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Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Future of Blogging

Looks like I've picked an eventful week to drop by for a visit at Prawfsblawg!  I was struck by something that Dan Solove said in setting up his new place:

Why [a new blog]?  Because I want to grab land in the blogosphere while they're still handing out forty acres and a mule.

We still seem to be in the early stages of the blogosphere.  But I'm wondering, particularly with respect to law blogs, what the future holds.  Here are a few possibilities as to directions we'll take in the future.

1. We're in the "Far and Away" land rush phase, and pretty soon the continent will be filled up.

In this view, the blogosphere has limits on its growth, and at some point soon there will not be much more room for new bloggers.  Sure, some blogs will fade out, and some new blogs from folks with big names outside of blogging will start up successfully.  But the contours of the 'sphere are being shaped now, and there will be a decided "first-mover" advantage.

2. We're in the early Internet Boom phase, and a big shakeup is coming down the pike.

In this view of the future, the blogosphere is filled with start-ups who have rushed in to be a part of the heady first few days.  However, as other blogs continue to flow in, average readership will begin to go down.  And many bloggers will conclude that blogging is just too much work for an increasingly diminished readership.  Many of these folks will leave blogging, while others will join commercial or institutional sites that allow them to blog part-time with an increased readership.  And the "big guns," meaning academic elites, legal publishers, and the mainstream media, will assert their dominance over the new form, squeezing out even more individual bloggers.

3. Blogging is a transitional technology that will lead to new forms of connectivity and creativity.  Current bloggers will lead the way to these new formats.

In this view, blogging is a crude early version of new forms of Internet interaction that will gradually replace it.  As the number of blogs increase, readers (and bloggers) will be unable to keep up with the the amount of content they have to sift through.  So some bloggers will join together to create the equivalent of an online magazine or journal, with advertising, subscription fees, and content limited to a few peer-reviewed postings each week.  Some blogs will become the equivalent of the AP service for specialized disciplines, passing on news and information in terse form.  Some bloggers will convert to podcasting or videocasting as they expand their brand to new areas.  But the traditional "weblog" -- a site with numerous short opinion posts over the course of a day -- will pretty much disappear.

So what are your thoughts?  I'm sure I've missed some possibilities.  Where are we going from here?

Posted by Matt Bodie on October 6, 2005 at 09:04 AM in Blogging | Permalink

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» The Future of Law Blogging: from The Volokh Conspiracy
Over at PrawfsBlawg, Matt Bodie is considering the future of law blogging:We still seem to be in the early stages of the blogosphere. But I'm w... [Read More]

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» I Gotta Wear Shades from Between Lawyers
Matt Brodie over at Prawfsblawg asks the question: what is the future of [legal] blogging? He offers three suggestions for where law blogs are headed in the future. Orin Kerr at Volokh offers a fourth future with which I'm more... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 9, 2005 7:55:36 PM

Comments

I have always been fascinated by the missed opportunities presented to film critics by "Far and Away." As in "Stay 'Far and Away' from this movie," or "Far and Away the worst movie of the year."

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Oct 6, 2005 10:58:20 AM

One thing that's going on might be microcultures. I flit about from Volokh to here to Leiter to Conglomerate, but there are plenty of other academics up to their own thing that I never get around to seeing. The TPM cafe is full of name brands and Yglesias, Daniel Drezner links to a ton of blogs there's no way I'll be spending any time reading ... I predict room for some more, provided they get on the right circuit, and increased fragmentation as little circles never get around to seeing one another.

Posted by: David Zaring | Oct 6, 2005 11:43:40 AM

Regarding point two - Whether or not their participation diminishes with reader interest, I suppose it depends on why people write and comment on blogs. I don't write because I have any expectation of readership; indeed, back when I was using LiveJournal, I had absolutely no idea whether I was preaching to an empty church. To me, the point is (ironically enough) to build a paper trail, to exposit my views on matters which interest me and to develop those views. I've found that the discipline of writing is such that you have to develop a fairly coherent understanding of a given topic in order to write an even vaguley coherent post, and that's of value to me. It's also why I am deeply sceptical of nominees like Miers.

I would prefer, in rejection of Justice Harlan's theorem, to be consistent rather than right; I'm a big believer in unified theories, and I feel that even if my theory of what the constitution is and what judges do is wrong or incomplete in some particulars, it is as least internally consistent. Part of the process of developing that theory is about writing it down, coherently, in a public forum, whether anyone except me reads it or not.

So unless I'm just completely unusual, which is rather unlikely, I don't think that diminishing readership will kill the blogosphere, and those who do leave are likely to be those who are playing to the galleries.

Just my $0.02

Posted by: Simon | Oct 6, 2005 12:12:38 PM

Your list is good. I'd add a couple of thinks.
* Most law blogs will degenerate into fora for political hacks. I've begun to see more than one excellent law blog slip towards the least common demoninator (political hackery).
* Many bright stars, as they see and hear people harmed for blog-related speech, will quit blogging.
* Many bloggers will try to impress king makers, and thus spew propoganda, turning a thoughtful forum into a variant of the MSM.

Posted by: Mike | Oct 6, 2005 1:37:14 PM

In many ways law blogs are still in the "gold rush" phase because it is still a way to enhance your profile in the legal community, rather than part of the academic discourse which many professors and high profile attorneys are expected to engage in.

As it stands, professors looking to make their mark and lawyers who want spend some more time arguing about the cutting edge of their field can elevate themselves, at least slightly, by starting or participating in a well read blog. Obviously, academics have more to gain from this activity than lawyers, but both can gain career benefits from it. Ignore, for the sake of arguement, all the other reasons people blog that are unrelated to career advancement - after all, it is fun.

It's still in the "gold rush" phase because most of the old guard heavy hitters in the legal community don't blog. the noted exception is Judge Posner, but the format initially seemed to focus on Posner and Becker, with minimal participation by readers. Lately, things are getting better. However, many legal bloggers seem to be closer to the beggining of their careers, rather than the apex. As this new medium is being dominated by people new to the academic world, it provides a method to distinguish themselves without as much direct competition from the so-called "giants" in their respective fields. But as more people blog - and I expect they will - the pecking order found in the university system and legal community in general will begin to reassert itself.

So, get it while the getting is good.

(obviously my arguement rests on a lot of assumptions about the legal community and blogosphere, so you can all kindly rip this to shreds with new anecdotes and rhetorical questions)

Posted by: Rob Rickner | Oct 6, 2005 2:55:51 PM

I do think that prof (or prawf) blogging has a good future. (Disclosure: I blog at Legal Ethics Forum and have guest-blogged here, for whatever it's worth). I wonder, however, if the rush to grab cyberspace & establish academic blogs is so necessary. I remember from 1999 the frantic scramble to establish domain names for any and everything, with the same "land grab" mentality. All seems a bit silly now, doesn't it? There's still plenty of room on the 'net for new sites.

If the blog is good, readers will beat a path to its door, whether it's new or old. If not, it will fade into oblivion. I don't see any real rush to stake out a claim.

Posted by: Laura | Oct 6, 2005 3:34:24 PM

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