Having declared newspapers (and most of the rest of the mainstream media) dead, what do we do now?
This isn't an idle question to be bounced around the blogosphere, but a very real and immediate concern that could have a profound impact on how all of us get the news, the reliability of that news, and ultimately, the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.
A few months back I noted that the greatest challenge facing blogs and related Web sites is the lack of an effective revenue model. Even the most popular blogs are still light on advertising -- and what advertising they do have is pretty low-grade stuff like political T-shirts, books and exercise programs. Most of this advertising isn't even up to the grade of late-night cable, despite the fact that many blogs enjoy readerships larger than some major metropolitan newspapers.
Because of that, I also predicted at the time that the search for revenues would have two effects over the next couple years. First, the majority of the world's millions of blogs would fade away, as their authors either abandon their entrepreneurial dreams of turning weblogging into a new career, get distracted by job and life changes, or just get tired of writing copy to a miniscule audience. Hundreds of thousands will remain -- mostly people who blog for their own reasons, like modern day diarists -- and hundreds of thousands of new bloggers will arrive, late to the scene … and interestingly, because they've learned from the failures of their predecessors, they will have a greater chance of success. But the bloom will be off the first blog revolution.
Meanwhile, a second cohort, much smaller than the first, will survive, and even thrive. We already have a pretty good idea who they are -- you've no doubt bookmarked many of them -- and we can expect a few more to appear in the months ahead. Nevertheless, the search for real revenues, I suggested, would force many of these popular sites to begin to consolidate in hopes of finding economies of scale, interested mainstream advertisers and, ultimately, investors, employees and infrastructure.
It is interesting to note, then, that this prediction is already coming true. The talk of the blogosphere this week was the announcement, by blogger/mystery writer Roger L. Simon, Little Green Footballs, and others, of the creation of the Pajama Media, an aggregation of blogs from around the world designed specifically with the goal of attracting advertising. The response has apparently been extraordinary, with more than 200 blogs from everywhere on the planet already signed.up. There are other aggregators out there as well, from the comparatively venerable Tech Central Station to the new Hollywood-based site put together by Arianna Huffington to the still hush-hush citizens' reporting project for which noted tech columnist Dan Gilmor quit the San Jose Mercury-News.