Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Will Blogging Last? Part 2

(see below for part 1 - this is one of those posts that will make no sense unless you start from the beginning - sorry!)

Why will most blogs end? Because most people have only so much time to read the paper, go to the news websites, and otherwise get their info for the day.

So say, for example, in addition to my daily routine, I want to spend a small amount of time every day learning about personal finance. I want to know which mutual funds to invest in, how to afford to send my kids to college, etc. Let's say I allot 15-30 minutes a day for this. I would start with the Wall Street Journal and SmartMoney magazine, maybe watch some Jim Cramer, and stuff like that. If I only have 30 minutes to learn about this stuff, why would I focus on what the average Joe is writing a blog, when I have no idea whether the author knows his a** from his elbow? I'm much better off sticking with the experts. Besides, the stuff in the Journal is much better written than the average blog. The same logic holds true for any topic one wants to learn about, whether it's politics, sports, or guitar.

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, whose knowledge of racial issues is probably minimal compared to that of the Washington pundits and insiders?

I think many people will come to the same realization, and many of these "average Joe" blogs will get less and less readership. And in many cases, that means that the writers will get fewer comments, and therefore be less motivated to write on a daily basis (unless they have NO life or an incredibly strong urge to get their voices out there). I do think the few talented "average Joe" bloggers will continue to succeed, but overall, there will be a Darwinian "survival of the fittest" contest. And most bloggers will not hack it.

And in fact, Joe Schick, a guy who used to write about Israel and sports, has recently retired from blogging. I'm sure Joe's a bright guy, but why should I read his take on these issues when people with much greater expertise are writing about them in Commentary or in Sports Illustrated? I'm sure Gary Myers and Joel Sherman know much more about the Jets and Mets. And again, I believe Joe will be the first of many bloggers to jump ship.

But hey, as long as Olney and UOJ are out there, I'm a happy camper.

21 Comments:

Blogger Ezzie said...

Fair enough post, though I'll disagree with a few points... when I have some more time. Have a great Shabbos@!

2:57 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

Hey man, I apologize if I came off kinda harsh in that post... like I said, I didn't mean it personally.
Besides, what do I know about blogging and the blogosphere... I certainly don't claim to be an expert in these areas.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing your point of view.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I could probably make a post out of this... :)

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.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Oh, and by the way... I'm 23. :)

9:38 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

A few (disjointed, too) points in response:

- I disagree that most blogs are niche blogs. In a sense one can say that's true, because everyone brings a unique life story, personality, and interests to their blog. (see also my post on originality). But when it comes down to it, many people's lives and experiences overlap. And many blogs will discuss the same issues as every other blog, or news/opinion website.

I define a niche blog as a blog that talks about issues that are very difficult to find elsewhere. Some Orthodox Jewish blogs are an example, a blog about current trends in bankruptcy law would be one, and a blog about curling, too.

- I agree that there's definitely a sense of enjoyment reading an "average Joe"'s perspective. But talking from experience, most of the bloggers I've followed didn't keep me constantly engaged in their daily writings. I never got to 150 blogs, but I had my fair share of feeds. And I found most bloggers to be boring or bad writers. Now, I check about 5 blogs on a daily basis.

- And I agree, eventually there will be some bloggers who will be so good that they'll "jump the ladder" and make the ranks of the New York Times, the New Yorker, etc. But those are one in a million. Like I said, I believe there will be a survival of the fittest. And the fittest of that group will end up making the cut. That's it. And many, many people may try, but eventually give up.

- Going back to your last point, I think the "incredible introvert" point is interesting. I think many "average Joe" bloggers either have severe pyschological issues or zero friends or colleagues, (you being the exception, again :))
and that's what draws them to blog. In which case (and I alluded to this), they'll be sticking around for a while. And there may be others that come or go. But many in that crowd will find that blogging doesn't make them happy or solve their issues, so they may move on to other things. Especially if they get no readers.

