Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blogger = Elite, Wealthy

Oh dear. The Wall Street Journal conflates blogging with bloviating again (although Alan Murray has resonable things to say about charging for online content). It's a common mistake. A lot of old-school journalists make it. Russell Crowe's character did it in State of Play. I hear a New York Times reporter or other likewise presumed prestigious journalist make this mistake probably at least once a month.

It's okay. The Internet can be scary and confusing for some people. Here, let me explain. Blogging is a medium, not a genre. You can have a reported blog. TPM does it every day. You can have a blog that consists of paid adveritisng, much like infomercials on television or those junk glossies you can pick up for free at a coffee shop. You can also have an opinionated blog (mine is pretty much that), but the thing that links them together is not necessarily screeching about this or that, it is simply that they are all websites with dated entries.

It's interesting that the WSJ shows that there's some professionalization of the medium:
The best studies we can find say we are a nation of over 20 million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, and 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income. That's almost 2 million Americans getting paid by the word, the post, or the click -- whether on their site or someone else's. And that's nearly half a million of whom it can be said, as Bob Dylan did of Hurricane Carter: "It's my work he'd say, I do it for pay."
But it also shows that there's some replication of the old media paradigm:
Demographically, bloggers are extremely well educated: three out of every four are college graduates. Most are white males reporting above-average incomes. One out of three young people reports blogging, but bloggers who do it for a living successfully are 2% of bloggers overall. It takes about 100,000 unique visitors a month to generate an income of $75,000 a year.
Hm, that seems an awful lot like the Village Voice contributors of yore.

Look, media has always been dominated by a wealthy, white, male elite. For the most part, it still is today. Women are consistently about a third of bylines and minority reporters in the newspaper industry are on the decline. It's not exactly a represenative industry. It's true that many of the old paradigms are getting replicated in a new medium when you're talking about top-tier bloggers.

That said, there are plenty of people that blog that don't fall under the category of the WWME. That's why sites like Racialicious and Feministing have grown increasingly popular in recent years. At least these are sites that are devoted to a niche audience that has historically been neglected by more mainstream publications. I hope that blogging won't remain the stereotype of grizzled white dude reporter. Maybe these numbers will shift as the medium itself changes.

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