Don’t you miss the days of Web 1.0? When the Internet was young and filled with cute little HTML websites, simple blue hypertexts and the occasional animated GIF.
Few could suspect at the time how this series of tubes would come to change the media landscape in little over a decade until the World Wide Web dropped anchor in Eternal September. Newspapers didn’t have to try to attract readers with fancy graphics and think about charging them for online content yet. The Net was nothing to worry about.
But then came the blogs and the social networks and the rise of citizen journalism and opinion — not news — became the norm.
Newspapers and networks figured that to imitate the success of the Web, they had to mimic its style. Thus emerged the professional blogger who oftentimes failed to charm their online audiences. For in a field of “decentralization and democratization,” common-sense amateurs are more appreciated than the so-called expert panels who get to comment on TV in their blitzes of hysteria of faux folksiness.
As much of the “real” media moved from journalism to mass-entertainment, intelligent people craving intelligent news and commentary turned online.
The media complained. The Internet, they cried, was unfair. Quality, they argued, could not compete against free content.
But they forgot that most of them had stopped to deliver “quality” some time ago.
Did they ever stop to wonder what made blogs successful in the first place?
The professional blogger marched on and, in fairness, some are doing a pretty good job. Magazines like The Atlantic and Newsweek prove that traditional media can thrive online. They offer unique features and integrate their print publications with their websites, so readers need not pay for reading content online.
On the other hand there are blogs like The Huffington Post and Politico that have turned into full-fledged professional publications.
This had led some to reminiscence about the early days of blogging. Laura McKenna wrote at 11D last summer that the blogosphere isn’t what it used to be. Bloggers are burned, followers are bored and The Huffington Post “has sucked up all the readers.”
And that one isn’t even a proper blog.
It is run by people who don’t link to other bloggers and do not get the old ways and norms that greased the system in the old days.
Bloggers stopped linking to one another and it has undermined the blogosphere.
What’s left is niche blogs.
“If you have a particular expertise and unique perspective, [then] you can quickly gain a following,” writes McKenna. “Everyone else is out of luck.”
Niche blogs do well. War is Boring, for example, has attracted attention because of its outstanding citizen journalism focusing exclusively on matters of defense. Readers have come to rely on their expertise because their scope is limited.
But who’s really interested in following the every thoughts of some anonymous voice across the screen anymore?
Our disappointment with the all-round “experts” of traditional media is what prompted the rise of political blogs to begin with.
The Daily Show generation doesn’t believe what some face on television tells them to believe. They demand to know more. If the news doesn’t give it to them, they’ll go online to find out for themselves.
Perhaps the blogosphere was cozier before it became professional, but the success of The Huffington Post, Politico and niche blogs should not be interpreted as a failure of amateur blogging. Rather they prove its triumph. Traditional media are forced to adapt.
Knowledge is more freely available than it ever was. Everyone can do their own fact-checking and have their voice heard.
As part of the media crusades against the Internet while the other half tries to fit in; as the revolution is twittered and iReporting thrives, the Web has shown itself to be a powerful tool. Newspapers may be losing subscriptions, but more and more in blogs we trust.