Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blogs vs. older media - who will win and how? - Denyse O'Leary

Let's talk a bit about blogging - that free news and views service you like so much.

Recently, old media have been paying more and more attention to bloggers, because we are stealing their readers. Here is something I wrote about recently at the Post-Darwinist:

Crocodile, crocodile, cry me some tears ...

Alan Mutter at Reflections of a Newsosaur blog reports that
While more people than ever may be visiting newspaper websites, they are sticking around less this year than they were in 2007.

That’s the troubling problem the Newspaper Association of America failed to mention this week, when it reported that the number of unique visitors at its members’ websites increased 12.3% to an all-time high of 199.1 million in the first three months of the year.

But an analysis of the first-quarter web traffic reported by the industry association determines that, by most other key measures, the relative popularity of newspaper websites has waned in the last year in spite of the industry’s professed commitment to aggressively building online products and revenues.

Anyone familiar with today's news environment won't be surprised at the fact that many people prefer to go to blogs.

Meanwhile, the New York Times, whose circulation seems to be bleeding while mine is growing, published a story recently by Matt Richtel about the Web World of 24/7 stress of "blog till they drop" types (like me?), citing two recent deaths of bloggers:
The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.
“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

Funny, I would have said that about The New York Times. But hey.

Well, here's one blogger's less melodramatic tale (mine):

I make a living, am still undead, and have not come anywhere near a nervous breakdown. I prefer blogging to writing for magazines because I can usually link my readers to my sources. So if they want to pursue a story in more detail, they can follow the links. Not only that, I can link to images, audio, and video.

Improvements I would like to see: If I were a techhead, I would long ago have figured out how to offer images, audio, and video myself. But I am not a techhead, there are only so many hours in a day, and I do NOT blog till I drop. Just like you, I have a life - a family, a church, a garden, a pile of mending, and all that. And every so often a publisher wants me to write a book, too.

Problems I would like to see solved: (1) bonehead governments that make laws about the Internet which don't make sense and (2) publications that charge a fortune to view their articles - which means I can't link my readers to my sources.

But I don't see how The New York Times can help me with any of that. For all I know, they would want more bonehead laws and higher fees. So go ahead, Times, cry me a river. We need rain here in Toronto.

Okay, that's what I said at the Post-Darwinist. Now here is something for Canadians to consider in particular:

Here in Canada, where the human rights commissions have turned their attention to blog posts they don’t like, a number of bloggers have been charged or sued for libel. You can find out more about that at Ezra Levant’s site, the Free Mark Steyn site, and Kathy Shaidle’s Five Feet of Fury site. All have been charged or sued or both, along with Maclean’s Magazine (charged), and many others besides. Reforming our 14 "human rights commissions" - which operate largely outside the laws that were set up centuries ago to protect persons accused of an offense - will be a long and costly battle for Canadians who love our country. But now that the "hrc's" have decided to wade into the realm of online writing, we writers have little choice.

Meanwhile, I have disabled comments at the Post-Darwinist and the Mindful Hack. I hope to restore that service someday.

But I still blog. Here are some posts you might be interested in from The Mindful Hack, on what science can tell us about our minds and spirits:

Things we know but cannot prove: Another nail in the coffin of materialism.

The fours be with you! (You will be "fours"ed to cooperate with this words/numbers game. (Hey, it's Friday night!)

Altruism: Why it can't really exist but why it does anyway

Evolutionary psychology: Eliot Spitzer is a kludgebrain!, psychologist opines (but so are we all)

Mind and medicine: The placebo effect - Did your doctor just prescribe you a quarter teaspoon of coloured sugar? Maybe ...

Materialism: When the store is on fire, hold a fire sale:
Excerpt: So this is the latest pseudo-explanation of the soul? I could do better myself! How about this: Minds that are accustomed to think in terms of a future have difficulty grasping the idea that there is no future after death.

Way simpler, to be sure, but materialists wouldn't buy it because I forgot to drag in the Paleolithic cave guys telling stories around the fireside - the staple of evolutionary psychology.

Fitna: A thoughtful Muslim's response The predicted riots largely didn't happen, but where to go from here?
Excerpt: And while we are here: Dial-a-mob/rent-a-riot behaviour is NOT copyright to Middle Eastern Muslims. I ran into the same thing among the American Ivy League elite in May 2005, when the New York Times bungled a story I broke on my other blog, The Post-Darwinist, claiming that a film about to be shown at the Smithsonian was "anti-evolution." It wasn't; it did not even address the subject. But zillions of Darwinbots, as I called them, behaved exactly as if it had. It's a good thing that no one gives them sharp objects to play with.

Rupert Sheldrake's guide to New Atheism (which makes it sound like New Coke, really)

Can a transplanted heart lead to transplanted thoughts? Well, maybe, but the mechanism might be fairly conventional.

Why science without God destroys itself: Because the alternative idea of a multiverse is a step into magic, that's why

Art produced by animals: Is it really art?

Are there really innate ideas about God?

Why can't philosophy alone kill off materialism? Why do we need evidence from science?

Civil rights protests force extinction of Olympic flame

Mayo Clinic co-sponsors Dalai Lama's 16th Mind and Life conference, on benefits of contemplation or meditation

Artificial intelligence: A look at things that neither we nor computers can discover

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