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Surviving the death of the blogosphere

Surviving the death of the blogosphere

How to continue building the community.

You want to know what the blogosphere used to look like?

Read the post I wrote on September 29, 2009, regarding our one millionth visit, Thanks a Million! I don’t know how many of these links are still live, but the number that are not is the point:

I survived on this blog through the kindness of strangers. I could not have kept up the good spirits, and survived Blogger Mood Disorder, without the encouragement of and repeated links from Professor Glenn Reynolds and Honorary Professor Michelle Malkin. These are two people who are sufficiently successful that they don’t need to help struggling bloggers, but they do anyway.

There were others who offered early words of encouragement at a time when it was needed, including Claudia RosettWilliam KatzProf. Darren Hutchinson, and Ron Coleman. It didn’t hurt to have two Grandmas on my side, as well.

And along the way, I marvelled at the generosity of the conservative blogosphere, including (but not limited to!!!), Ed Morrissey and Allahpundit at HotAir, Jim Hoft at Gateway PunditJohn HawkinsAce of Spades HQ, Robert Stacy McCain and Smitty at The Other McCainPam GellerDoug RossJules CrittendonDan CollinsDon SurberTim Blair from Down Under, Dan at GayPatriotPattericoLance BurriMoe Lane, Cythia at A Conservative LesbianDan Riehl, Jeff at Protein WisdomTom MaguireJammieWearingFoolSister ToldyahThe AnchoressPundetteSmall Dead AnimalsJimmie Bise, all the Chicago bloggers who helped with my Blagocoverage (Backyard ConservativeMarathon PunditBill BaarIllinois Review), Donald Douglas, Pat in ShreveportFausta WertzLittle Miss Atilla, Bill Roggio at Long War Journal, and the folks at Real Clear Politics.

Not to fail to mention recent acquaintences such as Left Coast RebelNeoNeoconRositaNo SheeplesKeith Burgess-JacksonTigerHawkSoccer DadDa Tech GuyAnother Black ConservativeViking PunditThe Stray DogHugh Hewitt, and many, many others.

I’m not kidding, look at just about any of the blogs in the left sidebar and I owe each of them a thanks. I probably should not have listed anyone here, because I know I left so many people out.

What a time to be a blogger, as I noted in our 7th Anniversary post:

Those first couple of years were the most fun, in part because it was the first time in my adult life that I was openly political. Prior to that, I just kept my mouth shut, so the un-shutting of the mouth was liberating.

Oh yeah, we wuz really awkward and fugly, like in junior high school:

But those were the good ol’ days. Notwithstanding the ever-threatening blogger burnout.

If I hear another blogger complain about blogger burnout, I’m going to scream….

Let me guess, you worked the fields all day, so you don’t have the strength to push down on the keyboard with your bloodied, swollen fingers?

What’s next, a co-blogger to ease the burden of cutting and pasting cut-and-pasted blog posts from other similarly exhausted bloggers?

Haven’t you figured it out, there is only one original blog post which, like the source yeast at the Guinness brewery, has been kept alive for generations so that others may cut from and paste to it.

It’s not rocket science.

I’m not just writing about this for the sake of writing about it.

I read two very interesting posts recently on the demise of blogging, destroyed by social media and click-driven media.

The first post is by Jina Tolentino at The New Yorker (which I found through the Andrew Sullivan post discussed below), The End of the Awl and the Vanishing of Freedom and Fun from the Internet:

Blogging, that much-maligned pastime, is gradually but surely disappearing from the Internet, and so, consequently, is a lot of online freedom and fun….

Blogs are necessarily idiosyncratic, entirely about sensibility: they can only be run by workhorses who are creative enough to amuse themselves and distinct enough to hook an audience, and they tend to publish like-minded writers, who work more on the principle of personal obsession than pay. The result is editorial latitude to be obscure and silly and particular, but the finances are increasingly hard to sustain; media consumption is controlled these days by centralized tech platforms—Facebook, Twitter—whose algorithms favor what is viral, newsy, reactionary, easily decontextualized, and of general appeal.

