They’ve got it… by George, they’ve got it….

I’ll confess to some trepidation when I picked up today’s New York Times editorial on the exploding blogosphere, inspired by Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere reports. And I cringed as I read a few late-to-the-party notions: They think that MSN and AOL made blogs easy when, of course, the entire reason it all exploded more than five years ago was because Blogger made it easy. They also surmise that what marks blogs’ arrival is that big media is now blogging:

The conventional media – this very newspaper, for instance – have often discussed the growing impact of blogging on the coverage of news. Perhaps the strongest indicator of the importance of blogdom isn’t those discussions themselves, but the extent to which media outlets are creating blogs – or bloglike manifestations – of their own.

That is the serious side of the blogosphere….

But let that go. Give them their moment of protective hubris. Have faith. Keep reading until you get to the last graph:

It’s natural enough to think of the growth of the blogosphere as a merely technical phenomenon. But it’s also a profoundly human phenomenon, a way of expanding and, in some sense, reifying the ephemeral daily conversation that humans engage in. Every day the blogosphere captures a little more of the strange immediacy of the life that is passing before us. Think of it as the global thought bubble of a single voluble species.

Now I suspect that some will say that the Times editorialists are trying to diminish the importance of blogging by making it merely personal chatter. But actually, I’ll argue, that instead, they are coming to understand the essence of this movement or phenomenon or social shift or whatever it is: They realize that it’s about people.

In my blog and email exchange with Times Executive Editor Bill Keller (who does not oversee the editorials), that was where at least I came out: Blogs are people.

So now the real question is — and it’s a question for you, Times editorialists — how do you join in that conversation at that human level?

: MEANWHILE…. David Perlmutter, a professor of mass communications at LSU, hocks up the same furballs all the old cats do about blogs in the house organ of the old, Editor & Publisher. Hey, professor, haven’t you heard: “Mass” communications is dead.

: A commenter who woke up on the wrong side of the bed this week says I should disclose for the hundredth time that I’m consulting for The New York Times Company at I have nothing to do with the editorial page of the paper nor them with me.

  • Jim Dermitt

    Blogs are tools. This is my opinion. A blog is just a collection of data and code and a person is more than the sum of his or her data and code. I’m not a blog. You could be a blog if…

  • “But actually, I’ll argue, that instead, they are coming to understand the essence of this movement or phenomenon or social shift or whatever it is: They realize that it’s about people.”


    Hows about a little transparency here? You consult for the grey lady for Your statement is blatant apologetic spin to make your client seemed clued in. Where’s the no-spin zone?

  • What is the sound of a blog if nobody reads it?

    The word blog has become a catchall for several types of activities. There are the personal diaries which are, in principle, no different from the books with the little locks on them. People feel the need to express themselves regardless of who reads it. If they wish they show it to their friends.

    Then there are the activist blogs which are trying to affect public opinion. Obviously for this to be effective they need the largest audience possible. So, if I have an idea that I simply must promote it is better for me to contribute on a popular site like dailykos where it may be seen by many.
    The flip side is that these sites become so popular and have so many postings that individual ones get swept aside quickly.
    The large audience, interactivity and speed of update are what makes the activist blogs something new.
    It is also a change from talk radio in that there is an indexed, archival record available to refer back to. Radio has no memory.

    Will this change the dynamics, especially of politics? Only time will tell, but so far there is almost no original fact gathering in the blogosphere so they remain parasites on the traditional media. Perhaps the rabid partisans can survive on 100% spin, but I think the less involved will demand some real info. A blogger doesn’t have the financial resources to provide this; at least not yet. Izzy Stone was able to do his own research and survive on the income from his newsletter, but the fact that he was the only one shows how rare this is.

  • Ronbo

    Maybe I’m just not a glass-half-full kind of guy, but I don’t see how the Times bloviating about “reifying the ephemeral daily conversation” shows that Ms. Collins et al have any idea how powerful – and subversive – a phenomenon the blogosphere has become. For one thing, people have been “reifying” their conversations since the dawn of the written word. And isn’t the “blog as diary” just about the *least* important thing for everyone who isn’t an eighth grade girl?

    Blogs aren’t people, Jeff, they are bulldozers. Ordinary citizens can now level the playing field between between themselves and the media politburo. Your own blog, on issues from terrorism and the war to Stern and Dell, has demonstrated the enormous leverage of this new medium. The Times may natter about the people power aspect of the blogosphere, but in my opinion they do not understand its significance.

    If only Solzhenitsyn had a blog ….

  • See also today’s Des Moines Register, where a sports columnist sticks out her tongue at bloggers.

