Caught wind of another meme today. Richard MacManus over at ReadWriteWeb weighed in on a topic started by Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger. Darren had basically mused on a bit about how the blogosphere might be losing its relational focus, which is a fancy way of saying that we don’t get along as much as we used to.
I briefly touched on this a few posts ago:
Darren Rowse says that the blogosphere just doesn’t get along with each other anymore. He obviously hasn’t read a political blog in a while. It’s mostly just for-profit tech bloggers that hate each other, and only a couple of them participate in that foolishness. I’m good (online) friends with employees at Mashable competitors ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat, Blog Herald and one former TechCrunch writer.
Richard hits the nail on the head today, though, when he says:
I don’t think there’s reason for alarm though. The fact is, pro blogs are full fledged – albeit niche – media businesses and they need to be run as such. As Sarah Perez mentioned in her personal blog recently, that is damn hard work. If you’re in the pro blog business, you have to care about page views, advertising, business development and strategy, and yes – the “competition”. What it boils down to is that new media is becoming more like old media – e.g. pro blogs run adverts and pay their writers.
Sounds a bit harsh when he says “new media is becoming more like old media,” but it’s absolutely true in a lot of ways. You can see it in the way that a lot of folks are resistant to changes in the conversation. Duncan Riley is calling this Blogging 2.0, I think.
I’ve had a lot of ideas swirling around in my head about the direction new media is going, and that’s part of the reason you haven’t seen any real huge, monumental editorials from me lately here or at Mashable. I’m on the cusp of a few epiphanies, and I really haven’t found the words to express it all just yet.
It’s a restless feeling, and it makes it difficult to sleep at night. It reminds me of the days when I’d be constantly working on a new start-up idea or thinking of ways to tweak the code on the startup project I was working on at the time, eventually sleeping from sheer exhaustion rather than anything else. It’s a bit exciting.
We are in a hugely different era now than we were ever in when it comes to New Media. I keep thinking back to Frederic’s post from a while ago talking about how unlikely it is for any new solo voices to rise to prominence in the manner the A-List has done now (side note: I just did a search on his blog, and that topic comes up a lot more than I remember!).
I’m starting to see some angles and opportunities and some breakthroughs in the blogosphere now, though, that were frankly impossible when I first started this. I don’t want to make this the focus of my post, but a brief run-down of my experience strictly with blogging might be in order so I can offer the benefit of what I’ve seen changing over the last decade or so.
A Brief History of My Blogging
When I first got onto the Web (not the Internet – the Web didn’t exist on my first forays to the web), I soon got around to setting up a site for my journalistic efforts, and one as a personal outlet. Obviously blogging wasn’t a real thing back then (this was during highschool, so sometime pre-1997), but I had teenage angst like any other kid in the 90s, so I set up a series of Tripod.com web pages, and would do about one or two pages a week that contained horrible poetry, experiences, jokes and of course animated .gifs.
This was a very insulated experience, and only about 130 or so folks ever hit the site in the four years it remained on the web (during one of Tripod’s acquisitions, it ended up disappearing completely).
After I graduated, I happened upon a site called Diaryland. I met a slew of really cool folks there, some of which I keep in touch with to this day (Hi, Kelly!) This is the first time the web was social for me. I would post random thoughts, experiences and stories during downtime at work as a software analyst, and folks would randomly happen across it. Relationships, networks, and blogrolls were forged.
Due to a really complicated series of events, I wound up no longer posting there at my Diaryland page, and merging my personal and professional blogs back over at Rizzn.com some time around 2002 or 2003. This is when the Web lost a lot of its social aspects for me. Despite the fact that I adhered to the liberal crosslinking and commenting behaviors I have today, I generally had the same thirty or forty readers from 2003 to around 2005 or so.
In December of 2004, I launched rizzn.net, which later became BlipMedia. Both sites have since become somebody’s ad farms, but in their hey-day they were hubs and free hosting sites I created for a new phenomenon called podcasting. In joining this larger social media movement in a leadership role, I was able to enlarge my profile quite a bit, but there still was a huge lack of community in the blogosphere. My podcasts had listenerships in the tens of thousands per month. My blog, save for the occasional MSM traffic spike, had virtually no major increase in regular readership, commenting or community.
It’s an odd feeling, really, when you’re blogging for years on end consistently and only getting minimal feedback. This trend of blogging to the wind continued on into 2006, when people started to catch on to this whole social media thing. MySpace, Craigslist, and my podcasts ironically, were what propelled me into the limelight until I was noticed by Pete and Adam over at Mashable.
If you’ve read this far, you probably know the rest of the story.
Back to my original point…
What changed? The fact that money was involved. Blogging has now entered the public consciousness. Watershed events like Rathergate and Howard Dean’s candidacy lent us political credibility. Sites like TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb and Mashable all gaining prominence, advertising dollars and audiences gave us motivation. Networking tools like Facebook, MySpace and Plaxo put us in continual touch with one another. New Media communications tools and technologies like YouTube, embedded flash, audio and video podcasting blasted open the doors on how we can express ourselves.
These days, we’re generations ahead in how we commune with one another, and the big dogs of the blogosphere are on the cusp of all being institutions, instead of communities (odd how time accelerates so quickly on the Internet, eh?).
I’ve seen bloggers rise from literally zero readers to near A-List prominence over the course of a few months in this new hyper-socially connected realm we’re in now. It no longer takes a decade to bec
ome a household blogging name.
There’s a new revolution afoot, and no one has quite pegged it yet. We’ve come pretty far, but we’re all working in a realm where we’re simply translating the Old Media one to one into the New Media. It’s grown up, and we know it makes money, but we haven’t transformed it yet. We haven’t made it our own.
This is the backdrop to the malformed ideas I have keeping me up at night, here are some sentence fragments and bullet points that I hope will lead to the Next Big Thing.
- The art of blogging – for profit and for journalistic, editorial or news purposes – needs and upgrade. We have three primary formats with which to express ourselves. Text, audio and video. The way it currently seems to be done is that text is the main dish while audio and video are the salt and pepper. These are ingredients that can stand on their own, and should take a more central role.
- Exclusively text content cannot be monetized indefinitely under the current prevailing business models. It is far too open to being stolen and repurposed, and the ‘conversation’ is migrating away from blogs to places where it is both just as public and easier to accomplish (Twitter, FriendFeed, MySpace). This puts the revenue out of the hands of the many and back to the hands of the few.
- FriendFeed and Facebook both have a pretty good handle on how to mix the three formats seamlessly and naturally.
- Engagement is more important than pageviews, both for advertisers and for content producers. We need better ways to measure and monetize both if we want to continue making money in this business.
- Video today is what blogging was two years ago – a few people you are watching now are over the next nine months or so going to end up being the leaders in the space.
I have some more specific thoughts that are much closer to business plans than anything else, and as such I don’t necessarily want to pollute the thought stream with them. These were my starting points for where I am right now, and I want to see what you guys do with them, and if this leads to any eureka! moments for you guys as well.