Sunday, August 29, 2004

Blogging for Dollars?

I came across this interesting paradigm-questioning post in Ozzilyn Bean's blog. It got me thinking about the implications of commercial interest on different media types. Here's my perspective:

Every new technology seems to start with an idealistic premise. Think back to the heady early days of the Internet - pre- AND post-Web - when everyone sat around their 14.4 and 28.8 Kbps modems and sang kumbaya because they were so enthralled with humanity's newfound ability to send a text greeting to someone halfway around the planet.

It didn't take long before money entered the picture. And, with much ado, the commercial nature of the new medium soon predominated. (Think dot-com here and you're on the right path.) In a way, it is inevitable, and I don't say that in a purely perjorative fashion. It's more a point of fact: sooner or later, someone or something has to pay the bills.

And so it goes with blogging. A grassroots technology is evolving into a commercially viable medium - or FORM of medium...still figuring that one out. AdSense is likely the first of many such models that wlil be launched in the coming years. Most will crash and burn. Some will succeed and redefine how we incorporate this new toolset into our day-to-day lives.

Although the implications of commercial interest on free speech can be dire, they are no different in the blogging world as they have been on any medium which experienced a similar transition in the past.

We sure do live in exciting times. Bring it on.


Oz said...

Hello there. Glad my post inspired another post. :) But I wanted to point out that the internet is about free access as well as commercial benefit. You mentioned the early days of home web surfing and sending email. I remember them, too. Believe it or not, I had a Prodigy account way back in 1993. They gave you something like 10 or 20 free emails a month, then you had to pay 25 cents for any additional email. Sounds like heresy these days, where you don't even need to pay a dime to have an email account (ala hotmail, yahoo, etc). In addition, they had something like "free zones" and "plus zones." You could spend unlimited amounts of time in free zones, but you were only allotted about 5 hours a month for plus zones, then you had to pay more. Of course, everything you wanted to do was in a plus zone, so it was ridiculous. ISPs have gotten rid of that nonsense, too. My point in all of this is that while some things have gotten more commercial, like seeing ads on every webpage, others have bowed down to the freedom and openess of the www. But you could also be right in that the things that worked, worked. Charging people for email didn't work, so it doesn't exist anymore. Putting ads on blogs may or may not go the same way.

But seeing ads on blogs will make me question their intent. I've even started to question that blog I mentioned in my post--the one that already has the ads. As I looked back on it to see if the blogger had posted anything today, I scrolled down through her most recent post and realized that she mentioned the brand and model of car she had years ago. As I read it again, I couldn't help but wonder, "Was she just mentioning it as a natural part of her post? Or did she do it to be product specific?"

carmilevy said...

I think it's entirely valid to question the commercial ethic behind a blog post. This is another area for which trere is precedent: Newspapers exist because they sell ad space. Yet we trust the editorial copy is sufficiently differentiated from the advertising side of the business that it is relatively untainted by the commercial need. So a news story on corrupt auto dealership practices should, in theory, not be influenced in any way by the fact that the newspaper also receives advertising dollars from dealerships.

Editorial independence is the cornerstone of a trusted media consumer/producer relationship. The onus is on those producing the editorial content to build that trust relationship with those who consume it. If they don't, then the ethical vacuum within which they operate will eventually drive readers/consumers away. Advertisers will follow soon thereafter.