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At Last! Trend Stories on the Decline of the Blog!

Well, you knew the blog was over as soon the big media boys got into the game. Here at Raw HQ, we made a formal announcement on Day One that our arrival would assure the completion of the phenomenon.

Now come the dreaded trend stories reporting that blogs have peaked, nobody's reading us, the kids have moved on to flogging, etc. Remember, sports fans, actual facts can be superfluous in the construction of the perfect trend piece. You need your three strong anecdotes, your blisteringly perceptive quote from a Reliable Authority, and you're halfway home.

This report from the obviously biased but very well-documented folks at Technorati would have us believe that everything's hunky dory, that Americans continue to discover this medium and relish its expansion, and so on.

And here those same researchers make the case that the entry of big media companies like this here Washington Post thingy has changed the color of the blogosphere, and has once again shown us that many, if not most, folks still enjoy having some credible authority behind the information we consume. That same study shows, however, that there's no danger of the big boys pushing the grassroots folks out of blogging's Top 100.

But a new study by Gallup says hold on, folks, this blogging thing may have peaked: The report, "Blog Readership Bogged Down," cautions that "the growth in the number of U.S. blog readers was somewhere between nil and negative in the past year." As reported in the Chicago Tribune,

"Gallup finds only 9 percent of Internet users saying they frequently read blogs, with 11 percent reading them occasionally. Thirteen percent of Internet users rarely bother, and 66 percent never read blogs. Those numbers, essentially unchanged from a year earlier, put blog-reading dead last among Gallup's measures of 13 common Internet activities. E-mailing ranks first (with 87 percent of users doing so frequently or occasionally), followed by checking news and weather (72), shopping (52) and making travel plans (also 52)."

This rings true: More people doing more of the same. We do tend to settle into patterns and stick to them.

That said, surveys like the ones we're seeing here are often a whole lot of fairly useless information. These numbers assume that folks answering the surveys have the same definitions of a blog in their heads and that the character of the blog is relatively stable, which it probably isn't.

You know we're still in the relatively early phase of the phenomenon because the utopian fervor and propaganda is still thriving. Class reading assignment for today: This thoughtul but ultimately wildly optimistic and self-important treatise by Glenn Reynolds.

He's of course right that big media companies are leaping into the blog business because it's the hot new thing. But he makes the all too common mistake of lumping blogs from big media companies together with the newsgathering work of traditional journalism and concluding that mainstream journalism will peter out. Certainly we're in the midst of a wave of costcutting that diminishes the MSM's capacity to tout our distinction as the primo reservoir of fact in a sea of opinion.

But smart journalism companies will cling for dear life to that good old newsgathering function because the central truth of the Internet age in the news world is that blogs and other newfangled creations rely utterly on the relatively small number of outlets that still do original, expensive reporting. Yes, bloggers are a new and valuable corrective, a check on abuses within and beyond the media world. And yes, some bloggers do some reporting. But there's no business model that puts bloggers in position to do the pricey work of a newsroom of 800 full-time journalists.

The trick for media companies that really value their heritage and purpose will be to figure out ways to sell that concept, to rejigger their newsrooms to serve as a resource for rather than as a rhetorical enemy of bloggers, and to reach readers in forms that fit with the harried, flitting lives of contemporary citizens of an atomized world.

Your turn....

By Marc Fisher |  March 1, 2006; 7:31 AM ET
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I think blogs are good for the reason the opening title above described.
I think the newspapers have been edited to death, 'happy news for happy people', content rules designed to sell dishwashers and other household goods, a 'bed' for advertising, if you will. Once upon a time, the cost of your daily paper actually took care of the bills, and they didn't have to print 2/3 ads to 1/3 content like they do today, of course that was back in the day when you could get someone to put in a full shift for 40 bucks or so, no 401k/dental etc. O tempora, o mores, but I think blogs are starting to pick up the slack where cherry-picking editors left off, I've seen more meat-n-taters discussions on The Issues in the blogspace than I have on the front page of papers/their websites. Of course, I'm one of those 'censorship is the DEVIL' people, so what do I any rate, I like the blogs, I think they'll get better over time, it's a Good Thing to see that the news sites out there are getting tuned into the idea of reader feedback. For years and years and years we had TV(1 way), and radio call-in shows. You could write a letter to the editor, but it would get pitched if it was something they didn't want to publish, too long a letter, etc.

Will blogs help us get closer to the moon, or end welfare? Probably not, but they're a way for people to speak their minds, have fun, and enjoy 2-way media, for a change...and that's a good thing.

