Righto, from now until Blogtalk Downunder I’ll be releasing (at least) a paper a day… here goes:
Trevor Cook: Up Against Reality: Blogging and the cost of content
This is an absolutely fascinating read exploring bloggers as journalists, corporate blogging, blogging and advertising and the blogosphere as a whole. A must read and I can’t wait to meet Trevor at the conference. Here’s the abstract:
“Blogging offers the enticing prospect of a new journalism which is more participatory, more responsive and essentially open to anyone who has something to say. Yet, the process of creating blogs that are rich with quality journalism is also a commercial challenge; one that will re-shape the blogosphere as we move out of an initial period of amateur enthusiasm to create a more mature and sustainable medium.
We could see, as the blogosphere matures, the emergence of two blogospheres. A top level of relatively few blogs focused on building and maintaining commercially-attractive audiences and a second layer of blogs more focused on extending their networks and communicating with a few people.
Bloggers who want to earn a living as stand-alone journalists providing free content funded by advertising revenue in one form or another will face new constraints. They will have to move well-above the tiny niches of the long-tail to create mass audiences even if they are smaller audiences than traditional media. In addition, they will have to accept codes and practices which allay advertisers’ concerns about their unpredictability.
Most bloggers will always have tiny audiences and this will necessarily restrict their capacity to generate ‘journalism’ in significant quantities. Together these bloggers form a ‘long tail’ but it is a tail rich in commentary and personal experiences not news reporting and investigation. The tail will supplement the content generated by traditional media (including stand-alone journalists) but it is not a serious alternative to mainstream news-gathering.
Only a few bloggers seem to have any serious prospect of generating enough revenue to be able to provide journalism outside the constraints of corporate media. The funding models they are relying on revolve around advertising, sponsorship and less reliably, donations. Already, most of the world’s top bloggers have ads on their sites. These are traditional media revenue-generation models and to make them work bloggers have to generate large audiences. The need to create and sustain large audiences will have important consequences for the future structure of the blogosphere and relationships between bloggers.
At the same time, large corporates, governments and not-for-profit organisations are using blogging to by-pass the media (including journalist bloggers) and speak directly to their audiences. They are much better placed to take advantage of the ‘web as publishing environment’ than all but a few individual bloggers.
Corporations have the resources to generate content but they are likely to do so in a somewhat looser format than the tightly constrained and lame efforts that currently get passed off as ‘communications’. In time, big organizations might become comfortable engaging in blog-style ‘conversations but this won’t happen anytime soon.
None of this means blogging isn’t an important new medium. It just means that we should be realistic about what it can and can’t do, and recognize that even in this brave new world bloggers share some constraints with traditional media and with current corporate communicators.”