Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our little blog world

Having forsaken home delivered newspapers, I rely on on a web connection to supply news and information. Books are treasured in our house but even a half ton of those can be downloaded and packed around inside a tiny electronic reader.  For web browsing, I rely on favorites to be read frequently. Others are scanned less often and still more fit occasional moods and interests. Google Alerts help keep track of particular interests.

The depth and breadth of the Internet is immeasurable but we each define boundaries and mostly stay on the same trails. However, we're always watching for new sites and the reading community circulates recommendations. There being almost no entry limits means that Internet content creation can be in the hands of almost anyone but, while much is written, not all is worth reading.

In the non-commercial blog world, many bloggers hear the call, but most are overcome by the demands of maintaining a readable site. Published statistics range all over the map. One ad agency claimed in 2008 that "184 million people had started blogs" but no one seems to have counted the number who stopped. Ephemerality is a condition commonly ascribed to blogs. Rightly so since perhaps 80% of blogs last barely a month.

Bloggers who stay in the game for mere days probably had little to add to public dialog anyway but successful blogs become demanding and need to be fed often. A writer must  have substantial interest in the chosen subject matter along with time to pursue the avocation.

The most widely read blogs invariably employ professionals and operate commercially, often as adjuncts to existing media organizations. However, they are subject to commercial restraints. Vested interests demand tender treatment and loving care. Other blogs are independent of large media operations but serve as marketing tools for business. Professional consultants sometimes use blogs as part of their business promotion strategy but, when well done (Bill Tieleman, for example), it consumes major time and resources.

Regional non-commercial blogs, such as that of Laila Yuile or Mary Mackie, and probably this one, continue out of passion for having a voice and for publishing information and viewpoints avoided by the mainstream media. (See commercial restraints and vested interests above.) Additionally, writing may simply be a hobby enjoyed with or without an audience.

Finding an audience is an element that may discourage some bloggers. Unless one has a persona already known to the public, it takes time to build an audience but that is critical to the life of a blog. A tired joke says that if a blogger could convince his/her family to read, the blog audience would double. That probably originated with a snarky newspaper writer who doesn't enjoy his critics having an audience.

Pretty much every blogger keeps an eye on traffic statistics because that may offer the real satisfaction. When tens turn to hundreds and hundreds turn to thousands and tens of thousands, the writer gains a sense of value from the efforts. I certainly do and I'm both pleased and honored to see readership grown to levels that surprise me.

Regional blogs will continue growing because traditional media is not open to information outside their self imposed boundaries. They have a different business driven agenda. That is the case today, more than ever before. An article in The Nation, The Money and Media Election Complex describes how a new threat to democracy has joined that posed by the military-industrial complex as described by Dwight Eisenhower in 1961.
"This is not the next chapter in the old money-and-politics debate. This is the redefinition of politics by a pair of new and equally important factors— the freeing of corporations to spend any amount on electioneering and the collapse of substantive print and broadcast reporting on campaigns. In combination they have created a "new normal," . . . Unchecked by even rudimentary campaign finance regulation, unchallenged by a journalism sufficient to identify and expose abuses of the electoral process and abetted by commercial broadcasters that this year pocketed $3 billion in political ad revenues, the money-and-media election complex was a nearly unbeatable force in 2010."
Canada and British Columbia are in financial minor leagues by comparison to the USA but similar factors are at work. Business successfully purchased the BC Liberal Party and the government's artful use of public funds enabled it to make loyal the broadcast and print media. Having recognized the growing influence and power of the blog world, business strategists are establishing their own loyalists posing as citizen bloggers. Remember, whatever you read, wherever you read it, including this place, stay skeptical. Little you read comes free of bias.
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