8 Years Later, the Blogging Goes On

It’s now been eight years since I wrote the first post on the blog version of GigaOM. Up until Dec. 13, 2001, GigaOM was nothing more than a repository for my previously published articles and résumé.  But with a little help from Ben Trott, co-creator of Movable Type (and co-founder of Six Apart), I turned GigaOM into a two-way conversation with like-minded people. Eight years later, the tools are different and the stage is larger, but the conversation continues.

Thanks to residual jet lag from my Le Web trip, I woke up in the middle of the night last night and started reflecting on how much things have changed — and how little.

In the early days, the blog was just a blotter to accompany my reporting duties, where I would posted some of the more interesting tidbits that I would pick up on a daily basis. Given that my two employers, Red Herring and Business 2.0, were monthly publications, I started writing news-focused posts in 2005. A surge in traffic followed and a year later, I was working on a business plan for The GigaOM Network. In July 2006, thanks to funding from True Ventures, we officially launched.

My partners in the venture were Katie Fehrenbacher and Liz Gannes. Since then, many more folks have joined us, a few have subsequently left, and in the meantime we have celebrated weddings and babies — and survived at least one major crisis. And our community has grown larger, in particular the number of friends and supporters who have been guiding us on a daily basis, via direct email or public comments.

Let’s talk about how things have changed in past eight years.

When I started blogging, it was a highly personalized and opinion-based medium spearheaded by the likes of Doc Searls and Dave Winer, and one in which links begat links — that was how the conversation unfolded. One added to Anil Dash’s commentary by writing a post of one’s own. Somewhere along the line, however, technology blogging transformed itself into a news machine.

I have come to appreciate the good of this transformation, mostly because we (along with our peers) have started to replace the technology publications from the last generation. Business 2.0 is gone. Red Herring exists somewhere in the back alleys of the web. Wired magazine isn’t nearly as interesting as the Wired.com blogs and their social news web site, Reddit.

But there’s been a downside to this shift, too: A certain uniformity has set in, making one tech blog largely indistinguishable from the next. It’s one of the reasons why we redesigned GigaOM.com. In doing so, we looked to our yesterdays and reconciled them with our tomorrows. As I wrote when we launched the latest version of the site, “What we’ve tried to do is strike a fine balance between what is a blog and what would be an online magazine.” Indeed, we’ve gone back to our roots by linking more to other folks, because “we don’t have a monopoly on ideas, and since our business is based on your attention, it’s our job to make sure that your attention is being put to good use.“ And it is the attention of the community that will separate the successful blogs of tomorrow from the search engine-optimized drivel increasingly being mass-produced by AOL and others.

Such attention will come as the result of deeper, more meaningful relationships with what old media describes as “readers” or “unique visitors.” I dislike both words in this context but especially “readers” because it makes it sound like the folks who read don’t participate. Yet if you read the comments on our blog posts, you’ll get much more value than you would by reading the posts alone. Those “readers” are in fact co-creators by virtue of participating in the conversation. We bloggers need to remind ourselves of that fact; we can’t just view the world in terms of page views.

I don’t fret about the robo-content trend being championed by AOL and others. Michael Arrington writes, “It’s the rise of fast food content that will surely, over time, destroy the mom and pop operations that hand craft their content today.” I disagree. Michael would still get my click, because he would engage with me. The spammier the Internet gets, the more people are going to gravitate towards content they value. Have you seen Demand Media’s line-up? It’s about as interesting as the chassis of a Kia.

These companies are trying to create search engine-driven content just as the notion of search is being challenged by discovery engines such as Facebook and Twitter.  It’s all part of the ongoing shift on the web that many bloggers, including the super smart Chris Dixon, are already talking about. Late last spring, I outlined how the distribution — and discovery — of Internet content was changing. The web is transitioning from mere interactivity towards a dynamic two-way medium, I argued, and it’s easier to create and publish content than ever before. Most importantly, the web is being disaggregated, the so-called “destination web” becoming a thing of the past. This new, more dynamic web is the best friend of niche publications and blogs that thrive on the “attention” of their community. In a subsequent post a few months later on the evolution of blogging, I pointed out that:

As Twitter has become increasingly ingrained in our everyday lives, its value as as source of information tidbits has become clear. Think of it like that plate of chips and salsa you get before the entree arrives: tasty — spicy, even — but not entirely satisfying. Meanwhile, blogging has become the main course — the source of context. And the evolution into that role has injected new life into the blogosphere.

Indeed, eight years on I find myself re-invigorated by blogging and what it’s come to represent. Here’s to the future!

The Top 10 Posts on GigaOM.com

  1. 5 Ways to SMS for Free (2007)
  2. A quick guide to netbooks (2008)
  3. Forget iPhone, Think Google Phone (2006)
  4. The Magic behind Magicjack (2007)
  5. Top Ten most popular MMOs (2007)
  6. 10 Must have apps to pimp out your Symbian phone (2008)
  7. The Nokia N95 Review (2007)
  8. Google, YouTube & Dark Side of Online Video (2006)
  9. Skype on iPhone, No Seriously. (2007)
  10. 5 Great & free games you are not playing now. (2007)

As you can see, the list doesn’t include any posts from before 2006 because I wasn’t tracking the data back then. Of the top 10 posts, I wrote four of them -– all circa 2006-2007. I guess I’ve been slacking since then ;-)

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