Notes from the Blogosphere
by: Rachel Weiss
As of March 2005, Technorati a site devoted to tracking and monitoring weblogs, reported tracking 7.8 million weblogs, and 937 links. David Sifry, the founder of Technorati, estimates that the blogosphere is doubling in size every 5 months. With this kind of rapid growth, blogging has clearly reached the masses, and is no longer a hobby reserved for tech geeks with knowledge of HTML.
Gawker Media, the publisher of such blogs as gawker.com, wonkette.com, gizmodo.com and defamer.com, has become a corporate entity and continues to launch new blogs focusing on topics ranging from breaking news to travel. The blogging community even comes together on Friday to humanize their blogs by posting photos of their cats.
Corporations are tracking blogs using such sites as Technorati to gain insight into the collective conscious of the American public. Sifry even claims that blogs such as Instapundit and Gizmodo have as much influence on the mainstream media as MTV. And CNN even has a section on the Anderson Cooper show highlighting what’s going on in the Blogosphere. This begs a larger question of how blogging became so pervasive?
In the late 1990s, weblogs were basic link-driven sites created by tech geeks and web enthusiasts to help filter the rapidly growing content available on the interent according to an individual’s interests. Some blogs tracked celebrity gossip while others provided a round-up of political links from newspapers all over the world. As the information available in cyberspace increased, blogs provided a perfect place to one-stop shop for all relevant information desired by the reader. Before the prevalence of gossip-oriented blogs such as Gawker and Defamer, I used to be obsessed with Page 6 to find out the latest New York and celebrity gossip. I also used to subscribe to over 10 magazines including In Style, Entertainment Weekly, Us Weekly and People. Now, thanks to my favorite blogs, Page 6 is clearly yesterday’s news and I have a lot less paper strewn around my apartment. I’m aggravated in the morning that Page 6 is basically reporting on gossip broken by Gawker the previous day.
In 1999, blogging really took off with the introduction of Blogger, an application that made it fast and easy for anyone with a computer and Internet access to create his/her own blog. The post-Blogger explosion has included hosts such as AOL Journals and MSN Spaces and re-invented the concept of the weblog. Rather than linking to other sites, blogs have begun to serve as a diary for writers’ thoughts and actions or perhaps as a platform for bloggers to promote political agendas. Most blogs include links that prompted their posts, and also include links to other blogs in the sidebar. Readers can not only track a conversation through these links and comments, but identify a community of people actually conducting the conversation. Reading a particular blog can reveal a distinct cult of personality of a connected community of bloggers.
Now, I relish the fact that in this day and age of what seems to be an infinite amount of media and voices, my opinion just might make a difference. Each time I post a new entry in my blog, my voice might make a difference in determining what I might watch on TV or might be able to buy at Barnes and Noble. My blog might dicatate the new Democratic presidential candidate. I’ve dabbled in video art and stand-up comedy, but blogging by has, by far, provided me with the best means to express myself.
Perhaps blogs are the new reality television. Through blogging, surveillance is perfectly natural and everyone is naturally constructed as a performer an observer at the same time. An examination of the history of my own blogging provides some insight into the performance of personality through the medium of the blog. Since 1998, I’ve been writing my personal thoughts and journal entries on the Internet. My first weblog was a simple html page documenting every time I ran into a former eccentric coworker. I would document where I saw him and outline our basic interaction. After he disappeared, I started keeping an online journal about all of my dates called the “Men I Meet” including what I wore, drank and ate along with a rating for each date. I even got a paid job writing this weblog along with rounding up entertainment news links for the now defunct Web site Ironminds.com. I also got laid off, which was the end of that blog and the start of my two-year waitressing career. I was and am always surprised that my friends and strangers were interested in my mundane life. (And, this was before Google spidered the entire Internet providing access to my blog to anyone who just might be searching for an opinion on a topic such as VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club.) Because updating my weblogs took a lot of time and effort, I abandonded all of these early HTML weblogs. Two years ago, I finally switched over to using Blogger, which made it technically easier for me to write my thoughts and publish them over the net. No longer having to fuss with html, blogger allows to me to blog nycbabylon.com quickly on a daily basis. I write about boyfriends, shopping, TV and my cat. I find my daily blogging sessions more cathartic than a visit to the shrink.
Through my blog, I’m a celebrity in my own mind. When I hit that “publish” button I feel satisfied knowing that my written thoughts are for all to see. I’ve also made friends including a medical intern in Florida, a former Republican in the Midwest and a therapist in the midwest. When I blogged about a lump found in my breast, I was shocked from the outpouring of support I received from my blogging buddies.
