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The Cult of the Amateur – Really?

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Nicholas Carr has a post on the amateur nature of the collective consciousness of the Internet. Its ironic. He points to the slipshod quality of much of Wikipedia to highlight the flaws of the blogosphere including echolalia, tendency to reinforce rather than challenge, and superficiality. Carr’s argument hinges on the assumption that bloggers are amateurs who opine rather than report and cannot survive as sole proprietors on the Internet because they simply don’t have the resources.

Not true. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Economists Join Blogging Frontier, Aug 11 2005) discusses how investors who’ve had access to the finest economic thinkers via research reports and print and television media are increasingly bookmarking weblogs. Economists – including prominent names from universities and even the Federal Reserve – have started blogging on a variety of economic issues ranging from rise in oil prices to the future of interest rates. Blogs cited by the article, including Econbrowser, Macroblog, Vox Baby are all penned by penned by professors and researchers well respected in their field. No amateurs these. And these are not lone exampes.

The real nature of the threat posed by the blogosphere is also reflected in the responses of the leading newspapers. Ethan Zuckerman looks at the link per thousand circulation scores for the leading newspapers in this post. The WSJ is the most anemic in the blogosphere while the New York Times is relatively more actively cited. These papers view this as a threat and are adopting various strategies including putting content behind paid firewalls and charging access to archives. There’s not enough reliable data to test hypotheses on the shift in readership and whether blogging works as a complement or substitute to reporting. For research and consulting (e.g. Gartner/ IDC industry reports, stock analyses, etc), it may well become a substitute as thinkers and experienced professionals begin blogging. For the like of newspaper reporting, blogging can serve as a complement. It cannot be a source of objective opinion but its interactive and community focused nature allows for a diversity of opinions and debate. While watching the news one morning, my vehement friend quipped “I don’t agree with what this guy says. It’s so wrong. I want to there reporting on this too.” That, to me, is a big part of the appeal of blogs.

Ed:LisaM

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About Deepa Mani

  • http://homepage.mac.com/donfrancisco864/iblog/index.html alpha

    Interesting post with a lot to consider from a few paragraphs.

    The “blogosphere” is both new and democratic. But democracy and competence are not the same thing. Still, it throws us into sci-fi novels where everyone votes electronically, everyone is connected telepathically (or electronically) and we have to think about (worry about?) exactly what that means to the future.

    Your examples of economists of note becoming bloggers means that either more competent people will take control of the ‘net or that, as now, the wheat and the chaff will share space among those millions of blogs. Does that change the importance of blogs by newspapers and businesses? Or the efforts siteslike Blogcritics to bring a range of opinion/news/reviews to the world that is plugged into the ‘net.

    I am not agreeing or not. It is a fascinating question of what the future will bring.

    You wrote the post. What do you think? Will you continue to write? Are there just too many blogs soon to be dominated by Nobel Laureates, religious rightists, fashion critics and large, commercial blogs?

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    The post – particularly paragraph two – seems to indicate that you put more credence in writers who have established themselves elsewhere first.

    In reality blogging is writing. Blogging is not a magic word that bestows anything. It is a medium. It’s as good as the information in. There have been experts in the blogosphere for a long time – but what overwhelmingly drives blogging – as opposed to informational web sites – is not expertise, it is partisan opinion and or “diary entry” type blogging.

    And I don’t say that to belittle, but to point out a fact.

    Also, for all the recent spate of “check it out at wikipedia” the fact that it has many many errors should be of great concern to everyone. It is being treated as a source of knowledge but it IS often wrong. And if what I read last month about the “selection” process is any indication, it’s up shit creek. I would never use wikipedia as a source if I wanted to be 100 percent correct on almost anything.

    That – for me – is what it is right now.
    Good post.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>These papers view this as a threat and are adopting various strategies including putting content behind paid firewalls and charging access to archives. << This is where they slit their own throats, of course. Blogs are essentially giving these papers free advertising, driving readers to their websites so they can sell advertising and promoting their product for them. If they make access more difficult rather than capitalizing on bloggers referencing them, then they are making a huge mistake. The NYT has not learned this lesson, and it’s going to cost them. Whenever possible I reference some more friendly source, and as more do that, over time those sources are going to gain readers and make more money with advertising on their websites, at the expense of tradition-bound papers like the NYT. Dave

  • http://blogcritics.org/author.php?author=Cerulean Cerulean

    That’s probably true. I know that demanding free registration to look at an online newspaper is obnoxious. You can get around it by going to bugmenot.com

  • http://bponews.blogspot.com Deepa

    >>Are there just too many blogs soon to be dominated by Nobel Laureates, religious rightists, fashion critics and large, commercial blogs?<< Maybe, but I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. And I think their blogs can be a source of objective information. For example, Econbrowser is authored by a professor of Economics at San Diego who is a well-respected oil watcher. His website is a regular read for many investors in oil stocks. Like I said, there are some blogs which complement traditional print media (illustrated by Dave’s comment). Others may well turn out to be substitutes. Here’s where the Nobel Laureates and fashion critics come in. I pen a blog called BPO Journal where I often publish findings of my doctoral research on BPO. I think as I become established and my work gains credibility, my blog can turn serious competition for the likes of Gartner and IDC. I can also use the blog to gain feedback from senior management who have participated in my research. Ditto for others in this space.

  • http://bponews.blogspot.com Deepa

    >>what overwhelmingly drives blogging – as opposed to informational web sites – is not expertise, it is partisan opinion and or “diary entry” type blogging<< I agree. But, don’t you think that’s expanding or at least, will expand? If the community expands to include communities of professionals, experts, managers, etc. we may well have communities of best practices, expert information and to push it, virtual consulting.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Yes. I agree Deepa.

    We also forget, experts are not necessarily interesting writers (or necessarily interesting period).

  • http://leoniceno.journalspace.com Sam Jack

    It seems to me that it’s only a matter of time before mainstream media outlets ditch the traditional columnist format and instead emply full-time bloggers. MSNBC is ahead of the curve on this.

    Whether or not blogging will enhance the quality of media coverage– and I feel confident that it will and does– it’s here. We’ll get the media that we demand, so we’ll get the media that we deserve.