SAY: A Week of Blogging Debate

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Timing is everything. In the wake of the successful launch of the SAY 100, it’s fitting to look back at the beginning of the week and ponder the “blogging is dead” argument that dominated this week’s news cycle. Thanks to a New York Times article published over the weekend about how young people are leaving blogs for social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the SAY 100 launch aligned perfectly with a wave of backlash that (rightly) discounted the claim. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram led the charge, making the assertion that blogging isn’t declining, but instead evolving into a “publishing continuum” that presents itself in many forms.

According to Nieman Journalism Labs, Scott Rosenberg, author of Say Everything, a book on blogging and its beginnings, looked at blogging stats to get to the bottom of the issue and found out that 14 percent of online adults keep a blog - a number he called astounding, even if it starts to decline. “As the online population becomes closer to universal, that is an extraordinary thing: One in ten people writing in public. Our civilization has never seen anything like it.”

Moving on to other aspects of the digital “publishing continuum," mobile content providers continue to fret over the devastating blow they received from Apple last week when the company announced its new subscription plan for mobile devices. As an expert quoted in David Carr’s New York Times article put it, “If you are a publisher, it puts things into a tailspin: The business model you have been working with for many years just lost 30 percent off the top.” Many are wondering if publishers will stand up to Apple and according to the Wall Street Journal, the news has raised some eyebrows at the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission, with possible antitrust violations being evaluated.

Finally, in an unhappy turn of events, TBD, the Washington, D.C. hyper-local online news site, and its parent company, Allbritton Communications, announced this week the company shed about a third of its staff and shrank its mission to a niche arts and entertainment site - just six months after the site launched. The news came as quite a shock to the online-only local news industry, as many considered TBD an industry bellwether. Journalism punditry reached a crescendo on Twitter, with many a heart-broken supporter mourning TBD’s demise. However, some commentators insisted that TBD was bound to fail, noting that hyper-local news sites do not represent a sustainable business model. The Labs summed up the debate best:

While CUNY j-prof Jeff Jarvis lamented that “TBD will be painted as a failure of local news online when it’s a failure of its company, nothing more,” others saw some larger implications for other online local news projects. Media analyst Alan Mutter concluded that TBD’s plight is “further evidence that hyperlocal journalism is more hype than hope for the news business,” and Poynter’s Rick Edmonds gave six business lessons for similar projects from TBD’s struggles. Journal Register Co. CEO John Paton ripped Edmonds’ analysis, arguing that Allbritton “can’t pretend to have seriously tried the hyperlocal business space after a six-month experiment it derailed half-way in.”