Sunday, February 11, 2007

Why Blogs?

[Related: Welcome to the J-Blogosphere]

I never have really written that "Why I Blog" post, but I had an interesting discussion over the weekend at Isaac Kaplan's blog about the subject. Isaac has his own opinions about blogging, touched on here:
Part of my epiphany came the other day, when I was reading a piece by Ezzie about Joe Biden's comments about blacks. Halfway through the piece, I realized, with all due respect to Ezzie, I am wasting my time. If I want to know more about the incident, let me see what experts like George Will or Bob Novak have to say on the matter. Why should I waste my time listening to a 24-year old accountant [Ez: I'm 23], whose knowledge of racial issues is probably minimal compared to that of the Washington pundits and insiders?
I think Isaac missed to some extent what blogging is all about for most people, so we had a nice back-and-forth about it on his blog. Excerpts:
Anyways, you covered a lot of my objections in your Part I, which I didn't read until now: Many blogs are of different niches or types, and therefore will last regardless. In fact, I'd guess that most blogs fall into that category (specifically personal blogs).

[The following is really disjointed, because so many different thoughts popped into my head... sorry.]

You're really only discussing blogs that are pontificating about popular subjects - sports, politics, and the like. Why should anyone read those when they can read (as you say) the George Wills of the world? And you're right... except why would they do so now, either? For different people, it could be different things: Maybe they don't like the columnists they normally read; maybe they want to see other opinions; maybe they think that bloggers give a more "average Joe" outlook; etc. Also, most bloggers aren't writing for their audience, but for themselves. I'm sure I'm more encouraged to write, knowing I have readers, but I enjoy the writing regardless. Plus, how do people like Will get to where they are? In the old days, you had to work your way up the journalistic ladder, perhaps have some good connections, etc. - in addition to having skill. With blogging, you can move up with a little less of most of that except the skill.

I read a large number of blogs on a regular basis (about 150 - thank God for feeds... and yes, I do have a life :) ). Those blogs 'earned' their way onto my feeds by different means, whether by making insightful comments, by me knowing them somehow, or by having a great blog. Even among those blogs, I have my "favorite" blogs - the ones who write particularly well, who are funny or insightful, or who make excellent points in their pieces. Often, those pieces may be better than ones of people like Will or Mortimer Zuckerman or other journalists who I may even enjoy a lot - sometimes simply because they're approaching it in a different way. People develop their favorite writers among news magazines and newspapers; the same applies to bloggers. There's *usually* a reason certain blogs have larger readerships (say, the Volokh Conspiracy) - they consistently put out better material.

When it comes down to it, there's a reason that even among blogs, it is news and opinion articles from established media that are the most linked: Those writers got to where they are because they are smart, talented, and especially knowledgeable in the fields they write about (usually :) ). What the blogosphere adds is another few viewpoints that you may or may not otherwise see or hear, and - at least in the J-blogosphere - from someone who perhaps is a little more similar to you in some ways. [In addition, there's the "anti-media" aspect on many issues - blogs often give a POV you will not see in any established media.]

Finally, blogs are a place where people who may otherwise not be heard finally can be - even if by just a few others. A couple of bloggers ran interesting polls - "what personality type are you?" Almost all (I was of the rare exception) were incredible introverts. Blogs are a place for them to express their opinion, because they're too shy/scared/uncomfortable/don't care to say them in public in real life.

In the end, I think we agree a bit, actually: Most blogs will never "make it big" - but most bloggers really don't care to. Bloggers blog because they enjoy it, and when they stop enjoying it, they'll probably quit. Blogging may hit a peak, and may slow... but it isn't dying anytime soon.
There's a lot more over there, so feel free to check it out and add your own thoughts on the subject.