The Blog Bubble

The blogoshere is not a bubble – its a gigantic pile of foam, rising high over the bath-tub.

As Open Source Media launches as a huge aggregate of blogs, bloggers and journalists, and Tim Worstall’s book hits the shelves, the blogosphere is itself under the spotlight again. We are always told that the media likes nothing better than a story about itself. Perhaps the debates about the future and nature of blogging are a signal of a growing maturity of the medium.

In a three line post, Cynical Bastard suggests that one day the blog bubble might burst. I wonder what he means by that?

When the dot-com bubble apparently burst, it wasn’t the concept of web-pages that was discredited, or the concept of having a company web-page… or even the concept of doing business on-line. It was merely the idea that money could be made faster and easier online, without the constraints that business traditionally had to deal with. When it became apparent that the same rules of business applied to online services as to the other industries, people stopped over-inflating the value of these companies, and investments were made in a less frivolous manner.

Despite protests to the contrary, blogs can survive without huge financial resources. While many blogs have the ambition to be hugely influential nodes in the network, I suggest that part of the point of blogging is actually being one very small link in that chain. That there are so many bloggers out there can be a strength, not a weakness, because (just like the internet in itself) there is no central point that can be targeted, no bubble to burst and disrupt the system. To continue the analogy: the blogoshere is not a bubble – its a gigantic pile of foam, rising high over the bath-tub.

What might not be sustainable are the larger blog sites. If their size and influence grows, so they become more like the traditional media. The key bloggers (and their researchers) need a salary, and get some office space to manage the expansion, which costs money, which means adverts, marketing campaigns, subscription-only content and copy deadlines. There’s nothing wrong with any of this per se, but the difference between the pigs and the humans will become harder to discern. How long before we hear complaints: “Open Source Media didn’t publish my article, they’re control freaks!” or “Samizdata have smeared me!”. From there, it is a short step to ‘watch’ sites set up just to fisk these blogs… at which point we ask how much of an ‘alternative’ they really are. Perhaps it was better when everyone was alone, and in pajamas.