  • HT

    Actually, Mr. King, a rational person reading that last paragraph would come to a conclusion similar to Jeff’s, although a rational person who also knows how to write would also say that it was badly written. Clearly they’ve never heard of Strunk & White at the NYT, at least not on the editorial pages.

    If, by the way, the blogosphere is an expansion and “reification” of human conversation, I do hope that the normal rules of polite conversation, or at least of a Beetle Bailey cartoon, will eventually apply here. Profanity does nothing to advance the discussion, and in cases where it still seems called for, the old standby of *!$?$^*#!?! would make the same point (while being much funnier).

  • Old Coot

    But why would an otherwise excellent media-focused blog (like this one) not have even a passing mention of the blooming financial scandal at Air America (so-far ignored by the NYT) or of the alleged obscene “journalistic investigation” by the NYT of the adoption records of Judge Roberts kids? Just curious.

  • Coot: Quite fair question. My bad answer is that I’m incredibly busy and so I have not had time to dig into either but it was quick and easy to quote an editorial i read on the way to a meeting this morning.
    On air america: I thought it was old news that the founders were, well, unusual. I find Air America to be so far off the radar that I haven’t paid much attention to it lately. So that story has not engaged me.
    On the Roberts kids’ story: Yes, I think that fishing into their lives is way beyond the boundary but that is a stone-skipping opinion and I haven’t read up on it yet (see excuse above) and so I haven’t written about it in a post.

  • Bulldozer. People.

    Radio used to be a free-for-all too.Bulldozer. People.

    Radio used to be a free-for-all too.

    “Ordinary citizens can now level the playing field between between themselves and the media politburo. Your own blog, on issues from terrorism and the war to Stern and Dell, has demonstrated the enormous leverage of this new medium.” – RonBo you are right for now, but how much longer do we get to revel in our playground before the “A-list” does become a reality? When joe shmo becomes ABC, (read – your gawkers and your gapingvoids and buzzmachines) he may still be small, but that 8th grade girl will not have nearly as much traffic as he. And for good reason.

    Ordinary Citizens are not nearly as interesting.

    This is humanity, survival of the most relevant.

    “Ordinary citizens can now level the playing field between between themselves and the media politburo. Your own blog, on issues from terrorism and the war to Stern and Dell, has demonstrated the enormous leverage of this new medium.” – RonBo you are right for now, but how much longer do we get to revil in our playground before the “A-list” does become a reality? When joe shmo becomes ABC, he may still be small, but that 8th grade girl will not have nearly as much traffic as he.

  • reifying the ephemeral daily conversation


    Sheesh! Good thing I have a minor in english from Smith College or I’d never be able to get the jist of that floe!

    That statement is part of the problem…the lack of understanding about blogging because the people trying to get it are so damned removed from “the people” that they cannot communicate in plain yet effective english.

    What many in msm (even you Jeff) are also missing is that blogs are tools…blogs are not people. Blogs can be a projection of a personna (which is not a person), a means of communicating about the world around oneself, a platform for activism, a way of giving the major details of a local school board meeting when the local press is in the pocket of the powers that be…

    A blog is alot of things. It is what the indivdual makes it. But saying that it’s people implies that its use is as a diary/memoir, and not that blogs, as tools, have a wider scope beyond the personal.

    Or are we still on the idea that the personal is always the poltiical, and that all uses of blogs are a form of “journalism,” even when the intention of the user isn’t “journalism” at all?

    As for how does the Times get into the conversation…I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again…climb off the Mountain, go into the Technorati tail and scope out what the fleas are up to.

  • Old Coot

    Jeff: Appreciate your response, if my query sounded snarky it was not intended; obviously I don’t (couldn’t) make my living using a keyboard. The NYT adoption investigation, as alleged, struck a nerve as I’m an adopted kid; if they have sunk that low with their partisanship, it is a sad day for this county.

  • Jim Dermitt

    This is like splitting hairs. What’s a blog? So this gets debated into the ground and there are all sorts of people writing posts about what a blog is and the people who don’t blog at a newspaper try defining what it is so everybody else can know. The blog is a person is settled upon after 48 meetings, podcasts and cell phone chats. Then the ink starts flowing and there are more articles calling the blog a person. The top gun bloggers then write post about how clueless the newspaper people are and start calling a newspaper a person. The comments roll in and the result is more traffic for your blog, while you attempt to explain the confusion you helped create. A blog is a person. Whatever! I’m going with this. A blog is an easy-to-maintain, frequently updated website. You people do what you want.