- When it comes down to it, I think blogging is here to stay. I just think that, come 2009, there will be many fewer "average Joe" bloggers. You gotta admit that for many bloggers, it's a fad. It's the in thing to do. And eventually, their blog will gather dust along with their slap bracelets, colorful wristbands, furbies, and Ricky Martin CDs.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Rix said...

sometimes its easier to read Avg Joe's point of view. Less verbose, more to the point, and easier to understand. Guess I'm just not intelligent...Dunno

12:28 AM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

Rickley: I hate to sound like an aloof journalism professor, but if you want an easy read, why isn't the NY Post, AM New York, or US Weekly sufficient? Not to mention supermarket tabloids....

12:42 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

But when it comes down to it, many people's lives and experiences overlap. And many blogs will discuss the same issues as every other blog, or news/opinion website.

So? Each one still gives its own perspective.

I agree that there's definitely a sense of enjoyment reading an "average Joe"'s perspective. But talking from experience, most of the bloggers I've followed didn't keep me constantly engaged in their daily writings. I never got to 150 blogs, but I had my fair share of feeds. And I found most bloggers to be boring or bad writers. Now, I check about 5 blogs on a daily basis.

And Will et al don't grab my attention every time, either. Do bloggers "catch my attention" every time? Of course not. But the ones who do a decent amount of the time or for certain subjects make the feed list... and if I see something that looks good, I'll read it. Plus, maybe you're just reading the wrong blogs. :)

You also have to remember that bloggers generally are doing this during breaks, in their spare time, etc. They don't have the time to write, edit, re-edit, and have other people look at each piece. George Will is a great writer and pundit - but would he be a great blogger? He'd probably be better than most, but not spectacular. It's a different medium and it's by definition going to have a different level of quality (especially as most posts are written off the cuff, not researched as in a bi-weekly article). That's the reason behind the name "Pajamas Media".

And I agree, eventually there will be some bloggers who will be so good that they'll "jump the ladder" and make the ranks of the New York Times, the New Yorker, etc. But those are one in a million. Like I said, I believe there will be a survival of the fittest. And the fittest of that group will end up making the cut. That's it. And many, many people may try, but eventually give up.

It's not one in a million - a bunch of bloggers have been snatched up. And that's not what almost any bloggers are shooting for, either. I sent an article to someone a while back because I thought he'd like it for something he writes... in the end, it made the WSJ's Opinion Journal as their lead piece for the day. It was a nice bonus - not what I was shooting for. Meanwhile, it was a nice resume booster.

You also forget the social aspect of blogging (see my article from a year ago on the J-Blogosphere). Most people are looking for different things in blogging.

I think you're very wrong on what most bloggers are like, though I'll admit I thought the same at first to an extent (though not nearly as bad as you do). I've met about 75, so I can assure you you're wrong. :) Introverted doesn't always mean geeky, antisocial, or lacking in friends; it means that they aren't the Type A types. There's a difference.

I don't think blogging is a 'fad' - by and large, it's not the "cool kids" who are doing it. It's a new medium that most people (including those on it) really don't understand yet. People are still trying to figure out how to use it and what power it can wield (if any). I think it will end up finding its place alongside mainstream media as a sort of people's voice, combining with YouTube and the like. Whatever happens, it will be interesting...

2:17 AM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

You also have to remember that bloggers generally are doing this during breaks, in their spare time, etc. They don't have the time to write, edit, re-edit, and have other people look at each piece.

My point exactly. This is definitely a factor in the quality of the writing, and that's why I'd rather stick with the writers who are doing this for a living.

It's not one in a million - a bunch of bloggers have been snatched up.

I'm not 100% sure about that. Could be my New York bias coming up here - because the media market is probably the most prestigious and competitive, I find it hard to imagine that most random bloggers would end up on the New York Times editorial page. But in smaller markets and smaller publications, I can see where you're coming from. It's kinda like guys putting up their music on myspace, hoping to get discovered by a record company.