Along with reading and linking to other blogs, I’ve installed a system to track statistics on my blog. I spend time each night analyzing who is visiting my blog along with my traffic. I can track referring URL’s, IP addresses, countries and the amount of pages visited. I can also track returning visitors. Not only can I monitor which of my friends cares enough about me to keep up with the blog, I can analyze which of my posts are actually being read, linked and discussed on other blogs. I can monitor my own influence on the general public, which influences what I write in the future.
Although I am part of a defined blogging community, with such rapid expansion of the blogosphere, I’m beginning to feel that my blog continues to become less relevant in this infinite cyberuniverse. So, now, I’m spending less time on my blog and focusing more on my podcast which is basically a MP3 radio show that I can upload onto the net for anyone to download. I, of course, promote this on my blog as I continue to grow a media empire from my bedroom.
Rachel Weiss’s blog
Please feel free to comment below.
Will converting the medium of the blog into a marketing tool for public corporations create a blog bust?
What is the next step for blogs?
Sarah Crofton’s comment touches on what I find the most interesting part of Weiss’s article. How does the use of personal information available through blogs problematize the realm of blogging? Will bloggers become more self-aware? Will they stop blogging all together? With media publics becoming rapidly more savvy, it is conceivable that bloggers could even join together as a community (since community forming seems to be the clear intention of most bloggers) and mess with marketing research using misleading information. What are the possible kinds of power inherent in blog communities?
A blog in every household
This is definitly a fascinating trend. Blogging communities are focusing attention away from other media, and this is a result of the shift to the web for information gathering. Mass media is declining (Network TV’s audience share has dropped by one third since 1985) and internet use is increasing (online advertising to grow 30% this year, crossing the $10 billion dollar mark). More and more people are spending time gazing at their computer screen instead of a TV screen or going to movies or buying cds. I am one of the early adopters of this trend, in the sense that my television shows, movies, games, music are all downloaded for free from the internet, and this is how i spend time with media, through use of the internet. It’s much more interesting to have all different sorts of media accessable with one device. Also, i have my own blog that gets visited daily. If this trend continues, the internet will be the only media. Your music will be downloaded through the web for a small fee, as well as access to TV, movies, blogs, or news. Blogging communities are a step in that direction, as it makes the web more interactive, and uses the web as an accessable way to be expressed. You don’t have to pubish a novel, just send ur blog to an infinite amount of people and your views are out in the open. I am one to hope that blogs get more and more saavy so that we can see media start to integrate with the web more and more.
intro to blogging
As someone who is looking perhaps to start a personal blog that hopefully attempts to transcend beat reporting of day-to-day life, I’ve wondered what possible kind of influence/readership I could have by even starting one — after all, I’ve lately heard the sentence “Well, anyone can have a blog nowadays” more times than I can count. The Weiss piece thankfully runs down the initiation of blogs into Web and then pop culture, and then a bit about its pervasiveness and influence. I don’t think blogging has nearly as much influence on individuals as it does on certain media outlets, so Weiss gets that right but doesn’t necessarily articulate how it affects the daily life of consumers like me — I may use those of my friends like a personal daily newspaper but not be reliant on the big name blogs for any kind of sustenance. So I think there is certainly another critical avenue to be explored there. However I can’t argue with Weiss’s sense of entitlement, accomplishment and self-importance by posting; this seems to be the main appeal of blogs for owners besides blogrings, as the article implies.
Blogs- good vs bad
I must admit I have never written a blog. I barely read them. There is something very personal about a journal- even if it is published for all to see. But I had never put it into the perspective of “published work.” In this sense the internet is now doing something for people that was never possible before. Now you don’t have to work for a magazine or newspaper to get your thoughts read- just log onto your computer and your own personal thoughts and experiences can be shared with complete strangers. Anyone has the power to reach out to a perfect stranger and make some sort of connection. But how real is that connection? In theory it is stronger than that of a newspaper reader and the author because it is easier for the blog reader to post their response to what they read. But when it comes to calling the audience “friends” I have to wonder what kind of relationships we are setting up. Someone who lives far away, who you may never meet yet you converse weekly on the web. You share personal thoughts and stories. And by sharing the pain of isolation and alienation are lifted because of the response of someone. Do people even need real human contact? Or words on a screen enough to satisfy our basic relationship needs? In any case, one must wonder just what are we losing by blogging everything? By sharing your personal experience they are no longer your’s- now they are everyone’s. In the end, how can you tell what is real and what is read.
