After 10 Years of Blogs, the Future’s Brighter Than Ever

In Wired, Jenna Wortham focuses on what blogs typically look like to journalists.

Blogs are re-shaping not just news and entertainment, but also publishing, politics and public relations.

Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s most famous blogger, is widely credited with putting a human face on the giant company and facilitating an exchange between customer and corporation. Matt Drudge’s news blog Drudge Report garnered national recognition for his coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal; last year, Drudge — a former convenience store clerk — was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. “Rathergate,” a blog-driven critique of Dan Rather’s journalism, led to the CBS anchorman’s early, ignominious retirement.

Furthermore, blogs have become important news sources in their own right. Behind-the-scenes footage and reports emerged during crises like the South Asian tsunami, the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and the recent Burmese uprising, when coverage from traditional outlets was scarce.

The article doesn’t really talk about the impact of the long tail — that is, the effect of the many, many bloggers who are not at the top of the pecking order, but who have nevertheless formed readership networks that enrich the blogosphere. It’s because so many people are writing — instead of just reading what a small number of media producers deem printworthy — that the top bloggers can find such quirky but as-yet-unknown things to blog about.

My students are almost all on Facebook, but not all of them have heard of weblogs, even though a Facebook network incorporates pretty much everything that weblogs are good at. Facebook users are encouraged to link to each other, rather than outside resources. The gated community strengthens the group, which keeps the value of the user content within the Facebook network, which is in some ways the opposite of what a blogger is doing by giving that value away to the internet at large, but the principle is the same.