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 Rosett, William Katz, Prof. 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 Pundit, John Hawkins, Ace of Spades HQ, Robert Stacy McCain and Smitty at The Other McCain, Pam Geller, Doug Ross, Jules Crittendon, Dan Collins, Don Surber, Tim Blair from Down Under, Dan at GayPatriot, Patterico, Lance Burri, Moe Lane, Cythia at A Conservative Lesbian, Dan Riehl, Jeff at Protein Wisdom, Tom Maguire, JammieWearingFool, Sister Toldyah, The Anchoress, Pundette, Small Dead Animals, Jimmie Bise, all the Chicago bloggers who helped with my Blagocoverage (Backyard Conservative, Marathon Pundit, Bill Baar, Illinois Review), Donald Douglas, Pat in Shreveport, Fausta Wertz, Little 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 Rebel, NeoNeocon, Rosita, No Sheeples, Keith Burgess-Jackson, TigerHawk, Soccer Dad, Da Tech Guy, Another Black Conservative, Viking Pundit, The Stray Dog, Hugh 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.]