Blogging, and more, is a threat to traditional publishing

Martin Stabe addresses the age old question of blogger vs. journalist (age old in Internet years!).

This is a reaction post, not so much a response post. I don’t really have anything to add to Martin’s excellent points, but it does prompt me, remind me that there are related topics to cover.

First, some preliminaries: Regular readers will know that I define blogging as a conversation. Good blogging isn’t just spouting and not responding (i.e., definitive-voice journalism). Yes, the word blog covers both technology and a whole host of self-publishing paradigms that are unrelated to journalism. And every point that Martin makes about blogging not necessarily being parasitic to MSM is also true, but it’s also true that linking to multiple sources and contributing a level of expertise to the conversation is also a form of journalism. Elitists in the profession fail to see this.

A common meme among Trad J’s that Martin also touches on is that blogging won’t destroy Trad J. The answer, of course, is “probably not.” And as Martin says, blogging may be more of a threat to traditional publishing than it is to definitive-voice journalism. But don’t count on it.

Here’s why blogging is a threat:

  • There’s a lot of them. In the Attention Economy, there’s only so much time. The more blogs to read, the less time people have for your publication. Add in YouTube, MySpace, craigslist … you get the picture. Newspapers aren’t competing just against TV, radio or cross-town rival any more. We are competing against everything. That may be one reason sites get so little traffic as they do, even as by traditional standards, they deserve more.
  • Blogs can make self publishers money, and in the future more will make money, and they will make more money. It isn’t just about Google AdSense or BlogAds any longer. Now you have Federated Media and targeted recruitment ads. We’ll see new blog related revenue models spring up as people continue to innovate in this space.
  • Blogs are now an accepted platform in the media space. This means more traditional advertising dollars will flow to blogs both in advertising and sponsorships. Marketers will especially recognize the value of specialized, quality, niche blogs and pay a premium to get sponsorship placement on those blogs. Independent journalism of all stripes will become more common.
  • Every dollar that flows to a blog is one less dollar for newspapers (though this isn’t necessarily a zero-sum economy), but more important than dollars is time, and that is zero sum.
  • Self-published, community sites are going to continue to grow and the good ones will get traction. We’re going to see more sites like the New Haven Independent and Colorado Confidential. These deep-in-the-community sites have a real chance to resonate with local audiences.

These are all disruptive, innovative changes. Disruption works in two ways: It’s death by a thousand cuts, and it’s also new entrants starting out with good enough and getting better. Blogging — be it text, audio or video — is on a classic disruptive course, starting at the low end, where the incumbents don’t see an opportunity, and building something of value.

The usual course of history is that once disruptors get a foot hold, the game is over. Disruptors win and sustainers lose. Reversing course is hard and expensive.
Sadly, I hear a lot of journalists on the web arguing in favor of sustaining the status quo instead of embracing innovation. Incumbents often lose not because the executives don’t see the need for change. It’s often the middle managers and staff on down who block change.

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1 thought on “Blogging, and more, is a threat to traditional publishing

  1. […] This fits in with my recent post on blogging and disruption. But the extra value our quality news organizations can and must regularly add is analysis: thoughtful, incisive attempts to divine the significance of events — insights, not just information. What is required — if journalism is to move beyond selling cheap, widely available, staler-than-your-muffin news — is, to choose a not very journalistic-sounding word, wisdom. […]

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