November 23, 2003

Dvorak, The Future of Blogging, and Your Writing for Free

I noticed a reference to this piece by John C. Dvorak via Matthew Stinson’s place. Essentially the column’s thesis is 1) blogging is slowing down (if not fading in its current form) and 2) it is being co-opted by big media. Christopher Lawrence deals fairly well with point #1, although I would add, the logic Dvorak uses is flawed, insofar as it like saying that writing in on the decline because so many people try it, but after while quit (we just don’t have stats on all the people who have tried to be novelists, playwrights, poets, essayist and gave up in a year or less). However, I would point out that success in blogging is better measured by how many successful blogs there are, not how many are abandoned.

In regards to point #2, One Fine Jay deals with it fairly well. I would further add that just because blogging evolves, doesn’t mean that it fails. Nor do “big media” blog necessarily cease to be blogs just because they are run by “big media”, or even if they are edited. Daniel Weintraub’s California Insider went from unedited to edited, but it still is a blog, and it presents the news in a way that it has never been presented before. Indeed, simply the evolution of the way information is provided to readers (i.e., less static than the news story, and more dynamic, like a blog) may be the way in which big media blogs go.

I was particularly struck by the following line from the Dvorak piece:

The most obvious reason for abandonment is simple boredom. Writing is tiresome. Why anyone would do it voluntarily on a blog mystifies a lot of professional writers. This is compounded by a lack of feedback, positive or otherwise.

The bolded portion is the key, as it helps explain why a lot of bloggers are academic types: we are used to writing for free (not to mention the fact that are daily lives are taken up with providing information, instruction and analysis), so blogging’s a natural. Think about it: Blogmaster InstaP, Daniel Drezner, Mark Kleiman, Professor Bainbridge, James Joyner, Eugene Volokh (and friends), Matthew Stinson, Christopher Lawrence, and Boomshock (to name a few, and I am forgetting many) are all (or have been) professors of polisci or law, or are students of the same. All are successful bloggers, and some at the upper echelons of the TTLB Ecosystem. And, of course one is The Blogger.

And while yes, there are times that academics get paid for their writings, it is probably less than a non-academic might think. For example, check out my (or any prof's) c.v. and look at the list of conference presentations made—those represent thousands of words, all written for free--indeed, early in my career I would go to these things on my own dime, so really, I was paying for the privilege of presenting my writing. The work I (and countless others) for the Library of Congress' Handbook of Latin American Studies is doen for free. Further, academic journals rarely pay for publications. One does get paid for books (although the only real money in academic publishing is in text books, if they catch on). Most stuff, however, is written for free, believe it or not--there are benefits to doing a lot of it, but it isn't monetary. I do get paid for my columns, but it is no shock to me that a lot of blogs are written by academic types.

Although I can also see the value in blogging for the professional writer, as it creates exposure and provides practice. (And in Sully’s case, provides cash).

And in re: Dvorak’s feedback line, he is kidding, right? I mean sure, the one's with 12 readers get no feedback, but please: this is one of the most interactive of ways one can write.

Posted by Steven Taylor at November 23, 2003 09:37 PM | TrackBack

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "I would point out that success in blogging is better measured by how many successful blogs there are, not how many are abandoned."

This is the key point that Dvorak and others are missing.

Will blogging still be popular in 10 years? I am inclined to believe so, but nobody really knows.

Nonetheless, to write off the entire blog universe as irrelevant because thousands of 14 year-old girls don't update their blogs anymore is naive.

Posted by: Doug at November 23, 2003 10:33 PM

Blogging is on the increase, and it is a threat to the mass media.

Dvoark was probably paid to discredit the whole thing.


Posted by: Josh Narins at November 24, 2003 09:58 AM

I really don't see it as a threat to big media, but I do see it a specific method of information transmission that will have longevity.

Posted by: Steven at November 24, 2003 10:15 AM

In my case, I'm trying to use my blog to jumpstart some kind of writing career. I haven't figured out yet whether I ultimately want to go into academia, think tank, or journalism, but I do want to integrate opinion writing somewhere there, and it's been good in advancing my ambitions. For instance, I was able to parlay my recall blogging into a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed. That kind of gratification is enough to keep me going.

Plus, I generally just like to interact with people of different opinions. So I agree with your emphasis on the interactivity of the medium.

Posted by: Robert Tagorda at November 24, 2003 11:50 PM

My blogging help lead me to column writing as well--something I had wanted to do for years, but never gave it try, but blogging rather easily translated into it.

Good luck with the choices, btw.

Posted by: Steven at November 25, 2003 09:25 AM
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