And congrats on making the opinion journal - there's some good stuff there; I used to read it before I got too cynical to follow politics.

I think you're very wrong on what most bloggers are like, though I'll admit I thought the same at first to an extent (though not nearly as bad as you do). I've met about 75, so I can assure you you're wrong. :)

I haven't met 75 bloggers, so I'll defer to your knowledge here. The basis for my contention? The content on some of these blogs. Some of these writers just have so much anger pent up in their posts that I find it hard to believe they're 100% normal. And I think there's a fine line between "passionate" and "angry."

And then you have the bloggers that talk about sex half the time. You can't tell me that's normal.

I don't think blogging is a 'fad' - by and large, it's not the "cool kids" who are doing it.

"Fad" might've been the wrong term to use there - maybe "trendy" was more what I meant. I agree, most fad-followers (teenagers, etc.) aren't into blogging. But it's a new medium, it's still fresh and exciting, and that's what attracts a lot of people to it. However, I still believe that for many people, it'll get old. I don't see the thrill lasting forever.

This is getting off-topic, but I can see the same thing happening to YouTube, especially if they lose all the copyrighted material. Seeing Lisa from Kansas do her stand-up routine doesn't interest me. I'll stick with "The Office."

10:27 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I meant that a lot of people have ALREADY been snatched up by major news media. You should read up on it - it's an interesting phenomenom.

Thanks on the Opinion Journal.

Regarding the anger et al... could be you're reading the wrong blogs? You talk about UOJ et al - most blogs aren't like that. In addition, some people use their blogs to vent about issues they don't feel comfortable doing so about in public.

I think that all of these things are at more of a "high" now, but they won't be disappearing. They'll simply level out.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

I meant that a lot of people have ALREADY been snatched up by major news media.
In the big scheme of things, I can't imagine it's a very large percentage of bloggers. I would guess it's 1%? And you have to exclude bloggers who were experts/journalists/writers before they blogged, a.k.a. expert blogs (e.g. Volokh, Richard Posner, Keith Law, etc.)

In addition, some people use their blogs to vent about issues they don't feel comfortable doing so about in public.
I agree, and in some cases (especially regarding sexual abuse in the orthodox community), I think blogs are critically important in giving people a voice. But other issues (use your imagination) are better left not discussed, be it in public or in the blogosphere.

Thanks for the link to your page (though I would link it to part 1, maybe - like you said, it's very impt for fully understanding my take).


I think that all of these things are at more of a "high" now, but they won't be disappearing. They'll simply level out.
And as to who's right, I guess only time will tell. Come 2010, I may look like as big an idiot as the infamous guy from Decca Records. The one who thought the Beatles were just a phase. Or I may be right.

I think we've covered all the bases (and we agree more than I thought we did at the outset). I'll give you the last word.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

In the big scheme of things, I can't imagine it's a very large percentage of bloggers. I would guess it's 1%?

Oh, far less than 1%. But most of them weren't even looking for it - they just took advantage of the opportunity.

But other issues (use your imagination) are better left not discussed, be it in public or in the blogosphere.

True - but that's people not using their own discretion. The same is true in the mainstream media.

I think we've covered all the bases (and we agree more than I thought we did at the outset). I'll give you the last word.

If there's one thing I've learned from blogging, it's that people agree on about 95% of what they argue about. In general, people agree on almost all of the main points, with certain specific details being the area of disagreement. Blogs are helping people get past the empty rhetoric of sound bites and the like of media, as they can finally discuss the core issues and where the differences lie.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Schick said...

"I'm sure Joe's a bright guy, but why should I read his take on these issues when people with much greater expertise are writing about them in Commentary or in Sports Illustrated? I'm sure Gary Myers and Joel Sherman know much more about the Jets and Mets. And again, I believe Joe will be the first of many bloggers to jump ship."

