Monday, June 19, 2006

Seceding from the blogosphere

Wherein sounds like a good idea


Photodude defines the game:
When we talk about blogs in words and phrases like “audiovisual integration, high production value, professionalized” and seek to “attract the vast majority of readers,” have “influence in larger society,” and “the ad money that blogs will increasingly generate” ... we have to see what we are mirroring, indeed, trying to become.

The media. The very thing blogs often decry as biased and overly obsessed with eyeballs and income, to the detriment of substance.

Did I mention there is not anything wrong with this? Just realize the goals. Grow the audience, more eyeballs means more influence, and more ad dollars. These are the identical goals of the media, in all its many forms. This is why much of our media is so sensationalized. It draws eyeballs fast. The reliability and depth of the actual content becomes a secondary concern.

And in the blogosphere, you see similar sensationalism. Dave Sifry recently reported that “The blogosphere is over 60 times bigger than it was only 3 years ago.” That’s not a misquote: sixty times bigger in three years.

It might take some serious sensationalism to break out of that pack. Group blogs may be less prone to that approach, as they have the advantage of an efficient volume. But either way, note the shift: the goals have begun to precede and even pre-empt the content.

If eyeballs are the goal, you can’t wait for further news reports, or take 24 hours to reflect on a new development. You must post your pithy linkbringer within an hour or two, tops. Which leads to the effects Joe and Rick decry above. Cautious thought and conscious reflection are almost deliberately bred out of the process. That is, if you want to keep up with the Blogsters.

Oh, you might say that even if many blogs are moving towards the same goals as the media, it will be different for them. They’ll be able to stay true to their roots and beliefs, avoid sensationalism and partisan hackery in the name of growing the audience, and not spin every event towards a particular favored view. Right.

Which brings us from “wanting to be the media,” to “wanting to be the party.”

This past weekend we had the first of what I’m sure will be many YearlyKos conventions (“the convention, the first of what organizers said would become an annual event, seems on the way to becoming as much a part of the Democratic political circuit as the Iowa State Fair”), and it reminds me a bit of the old radio conventions I used to attend. You get to hang with your peers you’ve heard of but never met before, and all of you get collectively schmoozed by the record company and equipment company reps.

Oh, sure, they don’t have time for every PD from Podunk, Georgia, but they made sure they cornered and … lobbied ... the well known Big Boys in attendance. You know, the few that everyone knows. The ones with influence. Um, do you think it’s any different at YearlyKos or in the wider world of political blogs?

Even the bloggers know it: “Jennifer Palmieri, a deputy White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, held a ‘pundit project training,’ where she told bloggers how to present themselves in television interviews — what to wear, how to sit and what to say.”

Grooming for my closeup, Mr. DeMille!

Again, there is nothing horribly wrong about this. As long as you’re not trying to fool yourself that you are doing anything new or different. People have been trying to get on TV for various reasons for ages. It’s hardly a secret that news networks have a lot of time to fill these days, and they’re not always picky about who helps them do it. When it comes to who gets the most out of such an appearance, recall that the game is rigged so that the house always wins. Your biggest hint should be when they cut off your glorious revelations in mid-sentence to go to a commercial break.

Eyeballs and income. Now everyone can play!

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