I agree with that sentiment, but it was not to last Tolentino recounts:

At the end of 2017, the local news site Gothamist and seven of its city-centered affiliates were shut down shortly after the staff unionized, and on Tuesday, the beloved, uncategorizable blog the Awl announced that it, along with its sister site, the Hairpin, would cease operations at the end of the month….

In 2010, David Carr observed, in a piece about the Awl for the Times, that the idea of a “little digital boutique flies in the face of all manner of conventional wisdom, chief of which is that scale is all that matters in an era of commoditized advertising sales.” Nonetheless, the Awl’s focus on voice and sensibility seemed, at the time, to be working, even financially. That year’s revenue would surpass two hundred thousand dollars, Carr reported, and the site would never have to turn giant profits for investors, because it had none. The owners “just have to eat,” he wrote….

And now, in 2018, the economics of online publishing are running everyone off the map….

Reading the Awl and the Hairpin, and then working with the people that ran them, had actually convinced me that the Internet was silly, fun, generative, and honest. They all knew otherwise, but they staved off the inevitable for a good long while.

Andrew Sullivan famously gave up blogging in late 2015:

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). ….

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again…. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book….

When I write again, it will be for you, I hope – just in a different form. I need to decompress and get healthy for a while; but I won’t disappear as a writer.

But this much I know: nothing will ever be like this again, which is why it has been so precious; and why it will always be a part of me, wherever I go; and why it is so hard to finish this sentence and publish this post.

Sullivan wrote about the death of blogging recently at New York Magazine, as part of a weekly column he now writes that touches on several different topics (including, quite interestingly, his observation how the gay right movement is moving so far left that it is damaging the progress it has made). On the topic of blogging, Sullivan writes, referencing the post about The Awl discussed above:

I feel entirely the same way about the blogging golden age. What was precious about it was its simple integrity: A writer gets to explore her craft and develop her own audience. We weren’t in it for the money or the clicks or the followers. We were in it for the core experience shared between a writer and a reader — and the enormous freedom that removing the editorial gatekeepers unlocked. It was a brief period, but an alive one, and it was largely lost — or abandoned — because of a major failure of nerve on the part of most print media.

Sullivan is mercilessly accurate in his assessment of the role social media has played in the death of blogging:

And after a few years of “social” obsession, online media began to seem all the same: a heaving, pulsating, twitching ocean of hot takes and insta-news in which tribal identity always took precedence over style or elegance or quirkiness or diversity of view. And it didn’t really work as a business model anyway. Instead of consolidating their own readerships and loyalty, magazines became dependent on Zuckerberg and Twitter, vulnerable to shifts in the Facebook News Feed, which is now moving away from news….

But there’s hope on the horizon again. The sewer of most of Twitter is now so rank that even addicts have begun to realize that they are sinking in oceans of shitholery. Facebook is long overdue for a collapse, and the old institutions are showing signs of developing more character and coherence….

The evidence that social media has turned journalism into junk, has promoted addictive addlement in our brains, is wrecking our democracy, and slowly replacing life with pseudo-life is beginning to become unavoidable.

Social media really is a sewer, and I attribute much of the evaporation of the blogosphere to Twitter. It’s much easier to find an instant audience on Twitter than to build the relationship with readers to get them to come to your website. Twitter pundits are the worst pundits, counting their worth based on “followers” (many of whom are fake and purchased). The NY Times had an amazing expose on the purchasing of Twitter followers in order to create a fake reality of popularity that then can be monetized as an “influencer.”

The financial pressures also are real, as ever-increasing demand for clicks to drive dwindling advertising payout creates so much noise it’s hard to be heard. And yes, the financial pressures are real in this superheated media environment.

So what can a small website or — horrors — blog do to be successful. This is something we discuss among ourselves quite frequently at Legal Insurrection.

The sense that we might not change the world, but we change some lives and events, I think sets us apart.

And it’s satisfying that we break research ground on the key battlegrounds we face as a nation and culture. Hey, one of our most “thrilling” moments was when a Pro-Israel Ohio U. student was arrested for reading Legal Insurrection blog post out loud during protest. How many blogs can claim that feat!

The personal connection established without ever meeting (and sometimes meeting) is very satisfying to me, and I’m sure to the other authors.

