March 13, 2004

Seeds of Blog Media Consolidation

What happens when blogs start making money? A lot of people still want to know if they will make money of course, but I have little doubts. If there is an audience then there will be ways to make money. And the big political blogs already are. And as the blog space matures all the big blogs will reap major profits for the owners in one way or another.

But what next? After peeping the SxSW panel on "Small Media to the Rescue" I tossed the thought around. Is this media as free and open as we like to think?

In the back of my head sat a couple facts. One is the story of early radio. The early days were filled with an indy media vibe, and anyone with access the the technology could broadcast. But regulation soon followed and the amateur radio stations where shot to the short wave dial. The main broadcasting channels became commercially focused and the consolodation rolls on to this day, bursting periodically along with the regulation.

Apparently a month back Joe Trippi made a speech were he talked about how early broadcast media was filled with ideals of a better democracy and then failed. I wasn't there, but from what he then continued on to hype the internet as a way toward a better the democracy, without ever addressing whether it could get waylaid. Waylaid the same way the early broadcast ideals got subverted.

Now obviously the sequences that lead to the regulation of radio aren't about to get repeated. But both technology and culture have plenty of capacity to surprise and twist in new directions. Just like political consultants after they lead failed campaigns.

So what happens when blogs start to make money? When blogs become commercial enterprises?

We can see the sprouts of one path, the clustering. Weblogsinc, the Daily Kos diaries, Calpundit getting hired by the Washington Monthly to run a blog. Blogs clustering around an attractor. The formation of shapes in a previously fluid space. So far these actions are benign, positive even. Calpundit gets paid, Kos diarists get an instant audience and easy publishing system and Weblogsinc provides both a tech back end and an ad sales team.

But as cliche's go, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" is currently under-circulated. Blogs aren't going to hell, but they are going somewhere, and its probably not exactly where the boosters are intending. For all the aggression towards "big media" in the blog space, it appears like blogs themselves are beginning to cluster into their own little media networks. And what happens next? I'll only predict that its not predictable yet...

Posted by William Blaze at March 13, 2004 09:09 PM | TrackBack

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