Thursday, December 21, 2006

Traditional media again clueless about blogs

There is something about fear that makes the minds of otherwise intelligent people go numb.

Over at the Washington Post, where the quality of the op-ed page has been suffering of late and bloggers have been conducting a WaPo op-ed roast, it appears that any sign, even misguided, about the possible relenting of the blogosphere is taken as good news. While I am not surprised that all the columnists and authors who get paid to produce crappy writing inferior to that of passionate amateurs would look for any succour and news of an end to their woes, it does amuse me to see the specious arguments they are willing to make.

Today, it's Raw Fisher, whose Wa-Po column purports to be "The Cold Splash of Reality, with a Side of Sizzle". I know, cue the laugh-track. His piece is hysterically called "The End of Blogging?", using a Cavuto mark at the end of the title.

His evidence?

So soon? A media research firm is now predicting that the number of blogs will peak in the coming year as the phenomenon cools off. The British firm Gartner bases its prediction on the decline of blogs on stats showing that some 200 million people worldwide who had started blogs have already given them up.

In fact, the BBC article that Fisher links to here says nothing about the "decline of blogs" at all. It simply says that the number of single-user-content blogs will begin to level off in the next year. From the actual BBC article:

The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million.

The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.

Gartner has made 10 predictions, including stating that Vista will be the last major release of Windows and PCs will halve in cost by 2010.

Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer said the reason for the levelling off in blogging was due to the fact that most people who would ever start a web blog had already done so.

He said those who loved blogging were committed to keeping it up, while others had become bored and moved on.

Sounds like a real decline to me. It must be the end of blogging if the 100 million or so passionate people are keeping on doing it, while the other 200 million stop. By those standards, anti-Americanism in the world must be declining toward its end, what with the fall of the Soviet Union and all. The fact that anti-Americanism is now down to a smaller but still very large number of really passionate people means the country is safe, right? Apparently nobody told George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld....

But the idiocy of WaPo's Fisher doesn't stop there. He continues:

The pace at which people stop blogging will soon overtake the pace of creation of new blogs, the company forecasts. All of which doesn't mean that blogs will go away--though they will surely evolve into something else in the coming years--but rather that the initial rush of folks who are blogging just because everyone else is will end. And that's a good thing--surely we suffer simultaneously from a surfeit of data and a paucity of wisdom.

Initial rush? People have been blogging for over a decade now; in Web time, that's like a millennium. Surfeit of data and a paucity of wisdom? Hell, I can find that everyday right on the op-ed pages of the Washington Post--much less on the Human Events website. Or from any of the gasbags who regularly haunt the studios of CNN and Fox News. I've seen more wisdom come out of the blogosphere's pinky finger than out of the oh-so-wise columnists and pundits at any of the major news organizations.

But again, Fisher isn't done exposing his own idiocy yet:

Blogs have the feel of an interim form. They're new and easy to experiment with. The form is not encumbered by nearly as many rules and traditions as hem in other kinds of writing. But it is a second-order form, given mainly to commentary and rants and suggestions more than to original reporting, imagination or ideas.

I don't really know where to start with this: the man just insulted himself. If he can show me the "original reporting", "imagination" or "idea" embodied what amounts to a very clearly "second-order...commentary and rant" on his part, I'll send him a check for five dollars. Seriously. In fact, if he can accurately show me the David Brooks or Peggy Noonan column that doesn't meet his criteria for a sub-tier "interim form", I'll eat my hat. But again, I digress and distract from Fisher's wonderful wisdom:

The trick for the next phase of its evolution will be to find ways to add heft and win wider notice, perhaps even some permanance for the best work, just as the best work appearing in daily newspapers and magazines eventually found its way to books (think Dickens, Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson).

Ooooh yeah! Permanent form! Like print journalism! That's the ticket! If bloggers can only get their work into print like me, then they'll really have made it! Sorry, Fisher: that's not called evolution; that's called devolution.

At the end, he tops even his own previous idiocy:

Any new form meets its greatest test in the period after the fad dies. If next year is that proving time for blogs, what will the next incarnation of the blog look like?

Where will the blogging "fad" go next? Well, feast your eyes, Fisher. It's right in front of your nose at Daily Kos. In fact, Time Magazine just named it Person of the Year. It's called a community blog; it's called a social networking site; it's called a social news site (like or the new Netscape); it's called a community video uploading site. As the number of solo bloggers shrinks, the size of community blogs grows--and begins to replace (gasp!) the readership of regular newspapers.

And if you, like the rest of your traditional media pals, hadn't had your head stuck firmly in the ground for the last five years, you'd know that. But I wouldn't want to sully your precious wisdom with my second-rate unevolved rant, so keep on keeping on, Mr. Fisher. I'm sure we'll catch up with you someday.


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