The Future of Blogs
In response to SRP, I think that many bloggers are wary of revealing personal information. I know that sites such as Livejournal have ways of making entries available only to a blogger’s friends, but some other services don’t have this option. As a result, many blogs are anonymous, which opens the door to something which I think is inevitable: corporate PR blogs masquerading as regular bloggers. How does one know whether or not a blogger is praising or promoting something because it is truly useful or because they are on a company payroll? Gizmodo.com and CoolHunting.com are only steps away from being advertisements. How long will it be before popular blogs are bought out by Samsung or GE and harp on the wonders of these products? I agree with Sarah Crofton that recognition of blogs as a marketing resource will create a blog bust, hastened by the democratization of blogging. Though the blog takeover is just starting, I have to admit that the possibilities of the media are interesting. Jessica Richards brings up an interesting point: blogging communities can easily become replacement social circles, so at what point is face-to-face contact completely obsolete? In addition, I occasionally wonder at what point we will stop using paper altogether in our search for information. It seems to me that blogging will hasten the extinction of traditional printed newspapers and magazines.
I would have to say blogs are the new reality TV. You can get so much more out of reading these people’s blog and their daily lives then the reality that is portrayed on television. I mean when was the last time that The Real World actually followed the cast in their daily rituals without needing to highly edit it to create problems. These reality shows are made for the sole purpose of creating drama just to see the cast argue with each other or to say something that is the next catch phrase. For example, in The Simple Life Paris Hilton was known for addressing Nicole in a very nasal sounding voice that was heard each time the preview came on television. Blogs are much more interesting to read because we know the people that are writing them. We can read about their lives even if we have not seen them in awhile and see exactly what is going on in with them. Blogs do serve as a public diary where topics from school to ex-boyfriend can be evaluated and discussed. My roommate has recently started to blog and has expressed that she has been able to get a lot off her chest through this. Furthermore she meets people that have been in the same boat and can relate to them. I know for me reading her blogs are so much more captivating because I know her and I know what she has been through. Instead of watching these fake reality shows I can get a bite of the real “real” world and be satisfied that these are the experiences that we are actually going through.
Beware of Blogger
I have mixed opinions on blogging. First, I think it can be very therapeutic as Weiss mentioned. I’ve had a blog berfore and have found it very relieving to write up a post with no restraint in order to let off some steam. But bloggers must be careful, or rather, those who associate with bloggers. I read an article a while back about someone working on Capiltol Hill who blogged about her ‘relations’ with many people working in the government. While she didn’t reveal their names, they eventually leaked out and there were some firings…all because someone blogged about not only their own personal experiences, but of others as well. This is gossip on a much larger scale. It used to be only celebrities who had to worry about smearing on this scale, but thanks to the accessablity of the internet, anyone is fair game. Now, someone in China could be intimately aware of the drama going on in the life of college student in Texas who blogs without restraint. It’s something to be aware of.
Blogger What, Blogger Who?
I was first introduced to the Blogoshere phenomenon this Spring Break at the 2005 South by Southwest convention. To my surprise, I was overcome by the sheer size of the blogger’s movement and it’s pervasiveness since every other panel at the convention was either on “How to Create an Effective Blog” or “Maintaining Blogger Credibility.” I am not a blogger…yet…but I do have a lot to say about the industry (if I can call it that.) First, how can it be that a person’s journal/blog has become the research for a corporation’s study on the American public? I can’t imagine reading someone’s journal and then evaluating what that says about pop culture or mainstream media since not everyone has access to computers…but I guess the demographics that matter to those companies include computer owners. However, the growing significance of the blogging community astonishes me. Weiss argues their significance by referencing Sifry, (I’m assuming it’s a weblog tracker,) which claims certain blogs to have as much influence on the mainstream media as MTV. That’s a lot of influence. Even if the blogging community is doubling every five months, I doubt that there is that much influence since I have yet to be effected by the Blogoshere and I am a student surrounded by the internet and all it’s glory. Secondly, there is something to be said about the type of person who blogs just to “publish” something. You can never be certain if their work is accurate enough to reference from or if the blogger is a real person and not just a corporation trying to promote a product to it’s viewers. I am very skeptical about self-publication without a publisher’s certification. However, Weiss’s argument of the significance of the blogoshere in today’s world has motivated me to further investigate my skepticism of this blogging phenomenon. But unlike Weiss, I will not forgo my newspaper for a summarized version of the news from a self-published source.
I miss “The Men I Meet” You really need to resurrect it. It was one of those rare bits of journalism that was both hilarious and painful (and weird, interesting, insightful, voyeuristic, sexy, psycho, scary and a whole lotta other adjectives.)
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WEll, like Girls Gone Wild videos, old blog can come back to haunt you; that Marxist Polemic blog you wrote as a Undergrad at Berkeley can be your undoing in your bid to snag that CFO gig at Exxon a few years down the road.
Caveat Scriptor, I say.