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September 06, 2008
Blogging a History
(Please note still under development however the links should be useful)
Since the invention of blogging as a specific internet activity it has grown at an exponential rate and by May 2005 internet research companies found that 7% of the 120 million US adults who use the internet have created their own blog as Aline van Duyn reports:
Blogs, web logs or journals, which cover topics from politics to parenting, have such enormous followings that marketing and advertising executives can no longer resist advertising in them. The most recent Pew Internet and American Life Project, which researches internet use, found that 7 per cent of the 120m US adults who use the internet have created their own blog. Assuming one blog per person, this comes to 8m US blogs alone. The study also found that 27 per cent of US internet users say they read blogs. (Aline van Duyn, Financial Times May 27 2005)
Of course that figure of around 8 million bloggers in 2005 has increased enormously since then.
What is a Blog?
(See also What is a blog?)
It is the contention of this posting that blogs are in a state of evolution whilst originally they were very much a personalised thing there is an increasing tendency towards creating them for business or other purposes. This blog for example is primarily about Film Studies and Media Studies providing resources for educational or programming purposes. Whilst there are pesonal and ideological perspectives involved inevitably all media texts contain these. In some senses the definition below is therefore unsatisfactory. Some blogs may be highly subjectivist and impressionistic. They might contain personal outpourings more akin to a highly personal hard copy diary whilst other blogs are informed reflective thinking about processes going in the sphere of politcs economics, science, arts etc. As is discussed below entirely new business models are appearing based upon blog technology such as the Huffington Post. The possibilities of webvertising through blogs is also changing the nature of the beast. This BBC news page describes the popular feelings about blogs expressed in 2006:
if you believe the hype, blogs are as significant as the invention of the printing press for their ability to change the way the world will be seen. If on the other hand you believe the counter-hype, blogs are a self-indulgence which pander to dull people's misguided beliefs that they have something interesting to say. (BBC News on its own Blogs)
The current Wikipedia entry on web content (07/09/08) argues that:
Blogs are a type of website that contains mainly web pages authored in html (although the blogger may be totally unaware that the web pages are composed using html due to the blogging tool that may be in use). Millions of people use blogs online; a blog is now the new "Home Page", that is, a place where a persona can reveal personal information, and/or build a concept as to who this persona is. Even though a blog may be written for other purposes, such as promoting a business, the core of a blog is the fact that it is written by a "person" and that person reveals information from her/his perspective. (My Emphasis: Wikipedia: Web content page 07 /09/08)
The Evolution of Blogging
There is some carping about who had the first blog who invented the term and so forth. This debate is of no particular interest in itself except for a couple of egos. Rather more significant is the fact that around 1995-97 the was a shifting culture on the web which was very new then in any case. This culture was moving towards creating content pages which were ultimately going to be far easier to use and update than writing sites directly into HTML or into early versions of Web Creation software packages, Dreamweaver / Go-Live etc. The priority then was an imperative to get information out to the whole world (at least those with a connection to the internet). Now blogging software is very intuitive and requires no specialist knowledge to generate a very good website.
Early weblogs were simply manually updated components of common websites. However, the evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of web articles posted in reverse chronological order made the publishing process feasible to a much larger, less technical, population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today. For instance, the use of some sort of browser-based software is now a typical aspect of "blogging". Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services, or they can be run using blog software, such as WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger or LiveJournal, or on regular web hosting services. (Wikipedia entry 07/09/08 - page ranking 6/10)
By 2001, blogging was enough of a phenomenon that how-to manuals began to appear, primarily focusing on technique. The importance of the blogging community (and its relationship to larger society) increased rapidly. Established schools of journalism began researching blogging and noting the differences between journalism and blogging. (Wikipedia entry 07/09/08 - page ranking 6/10)
Since 2002, blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping, and spinning news stories. The Iraq war saw bloggers taking measured and passionate points of view that go beyond the traditional left-right divide of the political spectrum. (Wikipedia entry 07/09/08 - page ranking 6/10)
In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Even politicians not actively campaigning, such as the UK's Labour Party's MPTom Watson, began to blog to bond with constituents....In the United Kingdom, The Guardian newspaper launched a redesign in September 2005, which included a daily digest of blogs on page 2. Also in June 2006, BBC News launched a weblog for its editors, following other news companies.[14. (Wikipedia entry 07/09/08 - page ranking 6/10)
In May 2005 the Huffington Post Launches (see below)
In January 2006 Andrew Sullivan's political blog started in 2002 is leased by the Time Magazine Corporation and Sullivan's blog The Daily Dish is now available at Atlantic Magazine the online version of an established political journal. With a page valued at 8/10 by Google the same as the BBC Business Newspage this is clearly a good investment in a professional blogger. This shows that there is a clear market for the most successful bloggers who are effectively being co-opted into the mainstream media.
