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September 06, 2008

Blogging: a History

Blogging a History

Return to Developing  Blogging Skills Hub Page

(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.

(See also Syndicates of Opinion Overview)

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

The history of blogs
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: blogs history)

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., 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, 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, 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)

Blogvertising: Ethics in Advertising for Bloggers

Ethics and blogging. The Future

Syndicates of Opinion Webliography

History of Blogging - Your Timeline To Tech News

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

Rebecca Blood. Weblogs a History and Perspective


Link here for separate bibliography of books on blogging.

Return to Developing  Blogging Skills Hub Page

January 10, 2008

What is Web 2.0?

What is Web 2.0?

Well Sean Carton below has a thing or two to say about it with a raft of other elements before this final bullet-point whic is a powerful statement: 

Web 2.0 is about doing stuff on the Web that can't done in any other medium. Functionalities that have generated so much Web 2.0 hype are all things that wouldn't be possible without the Internet. Period. Much of Web 1.0 tried to shoehorn old media models into the new technology, often with bad or even disastrous results. All the bad thinking of the past decade or so revolved around the misperception that the Web is "like medium X, only different." The Web isn't TV with clicking. It isn't print with the ability to link and embed multimedia content. Podcasting isn't radio you can download. Sean Carton,


BBC News: What is this thing called Web 2.0   

Guardian Web 2.0 Weekend Edition

December 23, 2007

Growth of the Blogosphere

The Growth of Blogging in 2007

What is Blogging? 

Please go to BBC Webwise site if you are unsure. 

In 2005 a survey found out that:

Research conducted among taxi drivers, hairdressers and pub landlords - backed up by conventional market research of more than 1,000 adults in the UK - has found that seven out of 10 people don't know what a blog is. Nine out of 10 don't know what podcasting or flashmobbing are. ( Blogging v dogging)

By 2006 the BBC World Affairs Correspondent Paul Reynolds had this to say:

I regard the blogosphere as a source of criticism that must be listened to and as a source of information that can be used.

The mainstream media (MSM in the jargon) has to sit up and take notice and develop some policies to meet this challenge. (Bloggers: an army of irregulars)

The November figures from the Netcraft organisation suggest: that in 2007 there has been an increase of 40 million sites since the start of the year:

Much of the growth in sites this year has come from the increasing number of blogging sites, in particular at Live Spaces, Blogger and MySpace.

Web 2.0 is clearly making a phenomenal difference to the lives of literally millions of publishers. This is a phenomenon which is really without precedent. The Gutenberg revolution was obviously a massive step in human development but how what we are witnessing now will be considered in a few decades time is liekly to be seen a huge leap forward in the development of humanity. In terms of culture as well as wealth and methods of education and doing politics interactivity is the way forward.


One blog created 'every second'

Blogs vie with news for eyeballs

December 15, 2006

A Level Media. Web 2.0: An introduction

What is Web 2.0?

What was effectively ‘Web 1’ saw the development of the World Wide Web based upon the use of a graphical user interface in the form of a web browser which could run on Windows and Mac based PCs. The first of these was called Mosaic .

However although the Internet in its Web 1 version could be useful for gathering information and saw a rapid growth as many companies saw a presence on the internet as a magical tool for growth once the novelty of Web surfing had passed users of the web wanted something more.

The web wasn’t very interactive with the main real interactivity being confined to ordering goods or services over the internet such as travel tickets or books. Despite the hype and utopian hopes of some that was invested in the possibilities of the internet the power of the internet as a truly democratising media and communications tool had yet to be developed.

User Generated Content (UGC)

Web 2 is based on a set of new and developing software tools which allows people to communicate in radically different ways and ones which can by-pass conventional mainstream media institutions.

It is quite difficult to give a precise definition of the meaning of the term “Web 2”. Here is a page from the Guardian discussing the development.

The shorthand term for what is happening now is “Web 2.0”, a designation coined at a conference in 2004 by the web-business booster Tim O’Reilly, as describing “an attitude rather than a technology” (Guardian 4/11/06)

Wikipedia suggests that there is a ‘supposed second generation of internet-based services – such as social networking site, wikis, communications tools… that emphasise online collaboration and sharing among users.’ PC Pro doing a survey in its Feb 2007 edition (bought in December !) suggests that this is the best definition they had found. [Wikipedia itself is a ‘web 2’ based phenemoenon by the way]. We can argue that it is a definition reached by a collaborative consensus using Web 2 tools to define itself.

Six Key Technologies

PC Pro argues that there are currently six key technologies which form the basis of the ‘Web 2’ social networking experience. (here there is no inclusion of commercial developments such as Second Life which seems to include several elements of the social aspects of ‘Web ’. The six core technologies for PC Pro are:

  • Blogging
  • Social Networking
  • Podcasting
  • Democratic News
  • Modern Website Building
  • Contents Sharing


Blogging has become the most popular Web 2 medium. It is a medium which requires very little in terms of technology or knowledge about software. Current (December 2006) estimates reckon there are about 100,000 million blogs. The blog-tracking service technorati currently tracks over 59 million blogs with 1.3 million ‘posts’ being entered everyday. Whilst some estimates think that this phenomneon has peaked the culture and nature of blogging is clearly an new and important democratic form – in the sense of being readily available to large numbers of people in the advanced economies.

As a method of publishing an individual or small group of people’s ideas and perspectives on the world blogging is probably the most effective method yet invented.

There are some significant differences between a blog and a personal website which are integrally linked to its inherently dynamic form in relation to its content:

A blog demands updates on at least a weekly basis and should provide links to other interesting or relevant blogs. These links then provide futher links to other websites… (PC Pro February 2007, p 142).

