In today’s online environment, it’s possible for virtually anyone with access to a computer to partake in the rapidly developing phenomenon that is social media. Whether creating a Facebook account, Twitter handle, or even managing a blog, the number of consumers and producers of online media are ever-increasing. For many, the main goal of having a blog is often exposure. And the vast number of users and user-generated content can be daunting, especially if an individual hopes to gain any degree of merit or prevalence. But there may be a solution: In a recent article from web media outlet Social Media Today, independent contributor Adrian Lürssen explores the difficulty of garnering attention in cyberspace, and the ways that individuals and media outlets alike are taking advantage of blogging technology.
Lürssen’s article, “Are We Heading to a Post-Blogging World?” addresses the growing number of online bloggers and the inevitable competition they experience for exposure. “Having a blog is not the same thing as having an audience,” he declares firmly, reiterating the fact that attention in the cyber world is impossibly hard to grab without any type of assistance. A friend of Lürssen’s, however, has managed to have multiple postings published to a firmly established audience. How did she do it? Not on her own blog, that’s for sure. Her contributions (while essentially blog posts) were published as articles on none other than popular news website, media outlet, and originally a blog itself, The Huffington Post. Lürssen points out that more and more independent bloggers are using “branded media platforms” like The Huffington Post as a way to reach an already-present audience. The idea is to bring content to the readers, rather than to have them have to search for it. Lürssen posits that the media outlets welcome this symbiotic partnership as the “future of blogging“–a way to not only produce more content than they would normally be able to, but also to be able to cover a wide range of topics by publishing the work of numerous specialized bloggers.
Lurssen’s view on the transition of bloggers and corporate media websites from individual, independent entities into cooperative partnerships combines two of the four social discourses of new media technology that Nancy Baym mentions in her book, Personal Connections in the Digital Age. His focus on the idea that websites such as The Huffington Post are “not just [trends,] but the future of blogging” (a future that the organization and serial nature of blogs has naturally led to) points towards domestication, while his discourse on the way that society has manipulated blogging and media consolidation technology leans towards themes of social shaping (Lürisen). Lurssen considers how the “societal circumstances [of blogging] give rise to technologies” such as new media outlets and exhibit the way society shapes technology (Baym, 45). At the same time, he places emphasis on the fact that all bloggers need to do these days is “write something…[and] click the Publish button…” adding that “it has never been easier to self-publish.” (Lürssen) This is a clear example of the domestication view he takes in examining the ever-changing technology of present-day blogging. He points out that aspects of blogging which were once crucial details are now taken for granted; with the new, consolidated media outlet format, authors no longer worry about formatting, coding, or editing. Blogging has become much easier for inexperienced users, especially those who are looking to get into the spotlight without having to learn any of the painstakingly complicated technical nuances.
Lürssen deems this new breed of blogger the “citizen-expert [journalist], empowered by technology.” This same form of technological empowerment through social media is mentioned in Michael Wesch’s An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. By publishing individual articles through large media outlets, bloggers are liberated from not only the formatting handicaps and hinderances, but also any topic restrictions that an individual blog might hold. As Lürssen puts it, all his friend Stephanie needs to think about is “what should I write today?” Even knowing that your work will be readily accessible to a solid following population is a form of empowerment that bloggers can now look forward to.
But what does this mean for the blogging community as a whole? Will empowered blogging journalists form their own “community” on the basis of a common practice, as the YouTube users in Wesch’s video did? In order to sustain the interest of a predetermined audience and maintain reputation, media outlet sites must also have a standard of quality–but does this mean some bloggers will inevitably fall to the sidelines? What will the end result of blogging domestication be? Media outlets will still have to compete against one another, and so will bloggers. It may not be possible to predict where all these technological transitions are leading us at the moment, but for now we can do our best to examine and interpret the way that we’re creating a new environment for blogging technology–the future of blogging.