Posted by: Bert | March 1, 2006 9:36 AM

Wait a minute Marc, don't kill it...I think the post didn't sell this blogger thing right, for me it was by accident when i clicked on your story title I thought I was reading a column not going into a blogger world.

It was quietly added to WP's website. I didn't see one advertisement..."try our new addition "the Blogger site" and it's simple just click on comment and you're in to make professional comments.

I think you'll see an increase once the word gets out.

I enjoy it.

Posted by: Frankey | March 1, 2006 9:39 AM

Gosh - I just am getting into this whole blog thing, and now it might die?

I LOVE that you have this outlet for your writings. I may not comment much (if ever) but want to encourage this forum for your work.

Posted by: dwith | March 1, 2006 9:47 AM

A couple of problems...

This presumes that "journalism" isn't in and of itself in need of a good house cleaning. An industry that circles the wagons around such chuckleheads as Ceci Connelly, Frank Bruni, Chris Czilla, Deborah Howell, etc... is in serious need of some self-regulation for quality.

Second, the conglomeration has to stop. We need new ownership regulations which break up the huge media congloms (yes, like the Post corporate owner). Smaller, but greatly increased numbers of media firms would add voices, and get rid of the corporate bean counters who demand 20% profit. We're talking about limiting ownership of no more than _one_ media outlet in any market.

Posted by: John | March 1, 2006 9:51 AM

What are you talking about? Why jump on people who make profit?

What does blogging have to do with profit and smaller media firms?

I suggest you go to Fox News website and write your comments to people who support your idea.

Otherwise, Marc keep the blog, I'm telling you word isn't out yet.

WP get the word out!

Posted by: Frankey to John | March 1, 2006 10:09 AM

Marc, the reason I read blogs is because most newspapers stick kind the information I'm looking for way on page A13, with just a little AP report. I'm looking for information on what is going on with Americans torturing people, extrodinary rendition (AKA - kidnapping someone and taking them to someone else to have them tortured), and what's going on in Guantanimo with the hunger strike. The WaPo is a great paper, sometimes breaks this kind of news, but doesn't always do a great job with these issues. By reading blogs I can find the information I'm looking for, often found in several news sites.

If I'm looking for opions, I can find a faw wider range of opinions on the blogs. for instance, reading the WaPo if I'm at al nervous about the Dubai Port deal I'm accused of being a racist. On the web I can read that accusation, I can also read about issues with the deal, and perhaps ways to fix thoses issues.

Posted by: Jonathan | March 1, 2006 10:12 AM

The blogs, especially the right wing blogs, are more than the Nazi sound trucks of the 1930s than a source of information.

When the internet first became popular, there were many online discussion forums with passionate debates. Debaters submitted facts to support their arguments and --in the course of competition -- the reader was informed and came up with a picture reasonably close to reality.

By contrast, blogs are designed to deceive and to mislead -- to be one-way broadcasts of propaganda.

This is especially true of right wing blogs. It's hilarious that a group which poses as a "corrective to mainstream media bias".

Consider Glenn Reynold's Instapundit , for example. Reynolds does not even allow comments so that readers can correct his mistakes. His criticism of the new media is hilarious given the bullshit he put up while beating the drums for war on Iraq. When the US investigation found no WMDs in Iraq, Glenn seized on the report of a botulinism culture being found in an Iraqi scientist's refrigerator. I emailed him pointing out that (a) the strain was a weak form, with legitimate uses (b) that botulinism is a common bacteria and (c) that many such "precursors to bio-weapons" could be found in the refrigerators of our college fraternities. Glenn did NOT post a corrective explaining to his readers that his earlier post had greatly misled them by overhyping the significance of the Iraq culture.

The right wing blogs which do allow comments do not allow real discourse --only a misleading appearance of one.

Anyone who posts FACTS at variance with those blogs opinions will shortly find himself banned from posting under one pretext or another. This ban is not announced to the other readers,of course -- the one thing the right wing blogs like is the Communist technique of the midnight arrest and disappearance of posters -- the creation of "non-persons".

The reason , of course, is that one of the best ways to lie is to present only part of the truth -- to greatly hype a narrative while covering up and hiding contrary facts which show that narrative to be false.

The problem is that these blogs are really harming the country. If a newspaper repeatedly deceives and misleads the voters, it will suffer a loss of readers and profits as competitors point out its shortcomings.

