to find, use and participate in that information.
Blogging has produced a dizzying amount of content. It’s online to find, provided you have the patience, tenacity and time to look for it. Because most people also have jobs and only a basic level of technical skill, establishing some logical order is paramount for self-publishing to realize greater impact.
Already we can see this trend toward aggregation and organization of blog news and commentary. Tagging is a powerful tool that allows creators to categorize their own content. Commercial blog “networks” are being formed and expanded – Gawker Media, Weblogs, Inc., and Pajamas Media are just a few. Sites like J-Log and Corante find the best blog posts about specific topics and put them in one place – yes Virginia, there are still editors in the blogosphere. And then there are the Huffington Post and Truthdig, not traditional blogs but not traditional mainstream media, either.
This doesn’t mean fewer people will start their own blogs – on the contrary, I expect the meteoric growth of blogs and self-publishing to continue (this includes My Space, Gather and other social networking sites). People will still gossip, share recipes and debate “Lost” plotlines – and some will publish news and share their expertise on any number of topics, either by blogging themselves or by commenting, starting and joining conversations (blogging is still the ultimate “social” media – without links and conversations, blogs are just brochures).
But eventually, individual blogs will be less important, and likely less visible, than the content published by the creators and the conversations that ensue.
Is Cathy Seipp a blogger or a writer for Pajamas Media? Will that distinction matter as long as she attracts readers – more importantly, readers that advertisers want to reach? Bloggers are learning that they are not only more visible but also more financially appealing to business if they band together. Or as Spock would say, the good of the many is more important than the good of the few or the one.
(By the way, that was my first Star Trek reference in more than 80 posts – that’s got to be some kind of blogger record.)
No More Bloggers
As technology becomes more essential, it becomes more invisible – and when everyone is blogging, there are no more “bloggers,” just people interacting in ways they never before could have imagined. After all, someone who talks on a telephone isn’t called a “phoner,” any more than someone who communicates via a blog today will be called a “blogger” tomorrow.
“Bloggers” will become writers, publishers, producers, filmmakers and multicasters. More mainstream media will use blogs and more “just folks” will become part of larger citizen media publications such as Backfence or other hyper-local enterprises like Muncie Free-Press, the Missourian or Bayosphere.
The perception of blogging and blogs will change, too. Mainstream media will be less cynical and defensive (funny what loss of audience and revenue will do), and new efforts to marginalize inaccurate or untrustworthy content will move blogs up from the kids table of online discourse. As Jonathan Landman, Deputy Managing Editor at the New York Times, said in a memo to his staff: “Some blogs are lousy. So are some newspapers. Some blogs reject journalism. Some practice it.”
I agree. Some blogs are good, some are bad, and in 2006 we will pay more attention to banishing the bad and rewarding the good.
Rejoice. The Second Age has begun.