Ease of use is one of the biggest advantages that blogs offer over traditional websites. Based upon simple templates they don’t require any knowledge of HTML (the mark-up language underlying web pages).

They work in all internet browsers and can be used by any computer regardless of the operating system (such as Windows or Mac). Wordpress is one of the more complex ones which allows more experienced users to customise their blog to get a particular look and feel to it. Nevertheless it is a straightforward process requiring no software knowledge:

This, quite rightly moves the focus away from the technology being used to the *quality of the content* (my emphasis, PC Pro Feb 2007 , p 143)

Because updating blogs is a fast and seamless process this means that a range of new possibilities is emerging. One such possibility is the rise of the ‘citizen jounalist’. People may not have had much training but almost anybody can report something. As discussed elsewhere in this this means that even the most important of the mainstream media news services are reviewing their attitudes to news gathering and editorial ways of organisaing the news agenda.

Perhaps the most famous of these blogs has come from Salem Pax. He is an Iraqui who had discovered blogging and whose blog became famous when the Iraq war started. With most Western Journalists ‘embedded’ with the frontline forces or restricted to a hotel in Bagdhad getting daily reports available to the whole world from a resident’s perspective was filling a gap which media organisations for all their sophistication were unable to deal with.

Finding your Target Audience

As with any other piece of media finding your target audience is fundamental to its success unless you want to write solely for yourself and your best friend.

Make it interesting / Make it relevant

It is obviously essential to make the content as interesting and as relevant to your target audiences as possible. this means that you first of all need to have your target audience / s well defined in your mind. For example the audiences I’m targeting this particular blog at are as follows:

  • The course members of my Weimar and Nazi Cinema Course
  • Other students who are likely to be very interested in this cinema.
  • Other people interested in German culture and history
  • Other people interested in European cinema

This blog is also about the history of European cinema taken from the perspective of the 5 major industrial countries in Europe during the 20th century. There are several courses run which explore this. As the blog develops it will link into the courses and a wider range of visitors will hopefully visit the site. Because the site doesn’t rely upon up to the minute information but is more historically based it will have longer term relevance. when new information comes to light then it can be easily added even if it is just in the form of of links.

Very dynamic parts of the site are provided through feeds in the sidebar. There are links to the current days screenings on Film Four, there is a link to a well develop cinema blog on alternative cinema. There is also a feed to regular podcasts from a commercial organisation. This should interest people who are also intersted in European cinema and so on. Static links are provided to a range of Cinema journals. Articles have a good range of embedded links built in. The idea is that there is a good range of resources available for people who have quite a deep interest in the area.

The commentary boxes will allow conversations and debates to develop thus there is a good area of potential interactivity should visitors wish to engage.

Another Audience

I also have a different but overlapping audience in mind for this site. I have some ‘A’ level media students and I wish to publish resources for them. This article is one of them. This article is also for a more general audience who may wish to find out more about New Media.

The same principles as above apply in terms of providing feeds and resources which are being continuously updated automatically. In this sense this specific blog is an early model of an ‘educational blog’. In media terms it can be seen as becoming part of a specific genre of blogs.

Blogs and Genre

Already some research is suggesting that the blogging phenomenon may have peaked. I would suggest that it is too early to call there is a lot of the world that is not yet networked also many people prefer to wait and consider the options. already there is a strong move in educational circles to develp blogging as a particular tool. this blog is effectively a part of that specific movement. Undoubtedly there are many other ideas bubling under the surface. It is likely that a range of blog genres will develop in quite a deliberate form. Now the first flush of just being able to do it is over content, relevance and target audience become fundamental. These are all standard media issues. It is the form and openess which make this media form different.

Getting Your Blog Noticed

The important thing, though, is to engage. Make a valuable or entertaining comment on a related popular blog and many people will click through just out of curiosity. There are countless “web rings” – loose affiliations of like minded blogs and bloggers -... (PC Pro Fe 2007 p 147)

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Sear Engine optimisation is another factor to consider. however it is something of a ‘dark art’ so don’t beat yourself up over it. Even an “and” isn’t meant to make a difference it does make a slight difference even on page one of a search term “Weimar and Nazi Cinema” or separate words “Weimar Nazi Cinema”. Your blog can be read by search engines and looking through a Google trawl you
are likely to find some blogs fairly high up the list. Indeed on one particular search term this blog appeared as the first entry in Google for nearly three weeks. currently it seems to have been banned altogether by the algorithms. It does appear quite high up in other search engines. There is a dark art to search engines and part of the job of those organising them is defeat those scams such as ‘google-bombing’ which artificially promote sites which often have noth ing to do with entered search term.

Don’t expect to hit the high rankings early. Pay attention to what your site is called. Clearly if your core target audience is ‘coarse fishing in the West Midlands’ then there are unlikely to be millions of hits generated by the search engine. Trying this today generated 52,200 hits. The last few thousand would have been thinly related. Thus the opportunity to get seen by your target audience which is very specific is good.

As your blog builds up a history of posts this is a parameter which is taken into account by search engines. There are many other ones including the use of headings, key terms and tags as well as things such as usage and traffic.

By comparison entering the term globally for “European Cinema” netted 12.7 MILLION hits. Even allowing for some very thin relationships a very general sweep like this is going to favour very large longstanding sites usuall part of commercial or educational institutions. So although the primary objective of this site is dealing with European cinema I wouldn’t be expecting this blog to come into the top ten pages for several months at least using this search term.

In general the better your site the more users it will attract and the higher up the search engines prioritisation your site will move. Try and develop your design to optimise search terms which target your primary target audience.

More to Come

I will be dealing with some of the other core Web 2 technologies another time. There is work on podcasting already underdevelopment as work in progress. ciao fo now :-)

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