Scott Rosenberg sketches his vision of blogosphere’s impact on our culture
Scott Rosenberg, co-founder and longtime managing editor of Salon — and a longtime friend — has a new book out, following Dreaming in Code, called Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters (Crown Publishing Group). It’s a well-written, well-researched, worthwhile read about blogging, its origins, import and where it’s going. He took part this week in a Q&A about blogging’s impact on publishing, journalism and our culture at large.
1Blogging is no longer the shiny new toy, and the cool kids are moving on to social networks and micro-blogging services like Twitter. Tell us why you think blogs have a vibrant future.
SR: Blogs have a great future because the Web has a great future, and blogs are the Web’s single most important native form. The “cool kids” did their part for blogging by embracing it in the early days and helping it evolve into the mature phenomenon that it is today. That’s their role; they’re doing the same thing with Twitter et al. now. But their waning enthusiasm means very little to a form that we can now see is the single most useful vehicle for self-expression online. Once millions take up some activity, you really don’t need the cool kids anymore.
2You’ve been researching and writing your book for some time. What was the single biggest surprise you came across?
SR: I was surprised by how much of everything that would come later was prefigured by the experiences of the earliest bloggers whose tales are contained in Say Everything‘s first section. Any sort of issue that might come up and hit you in the head as a blogger — with the exception of advertising- and money-related matters — turns out to be something these people faced.
3Name a few bloggers who aren’t household names but whose blogs
enrich the public discourse.
SR: I’m not trying to be difficult, but I have to ask, which bloggers are household names? Whose house, exactly, are we living in? Is Anil Dash a household name? He’s been writing some amazing stuff lately. Is Merlin Mann a household name? Nate Silver? Certainly these are all “well known bloggers,” in certain spheres, but none of them really rises to the level of name-recognition of any second-string actor.
I think I have to continue being difficult and challenge the second part of the question, too. “Enriching the public discourse” makes it sound like “the public discourse” is monolithic. There are a million “public discourses” out there, and most bloggers of any level of ambition are contributing to at least one of them. I may not be personally interested in the obsessions of a quilting blogger or a baseball geek, but they are now participating in the public discourse that matters to them.
[JD: This is worth discussing more deeply over a beer some time. While I value all the knitting bloggers, sports bloggers and mommy bloggers out there, we do need vibrant discussions in the blogosphere around public policy issues, especially with the increasing irrelevance of many newspapers and other traditional media voices. We find some of this with Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo, Pro Publica, the Politico, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Power Line and elsewhere, but we need many more blogs, and bloggers, participating in the public discourse about their communities and their nation.]