  • Jim Dermitt

    This is like going from clueless to pointless at the speed of blog.

  • I have a refreshing idea: don’t read the NY Times (or, especially if you want you read reliable stories about tech or media.

    Their Circuits section was incredibly slow on the uptake, and when they run a story about blogs, it’s usually in the Style section.

    Sorry bunky, it appears the grey lady has jumped the Carcharodon carcharias.

  • Jim Dermitt

    This blog is rambling, which is the worst part of the whole thing according to a review for buzzmachine I just looked at. I guess the censorship controls need to be improved, so it complies with the laws of boredom and corporate policy. Maybe it would be better if everybody just wrote the same stuff over and over and over in agreement. It would be like the movie Ground Hog Day. A blog is a ground hog. Mega dittos from Punxy, Phil.

  • Like others, I’m confused. What is the “Blogsphere”? What is a “blog” I used to know! It was a online “personal journal”. Now, it’s been expanded into meaninglessness (in my opinion).
    Mainstream websites have incorporated blog technologies (comments/rss), does that now mean they are “blogs”? Blogging software is really just low-end, easy-to-use content management systems (technology). Because I use Expression Engine, Moveabletype or Typepad to run my “website” does that mean I’m a blogger or part of the blogsphere or am I still just a website owner/operator?

  • Jeff, it’s only right that you have a disclosure each time you write about a client. Fair is fair. New readers don’t know the complete history of the buzzmachine empire.

    MSNBC does it every time they report on a story about Microsoft. This should be made a law of blogging.

  • Jim Dermitt

    There is a New York Times blog. From what I can tell, it isn’t operated by the New York Times. What is the New York Times? Can I use the New York Times name? Maybe I can say I’m a New York Times blogger, as in person, since a blog is a person. The next big thing may just be fake New York Times blogs and nobody will be able to tell what the real New York Times is doing. Heck, the New York Times will be lost and confused. The government can lock all the real New York Times reporters up and the paper can just use bloggers who write stuff for free until the real New York Times writers are released from jail or all the bloggers get other jobs at the Washington Post. Maybe Jeff Gannon can coordinate this with the White House media contacts he has and he can become the Editor of the New York Times. It might just be the plan to end all plans. I’m not sure.

  • Andy Freeman

    Put the disclosure in the side bar. If it gets too big, put a link to it in the side bar.

  • Dan “King” — I also get people yelling at me when i disclose too often. can’t win.
    Andy — yup, it’s in the “about” here.

  • And speaking of Disclosure, Dan “King,” why aren’t you using your real name? You leave a comment trail of crumbs across weblogs that reveal a certain, um, mood. And changing your name — lying about it — cuts off that trail if people want to see who is commenting and what his beef is. Come on, Dan: Disclose. Good, meet Gander.

  • Jim Dermitt

    A bunch of disclosure discontent. Who really cares? It’s like a giant finger pointing contest. Jeff can’t say this because he does this or that. You are going to prove it, got ya now. Everybody is going to have to stop all their business relationships, so they can blog. You linked to this, because you were in a conspiracy with somebody. It usually begins with a question and ends with another question. Then you know it’s some professor with nobody to debate or some political moron with talk radio brain or some other problem. The solution. It’s all Jeffs fault because he knew somebody or God forbid did something to make a buck. Like Jeff should sit here and be interrogated by somebody. I’d just delete their posts and ban them for wasting my time. I don’t care who has conflicts, just so they aren’t my conflicts. Worry about your own little conflicts. Some of this stuff is like Jr. high school or something.

  • 14 million blogs!

    Hmm, but only 55% of them are active.

    And if you read the report, you’ll see only 13% update at least once a week.

    How many update daily? (100,000?)

    How many of them are read by more than friends and relatives? (10,000?)

    Anyway, if the Alliance Francaise put out a press release saying that 14 million Americans “speak French” … but, hmmm that 87% of them can only say “savoir-faire” and “beaujolais” and haven’t spoken more than that since high school, do you think NYT would have done a better job deflating the hype?

    Maybe not.

    Which is the big problem with most journalism, generalizations cobbled together by generalists for folks who don’t know better. When you read about topics you know well and then pause to realize that much of what you are reading is gross generalizations and/or misunderstandings, you really start to worry about the rest of it.

    Anyway, sorry to be off-off-thread.

  • Jim Dermitt

    Jeff is consulting for The New York Times Company at

    If that’s a problem for you, I’d leave here now.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Jeff suggests Editor & Publisher is the “house organ of the old.” I wonder how we got over 1 million unique visitors to our Web site last month. Sounds kinda new.