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Summary:

Are Blogs worth the hype? was the headline for a special package C/Net News.com put out last week. Made me think – are they really worth the hype? Or was this an old-new-media company wondering out aloud about its waning influence in the world of tech-news. […]

Are Blogs worth the hype? was the headline for a special package C/Net News.com put out last week. Made me think – are they really worth the hype? Or was this an old-new-media company wondering out aloud about its waning influence in the world of tech-news. I looked back to the early days of the Internet, and discovered that the old media, treated the then new media with same skepticism. Sure you cannot take all 3.5 million bloggers seriously, and by that same yardstick, you can’t deny a blogger his scoop. I have this longish essay on the whole subject and if you can get through it, I would love to get your thoughts and comments. (click on more to read the complete essay) Here is what others are saying

Growing old has a lot of downsides – hair plugs, expanding waistlines and broken dreams about playing in the big leagues. It has one upside though – perspective and context. And one thing I have perspective on is the rapidly changing nature of media in the modern world. Newspapers, radio, television, online news and now perhaps weblogs!

As a kid I dreamed of working for a newspaper, and then when I grew up, perhaps working for a magazine. The mighty editor up in the sky said, hang on a minute son, why don’t you skip the newspapers, and go work for a daily news wire. And maybe if you work hard enough, you might get a gig at a magazine. And who was I to argue! (Thank god it worked out as he had planned!)

News wires were great if you were a stock broker or worked in the news media. But if you were Joe Six Pack, then you had to turn on the radio, switch on the television or simply spend half-a-dollar on the newspaper in the morning. But something curious happened on the way to the newsroom: and it was called the Internet. The news wires were a beast that were replaced by a shiny new form of journalism called “online news media.”

Along comes “online” news media, and suddenly you could have the latest breaking news instantly. Think of it as the first step in the democratization of media. Anyway while this happened, some guys out in San Francisco decided to start a slew of publications like News.com and CBS MarketWatch.com. Salon.com and Slate.com joined the party. Out east, I jumped ship from the news wire world and joined a new publication called Forbes.com. Think of it as Forbes, only faster.

Fueled by Mountain Dew, Ray’s Pizza, and late night tournaments of Age of Empires, few of us built a brand new media property, sacrificing everything – in my case devilish good looks and an athletes’ body – to help grow the online news media. We were such upstarts, that none of the dead tree media took us seriously. No matter what you did, you could not get the props from the rest of media world for all the work you were doing. Our argument was plain and simple: it quacks like a duck, smells like a duck, and looks like a duck, it has to be a duck. So what if it flies a little faster.

Never mind, News.com broke stories on a daily basis, wrote compelling essays and brilliant features. Or Forbes.com nailed one of the fraudsters in the “old media.” Or that we generated more excitement for our parent company than any other part of the Forbes Inc. In short, despite what we did big media had no respect for the upstarts. The “online news exclusives” were somehow forgotten on the printed page. It would burn you up, that no one would credit you for the scoop you scored.

Fast forward to the future, and you find similar “cat-among-pigeons” attitude among the upstarts of the 1990s, the online news media. They are treating the Bloggers with same disdain as the old media treated the “online news media” back in the day. The headlines are the same, names have changed. Replace News.com by Bloggers! Are Blogs worth the hype? was the headline for a special package C/Net News.com put together earlier this month. (Interesting debate, with a special focus on negative.) And not quite surprising, since it is a worrisome trend for a large online publisher like News.com. It is something which needed to be said, someone had to say it, and well let it be me. I think “weblogs” are very threatening to some of these now old-new media.

Online news outlets changed the rules of the game and basically made most trade publications irrelevant. News.com won that round. Now it is facing its own waterloo. I think they have become nothing more than “news wires” with a better user interface. In their quest for mass market, the news has been simplified and reduced to the lowest common denominator. I am not sure about this, but some should do a historical study on the “News.com” links on Slashdot, and you would totally understand what I am talking about.

Here come weblogs, written by folks who have domain expertise. Russell Beattie on Wireless, any day over some article somewhere else. PaidContent over ClickZ, anytime. Weblogs let enthusiasts/knowledgeable folks have smart comments on news, and that is valuable to a very small niche that chooses to follow them. Throw in some guys like Rafat, Glenn and John and you have consistent slew of breaking news and scoops. So what does the old new media do? Deny them credit, and often use their “intelligence” as a source for their own stories. There are some on Wired News (not the magazine) who have made a career out of tracking what’s cool on Boing Boing! Jupiter Media and several others have adopted the “cat among pigeons” philosophy.