By contrast, no one knows who is funding these right wing blogs--who is paying for their bandwidth and servers. Who dumps money in Instapundit's tip jar -- thousands of grass roots supporters or Richard Mellon Scraife seeking to evade federal laws on campaign financing?

One can dismiss right wing blog readers as ignorant and uninformed -- but their votes count. Many of Adolf Hitler's supporters were ignorant and uninformed.

Posted by: Don Williams | March 1, 2006 10:33 AM

The WaPo blogs are useful as a means of fact-checking many of the things that the columns themselves say. I find that the generic, national view of things that your staff in DC have to say are often wildly inadequate compared to the information that locals in the affected states have to say.

In short, the blog world can improve the print world if you'll pay attention.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 1, 2006 10:59 AM

Karl Rove's comments on the blogsphere:
"“There is so much ugliness and viciousness and fundamental untruths that the blogosphere transmits,” he lamented. “It also is a vehicle for ugly rumors, for scurrilous personal attacks, an avenue for the creation of urban legends which are deeply corrosive of the political system and of people’s faith in it.”
It's not clear if Rove was stating a criticism or expressing deep admiration.

Posted by: Don Williams | March 1, 2006 11:15 AM

Watch out Marc - get too popular and those nutjobs in the VA House will try to tax your blogging. Heck, they're trying to tax satellite radio (HB568). But they won't let NoVA tax itself for transportation improvements. Grrrr.

Posted by: md 20/400 | March 1, 2006 11:19 AM

Of course all this is the right-wings fault, DW. They print drivel, the left-wing one print facts. Of course, you call them facts because the fit your pre-conceived world view. Personally, I've read more looney-toon positions and crackpot conspiracy theories on those lefty blogs. No facts prsented, just fill in the blanks with anything you have handy to blast the right or the administration.

Posted by: Stick | March 1, 2006 11:24 AM

Dead-on, though not earth-shattering. The importance will drop, but a niche has been secured.

We'll (me) take it up at highwayscribery and link to you sometime later today.

"Expensive" journalism. Good one.

Posted by: the highway scribe | March 1, 2006 11:46 AM

As soon as Anthony Williams got a blog I knew this blog fad was over.

Posted by: DC Parent | March 1, 2006 1:33 PM

I think blogs are here to stay; there are enough people in the world who need more of a "connection" than one gets from reading a newspaper, even a small hometown weekly. The blog seems to provide that.

Regarding the comments in the Reynolds article - yes, many well known and respected papers are built upon an alleged "reputation" and these sources are often cited as evidence of one's tendency toward intellegent (and truthful) activities; the question is this: given that societal standards have morphed so dramatically over the course of my relatively short adulthood - and not for the better - can these "reputations" be upheld? Who can be trusted? Lies have been exposed in the most trusted places. The kind of exchange that occurs here can be a way to sort things out and possibly learn of the truth. Of course, it could just as easily be an opportunity for creating fantasy. I guess we all must decide for ourselves what to keep and what to throw away. The blog is here for good, but it isn't going to squash or significantly change those "reputable" papers unless they fall prey to the most unthinkable tragedy - they lose money.

Posted by: maggie | March 1, 2006 1:33 PM

The Blogs will all do great once they INCREASE THE TYPE SIZE ON THE COMMENTS SECTION.

Posted by: TBG | March 1, 2006 5:47 PM

On the one hand blogs present an exellent "extention" to traditional media. However, there are not loads of really worthy ones. It seems that blogs are mushrooming and so it takes a lot of time and effort to find out good ones. Whenever I am trying to dig out something, I feel engulfed by the sheer amount of blogs, so most of the time I just stop surfing the blogs and read only the ones "attached" to major newspapers. Probbaly it'll do a lot of good for an average i-net user to creat a sort of directory & rating of the blogs. Since blogosphere looks a bit of messy to say the least.

Posted by: Pam | March 2, 2006 11:57 AM

Re - "the kids have moved on to flogging, etc." -- I hadn't heard of "flogging" except as an archaic form of punishment, so ran it through Google ... and still don't know what it has to do with the Internet, as Google showed me lots of images I'd just as soon not have seen, followed by a list of sites such as:
The Official Flogging Molly Website;
Sea Service Discipline - Flogging;
Grim's Guide to Flogging (part of a bdsm site);
Flogging the Simian;
Flagellation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia;
Publishers Marketplace: Flogging the Quill;
and -- Flogging a Slave. from a PBS documentary.
What is the kind of "flogging" to which you were refering, Marc?

Posted by: floggy bottom .. | March 2, 2006 5:52 PM

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