Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Beyond Blogs: Old & New Media Converge

There's been a lot of discussion over the past 24 hours on the new Techmeme Leaderboard, which is a list of the top 100 sources for the popular tech news aggregator - calculated over the past 30 days. The Leaderboard updates daily and each site is ranked with a "presence" indicator, defined as "the percentage of headline space a source occupies over the 30-day period".

Read/WriteWeb was ranked #6 in the opening list and it has a "presence" of 1.90. As a publisher, I'm proud that R/WW is ranked so highly. To be placed ahead of BBC and Wall St Journal on such a list is awesome. Of course, there are biases in the Leaderboard, but Techmeme creator Gabe Rivera argues in his blog post that biases are present in any automated news aggregator or search engine. See also our own Marshall Kirkpatrick's critique about other aspects of the list. So it's not a perfect measurement, but in the niche of tech news I'd argue it's better than most. Indeed, if you look at how Google News ranks news sources - it doesn't even let R/WW and other 'new media' sites in, so there is a much larger bias right there. Slashdot also has an ongoing bias against blogs, preferring to link to old media sources.

Which brings me to the reaction from several bloggers that the Leaderboard doesn't have many "blogs" in it. Ben Metcalfe wrote that 33% of the sources aren't blogs at all. I would argue that figure's even higher. Because Read/WriteWeb isn't a blog and hasn't been for some time - at least in the classic definition of a blog as a personal journal. For quite some months now, I've been referring to Read/WriteWeb as a "media business" or a "media property". R/WW used to be a blog, back when I was the only writer and I blogged in the evenings. But sometime last year, it became my full-time job. Then it became a business, and now it's a media property.

Let me clarify one thing though - I'm still a "blogger", as are Marshall and Josh and the other R/WW writers. But Read/WriteWeb has evolved into something different than a blog, which is traditionally thought of as the voice of a single person. Dave Winer, one of the pioneers of blogging, also says that the voice must be unedited. This is clearly not the case with R/WW, which has multiple bloggers and also a strong editorial stance. The same is true at Techcrunch, Gigaom, PaidContent et al.

I think Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 nailed this issue when he wrote that Techmeme is "dominated by media brands". As Scott said:

"The Techmeme Leaderboard demonstrates the convergence of new media and traditional media - with new media becoming more brand-driven, and traditional media becoming more individual voice and talent driven."

Nothing illustrates the current 'new media' landscape more, for me personally, than the fact I spend more time these days running this business than blogging. The bigger, and far more important, picture though is that the top (and aspiring) blogs have evolved into media companies. It's almost comparing apples to oranges to compare Techcrunch to Scripting News, or Read/WriteWeb to Fred Wilson's blog - even though we may write about the same things often.

Lastly, to the most extreme position yet stated (always a good way to get Techmeme juice!). Robert Scoble thinks the Techmeme Leaderboard may herald "the death of blogging". But let's be honest, it's been "dying" ever since social networks like MySpace and Bebo came along - which is where many young people do their personal blogging these days. And now it's Twitter for a certain tech-centric part of the blogging population.

But one thing hasn't changed and hopefully never will - the best bloggers are passionate about the topics they write about, and they are informed and opinionated. All the writers on Read/WriteWeb have those attributes. So even though we're not a blog, we're still bloggers ;-)

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