July 14, 2006
Driver, Stop Please
In the early days, the blogosphere was meant for people who wanted to converse without any concern for money. There were no limits to what one could write about, whether it was about buying a certain product or sharing information that could be useful to readers. There were many blogs of all kinds, more focused on personal knowledge sharing than on general consumer topics. It was interesting to know a person's preferences, what they consume, and why they think something is good.
Later, with the rise of blogs, the paths began to cross commercial zones. Google launched its AdSense program, which made it easy to place banners and earn money. Soon, blogs with one or two text banners began to appear. At first, I don't think anyone thought this would affect the blogger's reputation or credibility. My feeling at the time was that it hadn't affected their desire to write, and their frequency of posting was irrelevant. So far, I could say we were in a relatively happy time.
Over time, the number of blogs grew rapidly. That's when I began to notice that writing a blog was no longer about communicating and chatting with others but about making money. At first, the typical phrase was, "I put these [banners] up to pay for hosting," but that argument had little effect over time. It might have worked for the first person who said it, but they were quickly forgotten in favor of the next person. It sounds like someone is deceiving us, but we, as readers, don't pay a penny to read what others write, so it's not like we're being tricked. But it turns out it's not that simple. It's not necessary to justify having one or two banners to pay for web hosting. It's their space, their life, and their thing, which is what matters to me and to others. There's no need to explain.
But apparently, that's not enough.
As time goes on, more and more sites appear with advertising. But it's not just any advertising; it's more and more advertising. Blogs that review products began to flourish, and themed blogs are becoming increasingly common. They were still a minority within the attention bubbles, but it seemed like it was the ideal. This can become quite annoying in the end. I try not to pay attention to this change, I keep consuming what interests me and participating in conversations as much as possible. Because it's good, because it benefits more than just a simple banner or a check for a hundred, two hundred, or three hundred euros a month.
I believe the problem is that one notices that, before, one would read a blogger because they published things. Each post had a logical mix of ingredients: personal opinions, links, ironies, comments, arguments, etc. With the emergence of this mini-economy, I could see how blogs went from being a time investment for the writer to a necessity to generate content to earn money. I don't find this bad, I worked for a magazine, I made a lot of money doing this and I stayed in many five-star hotels thanks to it, but I didn't see a blog that way. Usually, I didn't read magazines because every article I saw in a magazine was accompanied by false modesty or unnecessary plagiarism, just like a newspaper. Where you read the same news in every paper, with small differences. What sets newspapers apart from the blogosphere is that opinion columns are scarce in newspapers, and newspapers have a very questionable objectivity.
I read the blogosphere because it is the largest concentration of columnists in the universe. And I believe that people in a certain way feel the same way as me: they care more about knowing what others think. They don't want to read a news report. At the same time, when one starts to see that every post is accompanied by a detectable form of writing, editorialized and systematized, one begins to see that an opinion is transformed into a news flash. I believe this is taking away terrible value from the blogosphere. That's why some inexperienced people come out to criticize it, claiming that it's a world of spam. It's possible, and in part, they're right. For example, when I worked for the magazine, most people had a month of note preparation. There were many journalists who wrote for a whole month to produce a decent article. However, when I found out that Manu wrote about 1500 posts in a year, knowing that he writes for other blogs as well, I was astonished by the need to produce without stopping, to write as much as possible. Don't get me wrong, I had my times when I published more than 4 posts a day, but it was another story. I also had my time as a reporter of things, but if I reread them, I realize that they didn't make much sense. Probably what interested me was telling everyone to go see something because I didn't have enough time to sit down and write a string of thoughts. If in a month, a journalist wrote a decent story or twenty, how can we expect to see the blogosphere as anything other than a torrential downpour of small writings lacking the blogger's opinion? Everything is transformed into the typical entry, where something is mentioned in three lines, with a photo that they haven't paid for, that most of the time they haven't taken themselves. It's the kingdom of cut-and-paste because there's no time, because I don't have resources, because I'm not interested in knowing if others are bothered by it.