I have to hand it to Jeremiah Owyang – he can kick off a massive online debate with style. You don’t title a blog post “End of an Era: The Golden Age of Tech Blogging is Over” on a whim – it’s designed to create controversy, which drives debate, links, and lots of traffic. And that debate has, for the most part, been both lively and very interesting, so much so that Jeremiah posted a follow on article that even lays out a proposed taxonomy for the world of tech bloggers.
This debate is one example of why I don’t buy into the idea that any “golden era” of tech blogging is coming to an end just because a bunch of media companies are changing hands and their employees are moving around a bit.
Because that’s what most of the “blogs” Jeremiah holds up as examples of the Golden Era – TechCrunch, Mashable, GigaOm, Gizmodo, etc. – haven’t been anything but media companies for a long, long while. Yes they are blogs by most technical definitions – they use blog software, allow comments, publish an RSS feed, post in reverse chronological order, etc. – but I think for these ad- and scoop-driven behemoths of the tech media “blog” vs “media” ceased being a useful or realistic distinction several years ago.
Look at the top 3 categories of Jeremiah’s proposed taxonomy:
|Big Media Blogs||These blogs have transcended others and have been acquired by traditional media companies: Techcrunch(AOL), Huffington Post(AOL), RWW (Say Media),Engadget (AOL), ZDNet(CBS)||Access to new resources, funding for larger staff, and ability to tap into new revenue opportunities through existing advertising and distribution network of parent company.||Will be challenged to quickly innovate, redesign, and hire top talent who may be seeking the upward moving startup lifestyle.|
|Established Blogs||These blogs are dominant players in the space, and are either self-owned, or part of a blog network, among them includes:Mashable, Gizmodo(Gawker blog network),GigaOm, Venturebeat, The Next Web (European base),BoingBoing||Have solid coverage, strong editorial teams and processes and have established their business model.||Some may be content to forge their own destiny and not exit, yet some may seek to be acquired and exit, They will constantly be threatened by the tier above them scooping them, and challengers below trying to out-manuveur them.|
|Challenger Blogs||These players could quickly move into the Established category: The Verge (Vox Media) who left AOL’s Engadget’s to start this visually rich new site with high production video.||These players have tried a new approach, and are seeking to gun at the Established by trying a new format, editorial process, and may have connections to scoop stories.||While many root for the underdog, they may not have the resources the Established blog networks have, and will be forced to find inventive ways to get what they need, and Established blogs may not link to them.|
The most notable common elements? Ad-driven business models, editorial that relies on the time-tested mix of scoops, reviews, and opinion, and paid (some more so than others) professional writers and editors sharing the workload. Every one of them is, first and foremost, a media company. The Verge is a classic startup, whereas TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb are startups who made successful exits. They just so happen to publish in blog format.
I’m making this somewhat nitpicky argument as I think the true “golden era” of tech blogging has never been driven by these aspiring media companies, but rather by the groups of blogs farther down Jeremiah’s taxonomy – emerging and individual bloggers. It’s their hyper-opinionated voices, wildly varied posting styles, and sheer style and creativity that have always struck me as the truly interesting and passionate side of tech blogging, and if anything their opportunities to be heard are accelerating as short-format social media (Google+, Twitter) exponentially increases the reach and impact of the great content they create.
(Incidentally I consider Jeremiah’s own great blog as part of his “Career Individual Bloggers” category, and is an excellent example of the kind of tech blog I’m referring to above)
TechCrunch was wildly more entertaining, and endless source of gold you might say, when it was basically just “Mike’s blog” – and became significantly less so when it hired a CEO and a fleet of writers, no matter how opinionated they might have been. When Mashable was Pete and a couple others digging into social media, and not a 60+ person group covering the broader tech lifestyle, it was a must read for those in the industry. Now it’s something with occasional gold nuggets, too often hidden in an avalanche of press releases and guest posts.
I don’t begrudge companies like that their success at all, but I bring them up to make the point that for me at least, the “golden era” of tech blogging has always been less defined by a timeframe and more by a type of blogger. The real gold in tech blogging is now, and has always been, driven by the small guys who are less concerned about traffic volume and ad revenue and more about starting amazing debates and conversations – like the one Jeremiah managed to kick off with a heck of a headline.