The golden age of journalists noticing new blogs is over

Jeremiah Owyang writes that the golden age of blogging is over.

The reasons, in brief: many top blogs have sold out; staff turnover saw "star" voices slip off the radar; younger audiences like social networking more; and advertising revenue is increasingly hard to get at.

All the reasons given are true, but they're not reasons to believe that a golden age has passed. They're phenomena in their own right, each with its own story, and only the last presenting a barrier to entry for newcomers. Epochal change makes for an epic narrative, but all this adds up to a simpler truth: media is a tough game and you won't get far by copying what other people did years ago.

The first change Owyang notes is that many blogs expanded from a handful of editors to become large newsrooms. Though he acknowledges that they're no longer just blogs, he seems to assume that they've grown without vacating old ground. But how can they not? Institutional growth has consequences: bureaucracy, editorial friction, and all that corporate oversight. Fresh faces can take advantage of the opportunities, approaches and risks that the big guys grow out of.

Sarah Lacy puts it best:

"There are still plenty of people who love to write-- not just share, Tweet and comment-- for a living, and blogs are still the best platform for that. In many ways, professional blogging is just getting started. It's a time when new entrants are jumping into the field with bold, fresh ideas, standing on the shoulders of the blogging giants that came before, taking a second stab at reinventing the new media landscape."

The high turnover issue, Owyang's second, seems the reddest herring in his list. Blogging isn't a literary or journalistic movement associated with a generational voice. And besides, writers are flighty.

The final point, that the economics of the business are "entrenched", is true enough. But making money from writing has always been difficult, and vanishingly few ever made much of it blogging.

Media interest always tended toward entrepreneurs in the field, and this ignores the fact that the majority of bloggers are amateurs or freelancers working for others. No Golden Age could just be about a handful of successful businesspeople; blogging has minted a fair few millionaires, but as an industry, it equals a lunchtime fluctuation in News Corporation's share price. There's still plenty of opportunity to go around, from the ground up, for anyone interested.

There was never a golden age of blogging, just a golden age of mainstream interest in what it all meant. Don't worry about it; opportunity does not knock but once. You need obsession, a work ethic, and an uncommon voice. That's tough, but that's all. The rest is counting the hours, and we've all got plenty of those.

End of an Era: The Golden Age of Tech Blogging is Over [Web Strategist]
Golden Age of Tech Blogging Done? I Couldn't Disagree More [Sarah Lacy]


    1. I’m sure that’s the case from a boingboing editor’s point of view :) 

      It’s like a self-made billionaire believing all it takes to be rich is hard work & a good idea. It’s easy to discount the luck/lightning-in-a-bottle factor when you have it in hand.

      1. Chance is an element in business that is understood and accepted in business culture. However, despite what some people imply, that’s not all it takes to succeed. In fact, without the hard work, it’s akin to waiting around to win the lottery.

        All the successful businessmen I know, earned their wealth through hard work, dedication, risk, and a small element of chance.

        1. Sure, luck in the absence of hard work is unlikely to get one very far. But hard work & the absence of luck can just as easily have you just barely getting by.

          1. I’m a firm believer in the idea that almost  *everyone* will have a lucky moment. It’s silly to believe that some people are endowed with ‘luckiness’. Success is taking that lucky opportunity that you’re bound to get and making something out of it.

          2. Gabi, I don’t think you quite get might point. I’m not suggesting that some folks are magically lucky and others aren’t. What I’m saying is that it is easy to overlook that our successes are not solely based upon our own merit. 

            I don’t exclude myself from this. 

            I’m a full-time art professor… Getting the position happened to come easy to me. This isn’t to say there wasn’t years of hard work behind getting the job–just that when I went looking for it, everyone simply fell into place. For a while my advice to fellow-artists was, “Go get an MFA–getting a teaching position isn’t as hard as everyone claims.” Then I realized–wait, it IS as hard as everyone says. I was lucky to get the job that I have–perhaps reasonably deserving–but definitely lucky. 

            So, I think folks who have experienced success (self-made billionaires, successful bloggers, tenured professors, etc.), it can be easy to overlook the fact that the success probably had as much to do with circumstance/luck as it did with merit. 

        2. All the successful businessmen I know, earned their wealth through hard work, dedication, risk, and a small element of chance.

          And most of the failed businesspeople that you know used the same formula. Selection bias win.

        3. “All the successful businessmen I know, earned their wealth through hard work, dedication, risk, and a small element of chance.”
          We also have to assume that the AIG, Chase, Countrywide, BP, Enron, Exxon, Fannie, Freddie, Madoff, Goldman, WellsFargo folks didn’t get at them. I don’t know if that’s luck, or not…

    2. It’s also important to ignore people who will tell you it’s all about luck, connections and an impenetrable A-list. Because you can make your own luck, connect with an email, and go from small-town news reporter to BB in about a year flat.

      The hard part: you have to have put the hours in, learning skills that the market wants and being interested in things that others want to read about. Because writing is seen as a self-actualization type of thing, lots of writers never do that stuff, then wonder why raw talent isn’t getting them anywhere.

      1. It’s certainly not all about luck… A lot of hard work has to go into making it possible to achieve something great. But there’s no inevitability that working hard and learning skills will lead to recognition and A-list status. 

        There are a whole lot of hardworking, skilled folks who don’t achieve that sort of recognition and I think the gracious thing to do is to acknowledge the fact that one can have all the ingredients for doing well yet not have it come together.

        I certainly don’t mean to imply that the BB editors (or anyone who has managed to become successful) doesn’t deserve it or worked hard to get where they are. 

      2. Yeah. You have to strike a balance between writing what you want to say and what others want to hear. How many novelists paid the bills writing advertising copy on their way to recognition? It never helps to be too precious.

  1. media is a tough game and you won’t get far by copying what other people did years ago.

    So starting a  Bogin-Bogin blog may not be my road to easy riches?


  2. I just hope Loic Lemeur is wrong. I hate watching videos instead of reading a blog. The growing trend for video blogs on news and sports sites instead of nice text is driving me to distraction (and in the context of sport, they’re increasingly region locked, too). I don’t want to watch a goddamn video. I like quiet, and reading is much quicker. Sites that do videos should always offer a transcript as well.

  3. The golden age of blogging over? If true, that would be a good thing: maybe now blogs can go back to being less “topical” and more interesting.

  4. An open area is local news reporting. The operations of city government, the shenanigans of crony contracting in city and county contracts, local police blotters as well as oversight of police disciplinary actions, and long term tracking and followup of those stories that affect people’s lives on a daily basis.

    Newspapers and local tv have mostly dropped that kind of coverage, and it arguably was the only thing they did that was of any value at all.

  5. Other than a cursory glance at blogs via RSS reader, I seldom visit most individual blogs anymore (unless to comment, see otherwise compelling, un-feedable content, etc. ).
    I’ve found many of the more successful, long-running blogs have way too much browser-crippling flash advertising gadgetry, which makes it a real pain to visit.
    Let’s face it – for the most part, blogs are like a little rail town with a new freeway running past it. No matter how compelling the content, talented the writers, etc., less people will stop by if the landscape’s obscured and mired in by ad gadgetry.

  6. I started blogging in 2000 and it amazes me that journalists were late to the game. They when they did, many acted like they discovered it first. Personally, journalists and marketers ruined blogs. 

  7. Couldn’t agree more. That’s why any video I have produced has to have an accompanying Slideshare presentation, if not an outright all-text alternative.

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