But more than issues, I think it’s a sense of community not found elsewhere in social media and big media. The fact that we have commenters who have been here for longer than many of our authors is a testament to that. It’s also a place where the individual personalities of the authors can come out in a real way, not as a packaged product.

I understand completely that this sense of community has frayed in the past couple of years.

It would be worth your while to revisit my August 2016 post, “Deep Values” Profile of core Legal Insurrection readers, to see what holds us together, rather than what tears us apart.

I’m always interested in ideas as to how to build the community. And how we can have more fun.

[Featured Image: Legal Insurrection readers I have met along the way.]


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I suspect, that in the future, blogging will survive, but only by dedicated hobbyists who can afford the costs themselves, with some donations, or possibly a patron. I don’t think it will ever work as a money making venture.

and you’re right Twitter is a sewer. I signed out of my account months ago and haven’t gone back. And do not plan to, ever.

DouglasJBender | January 28, 2018 at 7:58 pm

Pizza night!!

‘The sense that we might not change the world, but we change some lives and events, I think sets us apart.’…
By changing one life, for the better, I have discovered truly changes the world.
It’s a tapestry that we see from the underside, a work in progress, but from God’s perspective: beautiful to behold.

DouglasJBender | January 28, 2018 at 8:35 pm

Truth. It’s a precious commodity in this world of lies. Thank you for your hard work in support if the truth, Professor Jacobson.

The reports of the death of blogging are as greatly exaggerated as fake news of Mark Twain’s death.

The numbers may be down, but the reasons are beyond Andrew Sullivan’s and the – ugh – New Yorker magazine fake explanations.

Like ABC, NBC and CBS fretting about the demise of their ‘news’ programming viewership, a response would be similar (though in the case of the likes of ABC etc., they caused their own demise by becoming propagandists for the democrat party): there are simply more blogs. It is easier to blog now, and more people have found it a way to express their positions on things.

Quality over quantity: While the numbers to this (or any) blog might be down, it’s only a matter of time until a story breaks, and people looking for a position to take need information. The idea is to continue to offer a resource for them to read – ad quote – in matters concerning breaking legal doctrine. They would then spread the word, like air raid warden jamie lee curtis.

Sure, there’ll be a core group in every blog, but stay the course here, keep the articles on the law unique, and publish articles that are not on the law news-busting. (That is a very powerful tool. It must never go away, or back to we go to the days of walter conkrite’s fraud.)

This – and other blogs – should remain open for the dissemination of information that might not otherwise be broadcast, especially by GOPe rats.

Andrew Sullivan was looking for too much from his blog. He should have kept it, instead of getting sucked into the exhaustion of the leftist ‘social media’ s-holes designed to do just that, Nor should he have become the NYorker magazine’s ‘conservative’ useful idiot, and marginalized himself. (What leftist is going to read Sullivan’s blog? He put a stick in the eye of his audience, like the morons in the Dixie Chicks did to their audience.)

In all, Sullivan is probably just a bad loser. Instead of blaming twitter and smitter, he should face himself, and garbage like this he puts his name to in democrat propaganda rags:

“This Is What the Trump Abyss Looks Like:”

Sullivan has become the Jeb! Bush of conservatives. If he starts drinking more heavily, then he has become the boehner.

Maybe if Sullivan learned to sing and stay loyal to the base, he can bring the Dixie Chicks franchise back from the dead.

DouglasJBender | January 28, 2018 at 8:36 pm

“OF”!!!!!, not “if”! I even corrected it before posting!

LI might have been “awkward and fugly” in the beginning but it was you, Professor, not the fancy site it is now that drew me to it on the day of your first post.

Throughout the years I’ve never commented often and, like you, I lament the loss of the “sense of community” that has been fading away for some time now and truly miss many of the readers who used to post here in the comment section but please never think that LI is not important to those of us who seek the truth.

Thank you for one of the best blogs on the internet. It is an oasis of sanity and wisdom in an increasingly insane world.

Those were some dark days back in 2009. The Tea Party movement started up early that spring.

Professor, I don’t know how you and the other writers do it. More often than not, if there’s a breaking important story, I come here and you’re covering it.

Very handy.

