Blog!: how the newest media revolution is changing politics, business, and culture
by David Kline and Dan Burstein
US $29.95 CAN $31.95
Blogosphere: the Best of Blogs
By Kuhns and Andrienne Crew
US $14.95 CAN $18.95 UK £10.99
My two blogs are sad. I’ll admit it. I don’t maintain them on a regular basis and sometimes I wonder why I keep them posted. But yet, I very much like the idea of blogging. I admire those who maintain a blog and draw a significant audience. I like that there are writers out there who are so passionate about a topic or issue that they will make use of their own personal time to research, write, and publically share their views or knowledge on a particular topic. And on top of that, they open themselves up to public feedback and criticism of what they write. I can only wish I was that passionate about any one thing or issue in my life.
Though I don’t religiously read any one particular blog, I do have bookmark folders of three dozen RSS blog feeds I scan and read on a regular basis. The blog I’ve just added before writing this review is BlogRevolt.com, by David Kline, co-author of Blog!: how the newest media revolution is changing politics, business, and culture. It appears that Kline began his blog back in September of 2005, but his goal, along with the purpose of his book, is to chronicle and report on where and how “blogging meets politics, business and culture.”
Few books exist on the subject of blogging. Yes, you can find several that tell you how to create a blog, but few discuss the culture of blogging itself. Amazon.com only lists two other similar works: Rebecca Blood’s We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture and Hugh Hewitt’s Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World. I’m sure others will be coming down the pipe, and there’s no doubt several academic papers and articles on the net address this topic as well.
But I found Kline and Burstein’s book a very insightful and significant read, not only about blogging but the relationship between media and democracy in general. For me, blogs are the voice of the computer and internet using community. The roots of blogging can be seen in the use of personal diaries and journals, the early pamphlets of Tom Paine, the broadsheets, newsletters, and zines of political activists, organizations, and counter-culture teens. Where the dominate media has the money, resources, and skilled writers to shape the public news agenda, everyday bloggers seem to be challenging and changing who gets to set the public agenda for what and how public issues will be discussed.
Beyond the most clearly political or issue oriented blogs, there are millions of other very personal and often mundane blogs that people maintain for various reasons. But these type of personal blogs are not the focus of Kline and Burstein’s book. Instead, they focus on what is called the A-list bloggers who successfully attract thousands of readers per hour or day.
These bloggers include Iraq war critic and liberal Democrat Markos Moulitsas, former child star actor Wil Wheaton, Microsoft techie Robert Scoble’s Scobleizer, mystery writer and Bush-supporter, Robert L. Simon, venture capitalist and Japan’s No. 1 blogger, Joi Ito, politico-sex insider, Ana Maria Cox, activist and analyst Arianna Huffington, New York Times writer, Emily Nussbaum, and former MTV host and father of podcasting, Adam Curry.
Many of these A-list bloggers definitely challenge establish media. Moulitsas, of the DailyKos claims over “15 to 16 million visitors a month.” That’s more hits the Fox News site receivers, Kline and Burstein point out. They also predict that Daily Kos generates “$48,000 per month in ad revenue.” But the influence is not just how many hits one individual blogger receives. It’s more so about what is called the “aggregate effect,” which is the power of bloggers discussing the same issue or story on any given day or week. So the audience for bloggers are not just reading what someone else has to say, but many in the audience will pick up the story or issue and write about themselves. Those of us who visit blogs about Apple on regular basis easily see the aggregate effect around various issues and problems that Mac users may have with Apple.
Until reading this book, though, I hadn’t realized how large businesses have been trying carve out space in the blogosphere. Kline and Burstein point out that “Venture capitalists such a Andreas Stavropoulis…invested over $60 million in blog related startups, including the blog search engine leader Technorati.” Microsoft, for example has its “tech evangelist,” Robert Scoble, whose blog, Scobleizer, is number on Technocrati’s list of 100 most favored blogs. I’ve never read his blog, but that author’s point that Scoble brings a human face to Microsoft, a sort of Ombudsman for its clients and consumers. (Could Apple use such a blogger, or does one exist that I don’t know about?) In the same vain, Jonathan Schwartz, chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems, is according the authors “one of America’s highest-ranking executive bloggers.” For Schwartz, blogging is about speaking more directly to his clients and employees.
In another way, a business blog is like a newsletter to potential clients. Done the right way, a business blog can appear to be a frank, honest, feedback from business owners and representatives about the their business. On other hand, a business blog can also open a business to a flurry of public criticism when it appears to be nothing more than commercial hype or outright deception.
The last part of Blog is devoted to media and culture blogs. The latter type, popular ones like Beatrice.com, BookBlog.net and BookSlut attract a niche audience that does their part of influence the success or failure of an author’s new book.
On another level, as the authors point out, “Tens of millions people around the world are now documenting their lives, exploring their religious and political beliefs, and engaging in public conversations on everything from poetry to classic cars to the latest advances in nanotechnology. And they do so not only through blogs, but also through virtually every digital communications tool they can get their hands on.”
Even if A-list bloggers are not at the top of your list of bookmarked blogs, this book is still very enlightening and makes a strong attempt to explain why so many of us blog and why and how the medium is having such an impact. In this regard, it would be good to see another book that focuses on lesser known bloggers and groups that though they might not influence the mainstream, they still constitute a community of that speaks to one another, often across geographical, class, gender, and political lines. I’ve met some very interesting people through blogs whom share my interests and who also challenge my views on various issues. And this I suspect is why so many people do blog. It’s way of building connections, community, and sometimes strong friendships. Perusing pages and pages of LifeJournal blogs will reveal these wide and varied communities where people are finding places to be heard in a society where only those with money and power have access to the public space.
There’s no doubt that blogging is here to stay. How much of an impact it will have is still hard to determine. But if you’re looking to expand the types of blogs you read or just wanting an idea on what are some good blogs to read on a particular topic, Peter Kunhns and Andrienne Crew’s Blogosphere: the Best of Blogs might be a useful reference book. It explains what blogging is (believe me, I run across people who’ve never heard the word!) and how to set one up. But the bulk of the book lists hundreds of blogs on entertainment, hobbies, sports, parenting, current and political events, the environment, and good blogs from seven other continents. There’s also a section on “blogs that push the boundaries,” such as the Porn Store Clerk, the Police Officer, and the Bouncer.
A search on Technorati can reveal many of the same blogs listed in this book, but if you’re like me, it’s nice to have a little reference book you can peruse in bed without having to always shift through searches that reveal broken links, sites posing as blogs but are nothing more than ads for a book, service, or product; or posts written by someone who’s essentially keeping a public diary but doesn’t have a real commitment to the subjects he or she is talking about.
I don’t find what criteria the authors use for their list of bests, but it’s not important anyway. For typically, reading several blogs always lead you to several others and then some—more than what most of us have time to time to read on a regular basis.
Subjects and interests are so varied in blogging that a book like this could easily be three times the 320 pages. The authors have left out a lot to be desired. I would like to have seen a section of blogs that speak to various, racial, cultural, and gender issues. A section about technology and computer blogs are also missing. But like I said, the topics and interests are so varied that a series of these types of book could be put together, perhaps leaving out the how-tos of blogging, and focusing more on lists and excerpts from blogs that might reveal interesting blogs unknown to readers.