Blogging & Advertising
This vast amount of activity has led to a migration of advertising onto the web specifically via blogs. The large numbers involved are likely to be highly educated and inventive people who are likely to be more interested in targeted advertising.
"It is still not for everyone, but it can, at the moment, work for specially targeted ads," says Alycia Hise, account director at TMP Worldwide, which buys blog ads for her education clients. (Aline van Duyn, Financial Times May 27 2005)
As a result advertising as a media form is undergoing a significant shift partially because of blogging:
Michael Bassik, director at Malchow Schlackman Hoppey & Cooper, which ran John Kerry's online presidential campaign.
He admits that a year ago he dismissed the idea of blog advertising. Now, he has clients spending up to $15,000 per week on blogs. "You are reaching a very actively engaged group of people, much more so than readers of more general web sites," he said. (Aline van Duyn, Financial Times May 27 2005)
Blog advertising has always been very cheap, certainly in 2005:
Blog ads are cheap compared to other forms of advertising. Blogads.com, where ad buyers can take space on blogs, lists its most expensive placement at $3,000. This buys you a week in the top slot on dailykos.com, which claims to be read daily by more than 400,000 "committed progressive activists". (Aline van Duyn, Financial Times May 27 2005)
The Guardian acquisition of Paidcontent a Business to Business blog based media start-up company in July 2008 has great potential for the Guardian Media Group:
the low costs of a blogging platform, global spread and specialised sector should shield it from an advertising downturn. "What we are proving and hopefully prove even more now is that this is the future of B2B media". (Mr Ali founder and previous owner of Paidcontent cited Bradshaw FT)
A crucial question for many bloggers is can money be made from Blogging through advertising? Rory Cellan-Jones the BBC Technology Editor as sceptical to say the least:
Hmmm, the trouble is those individual blogs do not seem to be building growing businesses - even if they're providing a new living for people who are often already professional journalists or commentators. (Rory Cellan-Jones 21 /08/08)
Venture Capital and Blogging
...while financial markets remain fragile, there are a slew of established media companies eager to buy promising start-ups in the hope of gaining access to the next promising technology.
"It's a strange phenomenon," he explained. "All the media companies, you name it, they are buying companies - or stakes in companies - at a very early stage." (Chaffin on Patricof FT)
Patricof's Grey venture capital fund Greycroft Partners have been astute despite the financial dowturn of 2008:
Three of its portfolio companies have already been sold - most recently the parent of PaidContent.org, a tech blog, which the Guardian newspaper snapped up earlier this month for $30m. (Chaffin on Patricof FT)
The start up of the Huffington Post in May 2005 can be seen as a turning point in the history of blogging as Michael Bassik commented to Joshua Chaffin :
"The blogger is often labelled as a crazy individual, sitting in their bedroom, in their underwear, writing whatever comes to mind," explained Michael Bassik, a blogger and member of MSHC Partners, which does online political consulting for Democratic candidates.
"What this really symbolises is blogs becoming a more mainstream method of communication," he adds.
Some Bloggers were very sceptical at the start of the Huffington Post which seems more about extending the overwrought culture of celbrity with ballooning and punctured egos than anything else. Of course if this lot are active in the blogosphere there is plenty for the advertising sharks to feed on. Every celeb has plenty of disposable income:
Chris Nolan, who blogs about California politics, praised Ms Huffington as a "force of nature", yet she also questioned whether the site would succeed.
She doubted celebrity contributors would be able to supply the undiluted opinions necessary to stand out amid an ocean of blogs. "The idea that Gwyneth Paltrow is going to have something interesting to say about the state of the world without her handlers is not a likely proposition," Ms Nolan said. Ultimately, though, she extended a welcoming hand to her newest peer as much as any blogger can. (Joshua Cahffin 10th May 2005 FT)
Timeline of Blogging New York Magazine. (Up until 2006)
Deals pioneer gets a second wind. Joshua Chaffin Financial Times
First Lady of the Blogs. Joshua Chaffin Financial Times
Online party sends out for more shrimp. Joshua Chaffin May 2005.
Guardian Acquires Media Blog. Tim Bradshaw FT July 2008
Is blogging good value for the C-suite? Urs E. Gattiker July 11 2008
BBC News: Down with blogs... so here's another
The Jeff Jarvis Buzz Machine blog. Jarvis is a professor of jouranlism and a contributor to the Guardian madia pages with a regular column. This is a highly influential blog and gains a (7/10 google ranking which is quite something)
The Syndicates of Opinion: The Nature & Ethics of Blogging. (Stanford Student Project)
Scientific Blogging (blogging isn't just about politics and entertainment any area of human interest can use blogging. Here there is a joint blog used by sa number of contributing scientists. )
Duncan Riley blog Wall Street Journal Tries to Re-Write Blogging History