This post was e-mailed to me. I actually agree with your main point. Here's my response as far as your comments that mentioned me:

Re: sports, you picked two terrible examples. I know alot more about the Mets and Jets than either Myers or Sherman. Myers ripped the Jets for hiring Tannenbaum, Mangini and Schottenheimer. Sherman has made a career out of wild and speculative trade ideas. Read me before you read them.

Seriously, I've covered sports, been in the press box and in the locker rooms. These guys are not geniuses. Alot of what you read is biased and based upon a desire of the writer to get close to sources. That's why Herm Edwards was so beloved by most Jets beat reporters.

As for Israel, you shouldn't compare what I write to what you can read in Commentary. Instead, you should compare my analysis to the right-wing extremism than has become commonplace in the observant Jewish world. I love Judea and Samaria as much as anyone, but I refuse to ignore reality.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Joe Schick said...

Eric Mangini just turned 35. His offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer turned 32 in October. What are the Jets doing? Running a day care center for coaches? Experience counts. How are these guys going to command the respect of veteran players?

Such out-of-the-box thinking is why the Jets have won so many Super Bowls.

-Gary Myers, February 3, 2006

The Jets will do no better in 2006 than match the Pats' 5-11 record in Bill Belichick's first year in New England. It takes a vivid imagination to envision the Jets making the playoffs in the next couple of years.

-Gary Myers, NY Daily News, August 16, 2006

If Pennington can come back, I don't see why the Jets can't sneak into the wildcard [in 2006].

-Joe Schick, Jan. 31, 2006

7:11 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

Joe: I didn't mean Myers and Sherman in particular; I was just throwing a few names off the top of my head. I'm only a casual football fan, so I can't speak much about Myers (your comment speaks for itself).

As for Sherman, I've found his stuff to be hit or miss, and in recent years, more miss than hit (his trade proposals are ridiculous - I don't think any of them ever happened). And generally, I find the guys on ESPN.com and SI to be much better than most of the local writers.

I read Gammons, Crasnick, Law, and co. regularly. The Post and News guys I check out if I have nothing better to do; otherwise, I don't bother.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Joe Schick said...

Perhaps my main point was missed:

By all means don't take what bloggers write too seriously. But don't take most members of the mass media too seriously either.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Joe Schick said...

BTW, I disagree about most at ESPN and SI. I can show you quotes from many of those guys as wildly offbase as those from Myers.

And even the good ones can't know all of the teams all that well.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

Joe: Believe me, I know darn well these guys are far from perfect. Anyone would have to be ridiculously naive to think those guys are right every time. That goes true for anyone in the sports or politics media. And as you said, many of these guys have an agenda.

But some are better than others. That was my point in comparing the ESPN/SI crowd to the News/Post crowd. Maybe you misunderstood me.

And again: if I have a choice, I'd rather read them than the "average Joe" blogger. Never did I imply that they always know what they're talking about. But they know more than quite a few fans out there. And they're better writers. That was the point of my post.

And occasionally, I'll find an "average Joe" blogger who knows what he's talking about, and has little to no agenda. And on top of that, is a great, engaging writer. But those are very, very rare.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

That goes true for anyone in the sports or politics media.

Should be "that holds true." I am "average Joe" blogging at its finest, what can I say?

9:12 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I have been blogging for almost 3 years. I average close to 215 readers a day.

I am going to be 38 in May. I a married with two kids and a mortgage.

Some of my posts have generated close to a thousand visits on a single day. Now there are many who do far better than I do, but nonetheless I feel pretty good about this.

FWIW, I have a million friends, always have. I just happen to like to write. I blog for myself and have no expectations about ending any time soon.

Not sure if that makes sense, but there it is.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

Jack: but are you the rule or the exception?

- also, I blog for the same reason. I never kept a counter, I've had many posts with no comments, but I like writing.

7:47 PM  

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