Paul In Sweden | January 28, 2018 at 11:07 pm

I stopped blogging November of 2009 when the infamous ClimateGate file was released on a RUSSIAN SERVER.

It is a lot of work to blog and I prefer to read and learn than write. I keep my now dated sites active because of all the links and hotcopies other sites have pinned on me. That and I use the main site as a mail server. In addition I have the entire main site backed-up on anther website service provider with a different domain name.

Aside from the work, I have legitimate concerns regarding legality in this ever increasing toxic leftist political environment. Although both of my webhost providers are located in the USA I am subject to the crazy EU laws because I am a US and Swedish/EU citizen. Facts do not matter and anything can happen. Then there are the crazies who will come to your house and stalk you or your loved ones. The USA is catching up with Europe although very slowly. The USA’s constitution does not offer me any protection over here. I am an outspoken NewYorker and I can easily and unintentionally put myself and my family in a world of hurt. I know similarly minded people over here that have been beaten bloody, hospitalized and came close to giving up their ghost.

Right now I have a good life, irons in the fire and the option if/when I choose to blog again. LegalInsurrection is way up on my list. I am grateful for the efforts of Prof. Jacobson and all the contributing writers here. On weekends I also look forward to the weekly wrapup and Mike LaChance’s Higher Ed dump. Mike, keep up the good work!

The other thing I really appreciate is the active commenting here at LI. Maybe it is me or maybe it is just the rapid pace things are happening but it appears to me there might be an uptick in bickering. For my part, this dynamic of LI is often rapid and rewarding. The contributors here at LI are very knowledgeable and well meaning. The comment moderation, if it even exists is excellent. I cannot recall a single commentator at LI that does not provide insight, links and expansion of the topic presented by the LI columnists. No One and I really mean No One.

Prof Jacobson keep up the good work. Hang in there. If I ever won or even played the lottery LI would be high on my list.

I love everything about this site.

G. de La Hoya | January 29, 2018 at 4:15 am

Since this is the only place around the place, I reckon this must be the place, I reckon.
– Curly Howard

Every time there is a blog article about revenue, aside from tip jars, it is always all about the clicks.

Does the blog-advertising revenue model go toward links, in addition to clicks? If you have to keep on churning out content to keep the clicks a-comin’, then quality is going to take second place, and the community will be more ephemeral. If the revenue can be generated from links, akin to citations of published papers, that would be an avenue that could be used for the development of the quality side of the house.

I use both blogs and Twitter, much like analysts use both income/expense statements and balance sheets. They give two different views of the same business. I suspect the trend is not that news/political blogs will disappear, but that they will evolve into greater specialization. It will be mainly the overlap that disappears.

Had it not been for Angela Corey I might not have ever found this site.

I suspect, that in the future, blogging will survive, but only by dedicated hobbyists who can afford the costs themselves, with some donations, or possibly a patron. I don’t think it will ever work as a money making venture.

I’ve been involved in the Internet since before the existence of the WWW. I remember LiveJournal. Blogging has always been a hobby; the fact that, like pet rocks, it was briefly possible to make money from it was a passing fad. It’s simply now contracting back to the sustainable mean.

Blogging is hard work. I tried it for a while when I was invited to be a co-blogger at NeoWarmonger, which is where I picked up the “Milhouse” persona, but eventually the other partners dropped out to do other things, and I found that writing something original and interesting every day was too much work so I stopped too.

I never gained traction on using twitter and I deactivated my facebook account. That stuff is not for me any more.

I think it may fade eventually, although the proven addiction to likes and retweets (dopamine in the brain) will perpetuate that cesspool for as long as it can possibly survive.

Sept. 2013 was the last post I made at my blogspot blog. It wasn’t burnout, but simply not enough hours in the day to do it justice.

I still post quick stuff at facebooo, but I prefer to haunt this blog, plus over at the moron horde, Instapundit, maggie’s farm, et al.

I avoid the tweeter sewer like the plague.

Congratulations, Professor & Co. Keep up the good work!

I found this blog during the Trayvon Martin case, and come here daily for news and analysis. I often read the comments for additional information. It becomes difficult to do that when commenters, instead of focusing on the subject at hand, spend time calling other commenters names.