As a blogger working on a blog — blogging, really — it only feels appropriate to devote today’s media column, Press Clips, to “The End of Blogging” in this week’s New York Observer. In the provocative, narrow and winding feature, the Observer sets out to prove — well, what, really? The “nut graph,” as newspapers call “the point, summed up neatly,” reads: “Whatever blogs have become, there seems to be universal agreement that the format that made them ubiquitous–the reverse-chronological aggregation accompanied by commentary–is not long for this world, and Mr. Denton’s scoop-friendly redesign would seem to be the best evidence of that.” Like we said yesterday, Gawker Media is rolling out a redesign. Are redesigns, grouped with Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook, murderous?
No. Nothing is “dead” or even “dying.” The Observer‘s editors, who write the headlines, know that, just like every editor has known that before them, but “dead” — any finality or bold proclamation, really — is a lightning rod. But it does the work a disservice too.
It also seems an important distinction to note that “The End of Blogging” appears in the Tech section, not the Media section of the newspaper, as if to indicate a point being made about medium, not message. “In fact, the decline of the blog has come so quickly, one has to wonder whether we ever really liked the medium at all,” the article reads.
But it’s inconsistent, scattered and too insular, beginning with Gawker’s redesign as proof of a shift away from a certain type of blogging, but then quickly moving into a discussion of content. For support, the article relies on a jaded, heard-from army of New York City men, quoting just seven of them, zero of whom have more than one degree of separation from any other. At least five pairs of them have worked together directly. Moreover, none of the quotes amount to support for any one thesis.
Gawker’s redesign is “scoop-friendly,” but “the vast majority [of content] will not be exclusive by any stretch of the imagination,” leaving Gawker blogs to editorialize news published elsewhere, just as they always have. Shaky ground to start.
Meanwhile, a move away from that “aggregation” results in “a lot more original content,” supposedly. Sometimes! The Hairpin, a successful new blog, works because its writers aren’t “aggregating blog posts about the thing that just came down the wire,” but “creating things,” in the words of Choire Sicha. Still, six out of ten posts on the first page of The Hairpin at this moment are spawned from outside sources. As good as it is, The Hairpin is no more “original,” in the sense of not-aggregating, or scoop-dependent than the Gawker of yore. It succeeds for the same reason all blogs of its kind have ever succeeded: voice, consistency, humor, pithiness and so on.
For some reason, Tumblrs aren’t considered blogs in at least one of the Observer‘s ever-changing definitions (one source “gave up” his blog for Tumblr), because they have a social component, except when they are considered blogs, “à la Sady Doyle” (a blogger on Tumblr), where “the networking aspects of the new blog formats ensure that the post will be read.” Confusing, right? And then there’s this:
If the freedom from the opinion-based aggregation model has freed blogs of their point of origin, and less savory aspects, the short-form personal blog may well encourage longer extracurricular writing.
To recap: blogs are both short and long, except when they’re both; they rely on original content, and “scoops,” except when they can’t; and they are in reverse-chronological order, but not when they’re formatted like magazines, in which case they’re Mediaite:
“From the beginning, I didn’t call the sites ‘blogs,'” said Dan Abrams, who launched his Mediaite network in 2009. “And that’s true because I always had this vision of them being more than just advertising-supported, ah, well, blogs. You know, whatever the word is.”
There a few stories within this jumble: blogs that want to look like online magazines, blogs that grow and can hire more people to do new things, and most glaringly, “blog” as a bad, ugly word — and one that’s damn hard to define.