But We Never Went Away…

Writing at NiemanLab, Joanne McNeil offers a prediction for 2020 in A return to blogs (finally? sort of?):

One reason we might see a resurgence of blogs is the novelty. Tell someone you’re starting a new newsletter and they might complain about how many newsletters (or podcasts) they already subscribe to. But tell them you’re launching a blog and see how that goes: Huh. Really, a blog? In 2020? Wow.

It’s been long enough now that people look back on blogging fondly, but the next generation of blogs will be shaped around the habits and conventions of today’s internet. Internet users are savvier about things like context collapse and control (or lack thereof) over who gets to view their shared content. Decentralization and privacy are other factors. At this moment, while so much communication takes place backstage, in group chats and on Slack, I’d expect new blogs to step in the same ambiguous territory as newsletters have — a venue for material where not everyone is looking, but privacy is neither airtight nor expected.

NcNeil’s spot on about the mood of many publishers today, and the relative influence of newsletters as against blogs. There likely is a shift back to blogging.

And yet, and yet, blogging never went away. Many of us have had increasing success each year, and have seen both absolute and relative gains as other publications have declined (local newspapers are weaker than ever, for example, and often look like little more than advertising-delivery vehicles).

Bloggers are, however, neither newspaper publishers nor reporters; at bottom, bloggers are modern-day pamphleteers. America’s founding era depended on pamphleteers, as they were critical to the Revolutionary and early Constitutional periods. See The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution for Bernard Bailyn’s Pulitizer-winning history of the role of pamphleteering in America’s founding.

(I read Bailyn’s fine work in the early 1980s, long before the development of the web, and thought from the moment I read it how satisfying it would have been to live in a time of pamphleteering.  That era of independent publishing seemed gone forever. Yet, when the web arrived, countless Americans could exercise their free-speech rights through a contemporary version of pamphleteering. In my own case, months of concern after the Star Packaging raid led me to publish FREE WHITEWATER beginning in 2007.)

For some of us, who have embraced an older medium’s new form, there is the work of the day, and the days ahead. We are right where we want to be.

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