Magazine article Information Today

Blogging: A Modern Tool for an Age-Old Quest: Blogs Are like Magnetic Fields with the Attraction Flowing in Several Ways

Magazine article Information Today

Blogging: A Modern Tool for an Age-Old Quest: Blogs Are like Magnetic Fields with the Attraction Flowing in Several Ways

Article excerpt

When a young newspaper executive was considering the promise of online databases such as Dialog, he told me that when he really wanted to know something, "I just call three or four of my friends. I'd rather get my information from people I trust who can give me their personal perspectives."

Our conversation took place 30 years ago. My colleague was just not impressed by what I considered near miraculous.

Fast-forward to today. The advent of blogs has added personal filtering and insights (which my friend had felt was important) to the vast quantity of information now on the Net. With blogging, the Web has become a huge platform for personal publishing, communications, and collaboration. We have moved not only our information, but our relationships as well onto the Net.

New Directions in the Blogosphere

Mainly the territory of geeks and information professionals just a few years ago, the blogosphere is now home to a diverse group writing on every imaginable subject.

Blogs are like magnetic fields with the attraction flowing in several ways. Readers are attracted to blogging communities in which they feel comfortable. Writers seek new readers and the cross-pollination their readers bring. Advertisers seek to intercept the multidirectional flow by placing messages in the paths of readers. Every individual who participates is in the cross hairs of all the other entities. Herein lies the power of blogs and the factor that differentiates them from traditional media.

People blog in journal-type entries about topics that interest them. They keep up with and discuss news of the world and their professions. Authors and activists engage with their readers around their viewpoints. Some blogs are composed mostly of links; others review literature or gadgets.

The advent of audio- and video-blogging and specialized hosting facilities, such as Audioblog.com, has brought in new voices that are comfortable with non-text modes of expression.

We are beginning to see Weblogs integrated with traditional media. We have moved not only our information, but our relationships, onto the Net. Professional journalists, such as the Star Tribune's James Lileks at http://www.startribune .com/backfence and http://lileks.com are increasing their use of blogs to interact with their readers inside and outside the umbrella of their publishers.

Blogging Is Mainstream

Since my first column on blogging (May/June 2002 issue of Link-Up), blogging and reading blogs have become mainstream online activities. Here are just a few ways the trend may be measured:

* There were 60 million Weblogs worldwide by May 2005 (source: The Blog Herald).

* Technorati was tracking 19.5 million blogs by mid-October 2005, with the numbers doubling every 5 months. At that rate, 30 million blogs are expected to be working by March 2006. Fifty-five percent of blogs are active; 13 percent are updated at least weekly (source: Technorati).

* Fifty-one percent of journalists read blogs regularly; 28 percent rely on blogs for their reporting (source: Euro RSCG Magnet and Columbia University Survey of the Media).

* One-third of people (aged 13 to 21) have their own online content (source: The Guardian).

* Fifty million dollars to $100 million was spent in advertising on blogs in 2005 (source: Analyst Charlene Li of Forrester Research, as quoted in The New York Times).

Yet, Boing Boing (the top blog) with more than 300,000 daily unique visitors, is dwarfed by the 2.29 million average daily circulation of the top daffy newspaper, USA Today. Many people, however, read many blogs but not several newspapers.

Survey figures, no matter how impressive, don't tell the most interesting part of the story: Blogs have had an enormous impact (disproportionate to their numbers and readership) not only on journalism and personal publishing, but on corporate conduct, government, and civic activism. …

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