'07 may be year bloggers break free of all the hype

On Blogs

December 31, 2006|By Troy mcCullough | Troy mcCullough,Sun Columnist

This could be the year we finally quit talking about blogs.

Amid the continued popularity of the phenomenon, there are mounting signs that blogging is fast reaching its saturation point. Blog watcher Technorati was tracking 57 million blogs at the end of October, adding about 100,000 new blogs to its list each day. No one expects that pace to hold, and technology analyst Gartner Inc. believes that this will be the year that blogging peaks.

In a report released a few weeks ago, the firm predicted that blogging will level off in the first half of 2007 at about 100 million bloggers. And in further signs that the luster might be fading, the firm says 200 million bloggers have abandoned their sites.

"A lot of people have been in and out of this thing," Daryl Plummer, chief Gartner fellow, told the Associated Press. "Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it."

So as the number of new blogs slows and the number of abandoned blogs mounts, what will become of blogging?

Here are a couple of predictions:

First, as blogging slows down, the media will inevitably lose interest in the phenomenon. (Don't expect "you" and your blog to repeat in 2007 as Time's Person of the Year). The great ambivalent mass of bloggers - those who have little to add to the larger online conversation but by sheer magnitude drown out more deserving voices - are likely to fade away. Blogging will have a been-there-done-that feel for a lot of people. Many of the bad bloggers are likely to fall silent. Others are likely to not even bother in the first place.

But the committed, the talented and the entertaining bloggers will continue on. And those with a message worth spreading will find it a lot easier to gain an audience with less ambient chatter to contend with.

As the spotlight fades even further, the terms "blog" and "blogosphere" are likely to go the way of `cyberspace" and "information superhighway." The quaint "blog" label has long outlived its usefulness, and it also perpetuates a certain stigma that relegates bloggers to the second tier of the mass media, regardless of their respective influence, exposure or talent.

Labeling people as bloggers also glosses over the complex ways they are harnessing the Internet and the diverse makeup of the people using these emerging technologies. Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin (michellemalkin.com), sci-fi author and copyright critic Cory Doctorow (boingboing.net), photographer David Nightingale (chromasia.com/iblog), 93-year-old Donald Crowdis (dontoearth.blogspot.com) and humorist Ze Frank (zefrank.com/theshow), for example, have little in common with one another besides the medium they use to communicate with the world.

Liberating online voices from the "blog" label would enable the audience to concentrate on the message and not the medium and judge each person's Web site on its merits and not on its placement within "the blogosphere." Ultimately if blogging is to survive as a viable communication platform, that's what must happen. And that appears to be the direction we're heading.

As a social phenomenon, blogging may fall out of favor in 2007.

And that's great news for bloggers.

Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at baltimoresun.com/onblogs.

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