There was a time, during the ‘peak blogging’ era, when the medium was an effective news aggregator. There were a handful of trusted sites that would post links, often with a synopsis or commentary, to stories of interest. Most of those were topical, so my feed would have blogs for movie news, gaming news, regional politics, and so on. It was an almost ideal blend of blogging and media consumption.
Since then those functions were largely supplanted by social media. Here’s the difference: blogs put out a finite amount of content on any given day. If I limited the number of blogs devoted to a specific topic down to a reasonable number, say the 3 to 5 best, I would only see the same story repeated a limited number of times. Because each of those blogs was adding at least a little something, even when they all hit the same story they’d frequently offer different takes. Most importantly, when I’d read all of the new blog posts for that day, I was done. I could get back to my life. Social media feeds never end.
Blogging and Media Consumption
Bloggers then weren’t gatekeepers so much as curators of content. I think there was an investment in what they chose to share because it was appearing on their site. They have ownership. Now, you just have 300 of your closes friends sharing and retweeting the exact same link, usually without adding any commentary whatsoever. The platform isn’t theirs, so they really don’t care about presentation, or how the content reflects on them. They’re rewarded for noise, not signal.
I know, there are still blogs out there that do what I described above. A lot of them are corporate entities, though, so they’ve taken on the same problem as other news organizations: don’t do anything to alienate advertisers. Many are small and not heavily trafficked, because the current state of blogging is that you can focus on creating content or marketing your site, but not both at the same time. So the well-publicized sites are mediocre, and the well-written sites toil in obscurity until they quit.
I’m starting to miss what we used to call blog networks or blog circles. Those terms are used differently now, but it was a way to thread sites together via a shared topic. I remember bouncing from one television blog to another, discovering new sites. Blogrolls could be fun, if only to see what sites your favorite blogger enjoyed. It was a was for us to support one another. Even if we only read each others’ stuff, like it was a digital APA, it made it feel worthwhile. It was a genuine community. It felt like we wre producing signal, not noise.