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The secret of blogs’ success: They answer the question “what’s new?” better than any news outlet in the past 500 years 9/30/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Blogs.

News was so much better 500 years ago before the printing press ruined everything. Then as now, as humans we had an involuntary and persistent need to ask, “what’s new?, but at least back then we had a decent shot at getting a decent answer. We’d seek out the persons we trusted and get it all – rumors, facts, corrections, opinions – on subjects that more often than not directly affected our lives. Moreover, it was delivered in a format that allowed us to ask questions, make comments, and even insert our own news into the news.

But ever since the printing press was invented, when we’ve asked “what’s new?” we’ve been getting answers to a very different set of questions. What’s new among people who are richer, more successful, more glamorous, or more powerful than you are? What’s new that most people are at least somewhat interested in? What was new yesterday? What objective, verified facts are new? What new things perfectly fill-up a specified amount of time, column inches, and publication frequency? What’s new in New York and Washington, or the downtown of your metro area? What do New York Times editors want you to know today? What bad things were done by someone the editors don’t like, or good things were done by someone they do?

As newspapers (per Gawker) grapple with the issue of how blogs fit into the future of news, I would suggest this. The blogs we choose to visit are the ultimate “what’s new machines.” Each is like a trusted person in a village where news is spread by word of mouth, but technologically enhanced to acquire and share information globally. While some of this brings us back 500 years, that’s “what’s new.” (Hat Tip: Ed Driscoll)


1. sbw - 10/1/07

We are full of ourselves aren’t we.

What’s new isn’t necessarily useful. What’s old isn’t necessarily useless. Welcome to the bleeding edge of navel-gazing. I’m happy to revisit after you get a better grasp on what is worthwhile.

2. Les Hardie - 10/1/07

It isn’t the existence of blogs per se, but their sheer number, that is revolutionary. With the MSM, I read only what a few guys decide will fit into the paper that day that they think is important. But in the blogsphere, I can read ten versions of the story and then decide what to think. Is the war in Iraq being won? If I stick to the MSM, I concude not. But if I read Pajamas, Huffpo, Crittenden, Bay, Debka and fifty other blogs, I’ll come to a much more informed conclusion. Why read the MSM any more? I can read ten blogs in the time it takes to slog thru the LA Times.

3. sbw - 10/1/07

The unfortunate premise seems to be that technology (the blog) drives the (re-)definition of journalism.

More likely, the underlying problem stands independent of technology. More likely, and certainly for the last forty years, it has not been technology that has warped journalism, but the underlying fog of education.

So go off on the tangent that flicks your Bic, but don’t expect it to lead to satisfying understanding.

4. Steve Boriss - 10/1/07

Les, Yes, it is like a town full of people participating in spreading news by technologically-enhanced word of mouth.

sbw, Well, this blog is about “news” not “olds.” I agree with you on journalism. Read my article “4 Advances that Set News Back.”

5. sbw - 10/1/07

Perhaps there are five. You might have included the ASNE’s “Civic Journalism” — journalism on a mission.

Or six. Dan Rather’s fake but accurate.

Before you get too taken with blogs, consider that a good editor is worth paying for.That since Aristotle proposed the advantageous division of labor, it has often been worthwhile to engage a surrogate to assist your quest to understand the world. The surrogate was called a journalist and was not tied to one medium or another.

Once asked to define journalist (a generic request by Dave Winer, midwife of blogging) I replied that jounalist is an accolade earned fresh each day.

6. Steve Boriss - 10/2/07

Les, I would say that bloggers are editors and the blog will continue to evolve into superior forms. And, it is only a matter of time before their efforts are monetized and their work gets the compensation that the best of them deserve.

7. marion - 10/2/07

How can a blogger hope that someday will get paid for his work?

8. Steve Boriss - 10/3/07

Marion, In a small way, we are already seeing bloggers get some revenue by placing ads on their sites. But the day will come when the vast majority of the ad money gushing into TV stations and newspapers will be looking for homes on the web. As newspapers and local broadcast TV collapse, their former viewers/readers will increasingly get their news online. Their former advertisers will still need to find ways to reach their customers, so those dollars will go online, particularly to sites that have local or hyperlocal geographical focus. National advertisers will also be sent scrambling as the TV networks become just another set of web sites and downloads on the web. They will be particularly attracted to web sites that draw relatively pure audiences of their best sales prospects — a level of market segmentation that has never been available in mass media.

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