In words of great Yogi Berra, its like déjà vu all over again. An old editor of mine used to say, you have to give credit where it is due. I think one needs to have the same rules for the weblogs as well. Being someone who is fortunate enough to work for a magazine that indulged my blogging habits, it is fairly clear to me that weblogs are not going away. As a professional journalist, here are two simple observations: writing an article for a magazine, or a newspaper is like painting; while blogging is taking photographs. The end product in both cases is beautiful, just the end results and reactions are slightly different. Secondly, blogging is a “self correcting” media. You screw up, and people let you know in real time. As someone who gets paid to write, think about how cool it is that you have group-intelligence at your disposal, and you are less likely to make a mistake in your day job. There are three folks – you know who you are – who post so regularly in the comments section, and always keep me honest. And think about it – if there was no blogging we would all be denied Elizabeth Spiers’ wit, and Choire’s early morning verbal whip-lashing.

Last point, I think as Bloggers we should make an effort to credit the blogger who broke the story. We owe it to ourselves. David Sifry and Scott Rafer – can your smart engineering teams figure out a way to track who broke the story first? The entire blogger community could be grateful for a tool like that. (Support Open Media Project)

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  1. I have given numerous interviews to journalists (magazine and newspaper) and put them in touch with other experts who could help them with their stories and only in a few instances have the journalists mentioned me and Muniwireless in their news reports. So now I tell them I won’t even open my mouth unless they promise to mention my name and Muniwireless. When they agree, I send them an email confirming our arrangement. I tell them that if this does not happen, I will post the email on Muniwireless (which is a blog) with a link to their story or a mention of the story (if it is in a paper publication) — they’ll have to do some explaining. Then they will look bad. Of course I understand it if their editor deletes any mention of my name but the point is, the journalist has some explaining to do in the comments section of my post.

  2. JamesJayTrouble Sunday, August 15, 2004

    Is this intended to be comedy?

    Seriously!

    And how old ARE you, Mr. Malik. You give limbal impressions of being ‘of an age’ and being wise… I mean, to those who have no wisdom, no matter what the age.

    “Give credit where credit is due”, is rather lame. Especially because it implies taking credit away where credit is NOT due. You have ANY awareness of ANY of this?? Little that I’ve seen here, and that’s giving credit…!!

    Feel free to email questions, as you obviously have more of them than answers, I’m sorry to report.

  3. Let me explain, by showing how far away from reality you are, with just one TINY example outta all this drivel above:

    “Secondly, blogging is a ’Äúself correcting’Äù media. You screw up, and people let you know in real time. As someone who gets paid to write, think about how cool it is that you have group-intelligence at your disposal”

    Somebody that stamps “blogger” on their forehead is not amenable to correction. Btw, I corrected you above, we’ll see if your memes change in the slightest, and they most likely will not, in the slightest.

    “Real time” is not 10 minutes later, nor 2 days later. Do you have ANY sense of what it is to have shame, or are you just plain ignorant…??

    Blogs are a SLOOOOOOOOW form of interaction, compared to email and phone. Yet you manage to mangle the truth and state just the opposite. (That’d be ONE-a the falsehood-meme’s I’ve BEEN correcting bloggers on. How’s come you still haven’t ‘self-corrected’…??)

    Yeah, you have the power and you abuse it.

    The power of running with a pack of vicious animals, who are protecting their virtual territory.

    The power of group-think goes a long way..

    ..but at the ‘end of the day’….

    ….Blogging’s a mess, you die like the rest…;-D

  4. J. Trouble you miss the point. self correcting, as in when you are wrong, people let you know soon enough, and it can either through comments or email. anyway ten minutes is much faster than waiting for a couple of days to correct something. i think your opinions are quite valid and a welcome addition.

  5. You missed my point, Om.

    No, PC keeps that from happening on almost EVERY blog (cough) authored post. The rare exceptions turn into cat-fights.

    Seriously, check the stats on comments. They are ALMOST ENTIRELY AND UNIVERSELY FAVORABLE. What passes for HARSH CRITICISM is usually a mild rebuke along with some feel-goods for the (cough) author of the blog.

    Very little, almost no, cogent discussion in blog-comments, just like blogs themselves.

