The big news just now, in some circles, is that Jason Kottke has gone pro—the related question in most circles being, of course, Jason who? Which only shows how far the mainstreaming of blogs still has to go, since Jason Kottke is not just any blogger but—as one smartass put it last week, soon after the veteran Web designer announced he was quitting his day job to blog full-time on whatever donations his readers cough up—”the Matt Lauer of the blogosphere.” Consistently among the most linked-to bloggers, Kottke has been an engaging, likable omnipresence on the scene for as long as it has existed, serving up a daily blend of clean-crafted personal aperçus and fresh, literate links to tech, pop, and political news that is as brisk and cozy as Folgers in your cup.
None of which accounts for the buzz that attended Kottke’s latest career move. Chalk that up to the move itself, which is fraught with blogospheric import and essentially without precedent. Sure, bloggers have often held out the PayPal begging cup for help with expenses, and professional polemicist turned blogger Andrew Sullivan has for a couple years now made decent bank from his online readers’ generosity. But until now the scarcely traveled path from amateur to professional blogging has invariably been paved with advertising, and Kottke’s high-profile option for the more intimate alternative of what he calls “micropatronage” comes at a pivotal moment for bloggers: If 2004 was decisively the year of the blog, what now? Kottke’s wagering his livelihood that the blogosphere can continue, trends notwithstanding, to thrive as much on curiosity and community as on commerce and contention. And if nothing else, seeing how the bet turns out is one more reason to click on his site in the morning.
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