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.
It’s not that blogging is dying, an idea I still think is misplaced whatever the raw traffic numbers might say, but that it’s changing fundamentally into a home for long-form expression. Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous, Facebook, and others are picking up the small updates, sharing, quotes, videos, and ideas that used to fly out across high volume blogs back in the glory years (for argument’s sake, call it 2003-2007).
Coupled with the current dominance of WordPress, maybe there just wasn’t enough room for one of the originals to stand on its own anymore as a pure play blog platform company.
It saddens me a bit. Six Apart after all brought us Movable Type, one of the original blog engines to gain widespread use, and Typepad, a service that more than any other brought easy, high-quality hosted blogs to business professionals. If you were a motivated marketer or PR pro about 4-5 years ago, you probably got your blogging start on Typepad. I know I did, as it hosted my original blog (the now inactive seattleduck.com) up until I swapped it out for WordPress a couple years back.
The buzz around Six Apart and its founders also drove a big chunk of the conversation back in the “early days” of blogging, as the concept of social media was just taking shape. For those who were online and paying attention at the time, who can forget the Mena Trott – Ben Metcalfe showdown at Le Web ’05?
Of course, Six Apart also brought us Vox – an interesting idea for a privacy-focused personal blog community that unfortunately didn’t stand a chance against the Facebook juggernaut. But everyone can be forgiven a misfire or two. The Vox designs, if nothing else, were beautiful.
Moveable Type and Typepad aren’t going away, and they quite possibly gained a new lease on life as part of a broader, more ad-focused media company. But the demise of the independent Six Apart brand is a bittersweet moment – the winding down of the first era of blogging, as it makes ways for the next evolution.
The blog posts from around the Piedmont Triad that I enjoyed reading this past week:
Local interactive shop BEM Interactive launched a new division called BEM Technology today, focusing on small office IT solutions (hosted Sharepoint, Exchange, etc). Congrats all!
When brand partnerships work, they can be wonderful things, as David Horne notes from a recent Whole Food shopping experience.
Ryan Shell, a local marketing blogger doing interesting work that I enjoy reading, is up and leaving the area for a big move to NYC.
Though I’m likely going to miss it again (client travel trumps all…), John Cass gives a great sneak preview of the next Greensboro Tweetup (now called “gso3″ – coming on May 20th) with a blog interview of Michael Grossman, Director of New Media Content at the News & Record here in town. I had the pleasure of finally meeting John over lunch this week, and I’m looking forward to eventually being able to attend an upcoming Tweetup.
Local agency Trone takes a look at the Nestle Facebook fiasco (maybe “fiasco” is too kind of a word. Nightmare perhaps?).
Bob Knorpp is back today with his weekly installment of The BeanCast (links to an MP3). I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but it’s one of the few must-listen marketing podcasts in my opinion, so just go check it out.
*Photo by digitaltree515 on Flickr via CC License
Being a new resident of the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, one of the first things I did as a confirmed social media obsessive is start to compile a list of marketing, PR, social media, and just all-around interesting bloggers from the area to follow.
Given I’ve got a small but growing list, I thought I’d shared some of my favorite posts each week. This list is by no means comprehensive, just my own curation of posts I liked.
Know of any other great posts or bloggers from the Triad that are must reads? Please leave a note in the comment section below as I’d love to learn about (and meet!) more.
The list for this week:
Bob Knorpp posted yet another fine episode of The Beancast, this one focused on how Facebook rocked the Internet last week.
John Cass of Pace Communications noted an interesting finding from the “24 Hours: Unplugged” research report, that should resonate with anyone who makes heavy use of IM, texting, and social networking – when cutoff, the sense of loss isn’t so much about lack of access to news or information, but about loneliness.
Iconfactory, makers of the awesome Twitteriffic iPhone app, released a set of icons based on the original Clash of the Titans film. (not strictly a blog post, but cool in any case)
Danielle Hatfield posts over at Mobile Local Social about the new Facebook “Like” button.
*Photo by digitaltree515 on Flickr via CC License