Note on Blogging


(notes from Richard who is having posting issues)


(I made no attempt to credit specific people with ideas/comments, sorry. If you really want credit, feel free to mention it in the comments to this post. –Richard)


The relation of blogs to journalism.

Last time – we discussed what we would like in a media system if we were designing it ourselves and came up with a bunch of values (see last class’s blogpost).

· adding “choice” as a value


Kevin at the end of last class raised the point that the values we are seeking are in the system as a whole, but that any individual source need not embody them all.


TODAY: Looking at “News” sites (query whether they are news sites, and how we know):


We started with what seems like a liminal case, somewhere between a news site and a blog:

Huffington Post – · A news aggregator site, kind of like Drudge, with more of a liberal bent, with a focus on media and entertainment as well as politics, and it mixes together blogs with news.

· Run by Arianna Huffington – former conservative pundit, now has become a liberal one

· Not doing much (if any) real reporting or newsgathering on its own.

· Has huge force within a particular readership such that major players are actually making posts on it (Hillary Clinton posted early in the election; Barack Obama wrote a letter responding to the Rev. Wright incident; Bill Maher; Alec Baldwin; Bill Moyers; David Weinberg; etc.).

· Pointed at, both positively and negatively as a prototype for the news in the future – adding their editorial spin to other people’s news without having to create their on content


WE brainstormed for a large part of the class, comparing Huffington Post to newspapers:

· Huffington Post (“HuffPo”):

o + covers rumors and gossip

§ + trying to affect / track public opinion and what people care about

§ + more American / blue collar

o + Non-objective, Partisan (return to old model of newspapers?) (a positive because there’s more competition)

o + Entertaining

o + Less taken as a public good

o + variety of ways of sorting

§ most popular, can be a fan of a particular blogger (subscribe to RSS), tags

§ allows people to decide what they’re interested in and stay with it

o + search

o + easily accessible archives

o + links within the page and off of the page (other blogs, news media, etc.)

§ though there’s some interest in keeping you there, obviously.

o + Feedback/conversation with / to authors / editors / readers through comments

§ extensive, threaded, sophisticated comment system.

§ Difference between comments and traditional letters to the editor:

ú letter to the editor – addressed at the newspaper, one way

ú comment – addressed at each other, more conversational

§ Tangent on comments:

ú (what’s the best way to run a comment section? Slashdot model where readers rate comments?)

ú (Trackbacks – built into WordPress –

· Blogger 2 links to Blogger 1, and Blogger 1 then knows that he did so, and then Blogger 1’s site notes that.

· (to make this work, the blogging companies share the links from each site with each other so that they can share them)

o + more real-time, immediate coverage?

§ not generally newsgathering, but very fast updating

o + shareable – you can distribute stories peer to peer

· Washington Post:

o + covering policy (more than rumors, etc.)

§ + trying to inform

o + covering local news

o (avoiding the question of whether printed newspapers are partisan)


Has the mainstream media gotten more tabloid-y under the influence of tabloid-y web journalism? Maybe, but that may be a matter of perception, and AM radio certainly fulfilled that role before


Connecting HuffPo to blogs:

· Blogs have some of the elements we’ve seen in Huffington Post, particularly links and comments.

· Howard Dean’s official blog when he was running allowed comments (radical at the time)

o people posted for lots of reasons, sometimes just enthusiasm

o had the effect of making the regular posters feel like they were members of a community, a social group enabled by the conversation

o Also true of places like Huffington Post or bigger blogs

§ VERY different from letters to the editor at newspapers where sometimes you see conversation, but rarely and limited


Blogs Themselves (moving away from HuffPo):

· Question: how would you describe / define a blog (to an aging parent)? What is a blog (like)?:

o an online conversation, an area where people can communicate without the other barriers

§ (view the video by Lee and Sachi LeFever, viewable on the meta-blog blog


§ sharing “news” broadly defined

§ they give people like you the power of the media, appeal to a high number of small audiences

o More brainstorming – Blogs are (like) _________ :

§ News, Media, Diary, Personal Conversation (among friends), Bully Pulpit / Speech, Community, Forum, Node on a Network of Information, Chronologically Organized Webpages, Serial Stories, diversion/entertainment, Public Persona/Self, Timely, Less Trustworthy, Marketing Tools, a blank piece of paper (David Weinberger)

· Clay Shirky’s article analyzing information from technorati about links to blogs:

o available at: o Powerlaw – a graph of distribution, logarithmic, not bell shaped, 80-20 rule, with a long tail

o Shirky found a powerlaw distribution for links to blogs.

§ certain blogs have LOTS of links to them. Most blogs have way fewer.

§ (other internet stuff where powerlaws show up (they show up everywhere):

ú number of visitors / pageviews for al websites

ú mailing lists at Yahoo!

ú Livejournal friends

o Why do they keep developing?

§ self-reinforcing, positive-reinforcement, network effects

o Is this a bad thing?

§ it was highly controversial,

ú it blew apart the idea that there was a level playing field for blogs

ú destroyed the idea of blogs democratizing media

§ network effects can be good or bad

ú consider lock-in, which keeps people locked into a particular system / source of news

· switching costs from one site to another are relatively low, though.

· Chris Anderson (editor of Wired magazine) wrote a book called “The Long Tail”


o observes that there is WAY more information (area) actually in the long tail than in powerlaw head part.

o Therefore, the long tail has a big influence, but it’s not quantified (or monetized) easily

o e.g. can sell WAY more books because they can monetize the books which fewer people buy to more people, rather than having to stock only the most popular ones

o Netflix works the same way.

o Anderson argued that we would see more and more businesses monetizing the long tail

· Long-tail blogs:

o Technorati says that they have (4-6) links to them.

o closer relationship to the audience (not mass communication)

§ more personal connection (at least with those who comment) – can we really know that? Maybe it’s not the case at all.

§ it FEELS more attached to (a presumed intimacy with) with blog readers / audience than with book readers, for instance.

o can be more daring with a limited audience

o can deal with more esoteric / specific subjects (less pandering)

o money is less of a factor (lower costs), amateur


The Web Difference Question:

· which form of communication you analogize them to says a lot about how we view blogs.

· does comparing blogs to old media indicate a lack of a web difference or not?

1 Comment

  1. rheppner

    April 8, 2008 @ 9:29 am


    Sorry about the inability to post my own blog entry, and about the wacky formatting. Had I been able to post myself, I would have been able to fix the formatting issues!

    Thanks for posting it, Kevin.