Who Killed the "Blogosphere"?

You needn’t look much further than my about page to see where I stand on the virtue of having a free and independent blogosphere.

I started blogging in 2002.  A naive, inexperienced nobody with no experience and nothing more than a will to be heard.  The idea that I could, with little technical know-how and a bit of dedication, create something that anyone in the world could read was an amazing concept to me.

While I was realizing the power and potential of blogging many others were realizing the financial opportunities available, as Nick Carr points out:

While there continue to be many blogs, including a lot of very good ones, it seems to me that one would be hard pressed to make the case that there’s still a “blogosphere.” That vast, free-wheeling, and surprisingly intimate forum where individual writers shared their observations, thoughts, and arguments outside the bounds of the traditional media is gone. Almost all of the popular blogs today are commercial ventures with teams of writers, aggressive ad-sales operations, bloated sites, and strategies of self-linking. Some are good, some are boring, but to argue that they’re part of a “blogosphere” that is distinguishable from the “mainstream media” seems more and more like an act of nostalgia, if not self-delusion.

Fortunately, as long as there are sites like WordPress.com and Blogger, the blogosphere will never truly be dead, in critical condition perhaps, but not dead.  As long as the tools are available there will continue to be a steady stream of new faces that will take their turn at this medium.  Many will quickly lose interest and fade away, some may toil on in anonymity journaling their lives and thoughts and a few may even become blogging superstars.

The issue before us is whether or not, going forward, we can somehow differentiate commercial blogs and so-called blog networks that buy out smaller blogs to build up their network of sites, diluting their material and killing competition, but bowing to the almighty pageview.

Fortunately, there are still copious numbers of passionate, independent bloggers creating fantastic, unique and personal content.  It’s just getting harder to weed out the actual blogger from the commercial online magazines masquerading as blogs.

“Scroll down Technorati’s list of the top 100 blogs and you’ll find personal sites have been shoved aside by professional ones,” writes one corporate blogger, Valleywag’s Paul Boutin, in the new Wired. “Most are essentially online magazines: The Huffington Post. Engadget. TreeHugger. A stand-alone commentator can’t keep up with a team of pro writers cranking out up to 30 posts a day. When blogging was young, enthusiasts rode high, with posts quickly skyrocketing to the top of Google’s search results for any given topic, fueled by generous links from fellow bloggers … That phenomenon was part of what made blogging so exciting. No more.” The buzz has left blogging, says Boutin, and moved, at least for the time being, to Facebook and Twitter.

Perhaps it’s time for creation of a new consortium to address these issues and attempt to save the blogosphere which so many have thrived on.  Technorati “was founded to help bloggers to succeed by collecting, highlighting, and distributing the online global conversation”.  How big would it be for Technorati to start categorizing and separating corporate blogs and blog networks (many of which are akin to puppy mills for blogs) from personal blogs.  If your stated mission is to “collect, organize, and distribute the global online conversation” it seems that identifying the source of that conversation would be imperative to your mission.

At the end of the day, there may not be one, lone suspect you can point to in killing the blogosphere.  All we can do now is try and look toward the people that have the ability and resources to resuscitate it, I guess the ball is in their court.


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