Valleywagger attempts to assassinate blogs; social networking and microblogging is where it’s at

Filed as News on October 21, 2008 9:50 am

Paul Boutin — “Very Special Correspondent” at Valleywag — has written what I can only assume is linkbait over at WIRED Magazine. It’s working, anyway.

While I don’t disagree with some of his opening words, I do take issue with his black-and-white stance: that blogging is dead and microblogging (or whatever Boutin might call it, given that “blogging” itself is now a dirty word) is the way forward — linked in to social networks like Facebook.

“Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.

Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.”

Clearly this is only one opinion of many, but because Boutin has been granted a very public soapbox at WIRED, he’s making the most of it. Others believe that blogging is a vital part of corporate branding, while Six Apart’s leader reckons blogging will ride the economic downturn.

It’s true that blogging for attention is a lot harder than it was four years ago. The “blogosphere” is crowded with spam blogs, PR disasters, and next-to-useless sites, and some blog services, such as Technorati, are arguably a lot less useful than they once were. Yet it’s not impossible to be noticed.

It’s also true that the amount of crap bloggers have to deal with has increased exponentially, but that just goes with the territory, as far as I’m concerned.

Many bloggers that I respect see the use of social networking and micro-communication sites as complementary to their blogging efforts, rather than as a replacement. Calacanis may have quit blogging (though we don’t all agree on that) because it’s “too big, too impersonal, and lacks the intimacy that drew me to it”, but isn’t that a bit rich coming from someone who “made millions from his Weblogs network”? Why should everyone else quit?

I think there’s a space for both the large, professional, team-led entities (the likes of Engadget and Valleywag and Lifehacker and The Huffington Post) and the smaller, niche publishers. Maybe certain niches (such as “gossip”) are more heavily trolled by idiots. Personally, I’m very happy with many of the subject areas I work in, and have enjoyed some amazing communities. Fact.

Boutin suggests that “text-based Web sites aren’t where the buzz is anymore”, but who said that blogs had to be about text? Plenty of blogs I read (and indeed, contribute to) use text, video, and audio.

“Social multimedia sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook have since made publishing pics and video as easy as typing text,” continues Boutin. Well, yes and no. The technicalities of doing it might be easier, but popular audio and video raises the bar of entry a little more than someone ranting in plain text on Blogspot. I’m quite happy to use these services from within, and as an extension of, my blog. It’s still easy enough, and it’s still blogging.

Boutin then quotes Robert Scoble, who apparently we’re all supposed to want to emulate… because we bloggers are just sheep, right? (Nothing against Robert, here, by the way). “I keep my blog mostly for long-form writing,” says Scoble. Yes, that’s what a blog is for, thank goodness.

Personally, I’d be deeply depressed if the only way people decided they wanted to express themselves was in farts of 140 character “txt spk”, or the equivalent audio or video segments. Perhaps it’s indicative of a society who, stereotypically, has the attention span of a goldfish, but what’s wrong with long-form writing?

Even the most popular (and at the same time, most loathed) types of blog posts would have a hard time squeezing into Twitter. Top 10, anyone? Yep, you’ve got 14 characters for each point. Go to it.

“Bloggers today are expected to write clever, insightful, witty prose to compete with Huffington and The New York Times. Twitter’s character limit puts everyone back on equal footing,” concludes Boutin.

I’m not sure which bloggers he is referring to here. Bloggers (often, more accurately, freelance writers) paid by a publishing company may well have stricter contractual obligations, but the personal blogger (who he so laments the apparent demise of) is free to do whatever he likes, isn’t he?

Does Twitter put everyone on an equal footing? Of course not. You still have to fight to be noticed, if indeed that’s your primary focus.

@WiredReader: Kill yr blog. 2004 over. Google won’t find you. Too much cruft from HuffPo, NYT. Commenters are tards. C u on Facebook?

If this is the standard of web communication for the next four years, then I really am pulling the plug.

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  1. By Tumblemoose posted on October 22, 2008 at 7:48 am
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    I ran across that post as well. I thought it was a bit arrogant and whiney. Yeah, I’m relatively new to the blogging thing, but so far I’m enjoying myself. The social media thing does drive me a bit crazy, though. There are some things I like, but most of the social media ideas mentioned I think are so much hoo-ey.

    I STILL don’t get Twitter and it’s not likely I ever will. I think it’s a testament to our instant gratification-gotta do it all- gotta do it now society.

    Thanks for helping to put this one in perspective!

    Cheers!

    George

    Reply

  2. By Andy Merrett posted on October 22, 2008 at 9:09 am
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    Don’t get me wrong, I think Twitter is great — I use it myself — but it’s not a replacement for blogging, and I don’t believe it ever will be. Then again, I am not the kind of blogger who thinks that blogging will ever replace traditional journalism (in whatever physical form that might take). They’re all tools or methods for helping communication.

    Reply

  3. By Jim Sanderson posted on October 22, 2008 at 9:32 am
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    Fantastic response Andy…

    It automatically made me think of Orwell’s ’1984′. Where (for those of you that aren’t familiar with it) language has been limited by ‘Big Brother’ as a means to dampen and control original thought.

    Clear thinking and precise prose on a relevant topic will *never* go out of style – no matter what the media is.

    Reply

  4. By Webomatica posted on October 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm
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    I just think it all comes back to “why” is a blogger blogging. Sure there are some who are in it only for the popularity or money – those people may have a more challenging road ahead of them – but there are lot of folks who blog just for the fun of it. I don’t see any of those independent bloggers, who treat their blogs like diaries or hobbies going anywhere.

    Reply

  5. By Andy Merrett posted on October 23, 2008 at 1:59 am
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    Absolutely. I get quite frustrated when big-name bloggers (particularly those who have abandoned the format because they supposedly know best) from certain “popular” niches make these kinds of statements.

    While it’s true that established technology, celebrity, and gossip sites tend to do pretty well, what about all the other amazing niches, not so big, so vocal, or so well linked to from the big directories or “blog superstars”, which are actually producing great content, building community, and still embracing the spirit of blogging?

    Reply

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