    You think this is all coincidence?? It’s built on a social cult that does not LISTEN to contrary views. Well, the cult ‘listens’ but does not ‘hear’.

    Btw, is my question about your age also welcome, as I didn’t see that answered?? And thank you for the hospitality.

    Jay Rosen, the whirlwind behind freeing the press, has chosen to dis-allow me from replying to blatantly incorrect logic, and wishful thinking.

    Do you know why, Om?? The truth hurts, is my impression.

    (And this User Interface is one of THE worst I’ve EVER seen for commenting, ANYwhere throughout all-a Fantasy-BlogWorld.)

  6. JT you have to not use a broadstroke and paint everyone in the same right. I am not sure what to say, except I know one thing – I listen, if criticism is fair and justified, I apologize and correct my self. Sure you have an opinion and so be it, but i think that’s the way it is. (Email me if you want to know my age :-) )

  7. I just looked up your about. I sometimes do, and sometimes don’t.

    You’d be about 10 years younger than me, I’d guess. That’s just a part of my point. I paint with broad brushstrokes, at times, because normally my aim is to use a blunt instrument rather than a surgical strike.

    You appear to be extremely successful, and an interesting combo of generalist-specialist. The success gets in the way of wisdom, every time, right?

    There is a cult that keeps the fantasy world of blogs going, and it’s not healthy. In fact, this very cult has taken over Journalists’ brains, and is in the process of taking over both political parties.

    I admit, perhaps there’s some over-done guilt-by-association. Not every bloggin’ body is power hungry, most are just lonely looking for a vicious pack of ‘nice people’ to gather ’round…

    Generalities are not entirely useless, and the facts are as I’ve stated them.

    Be glad to be corrected, myself, but I’ve been studying this pseudo-semi-space for some time now. Had even thought of taking up blogging again, just recently. (Do, in these comments, to the extent I’m going to.. for now.)

    Btw, I’ve heard this before: And heard the “you don’t know me well enough personally to understand (implication–>so you CANNOT correct me when I’m mistaken)” meme is real popular with the younger generations…

    Subtle variation of “YOU HAFTA KNOW ME ON **MY, MY, MY TERMS** (ONLY)”, which is the general malaise of writers-turned-bloggers, these days. Actually, people turned blog-culters, to be more precise…

    Similar to the falsehood-meme, “If you just know more about ME, we’ll ALL get along better.” That one is the both the cause and the effect of terrorists, imv. Works, but only on occasion.

  8. Iow, if your readers actually WERE keeping you honest, you would never have written something that confounds basic mathematics:

    “Sure you cannot take all 3.5 million bloggers seriously, and by that same yardstick, you can’t deny a blogger…”

    You cannot take ANYbody seriously who stamps the very word “blogger” on their forehead. Did your readers (besides me) tell you this…?? Social faux pas, no doubt.

    And I understand that there is a SMALL amount of cogent discussion amongst the 3.5 M cult members. I sure DO understand that, and have said so myself on many occasions.

    Your post here sounds like a plea/bargain that your views are among those that SHOULD be listened to. I see this, sometimes more subtly, on ALL blogs, without exception. Because blogs are relating to the public, ie a form of PR. Not just by definition, in actual practice, as well.

    SELF-promotion.

    Mostly by those who’ve never accomplished very much other than getting outta bed in the morning (which is no SMALL accomplishment, btw.. but…) So I agree the 3.5 M bloggers SHOULD give a clue about what they’re about..

    Can you say “BULLHORN for the disaffected” (which also plays well with these younger generation(s)), and who isn’t.. to SOME extent…?!?

    And what does a bullhorn do to intelligent conversation, almost without exception…???

    (Well, natch.. I’m hoping I won’t hafta use a bullhorn, to get my point across…;-)

  9. Jt … i see why Jay Rosen banned you from his forums. I guess what you have to say has been said. Now i would advise you to keep these big comments on your blog, and i will link to what you have to say. thanks for stopping by…

  10. Killer post. Much enjoyed.

    I think JT fumbles around one point that will see greater attention: the blogosphere is a winner-take-all market. So returns are not distributed efficiently, pushing many would-be bloggers out of the market.

    For the revolution to ignite, we need mechanisms beyond blogdex/technorati, which reinforce the natural positive feedback dynamics of the market. What will these be? I think reverse syndication – a la reBlog – is critical.

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