A Blogger's Dilemma
In today’s Internet, bloggers are a dime a dozen.
There, I said it. I understand this is a rather controversial statement to make in an Indy journalism sphere – especially on a blog about independent media – but hear me out.
Yes, independent bloggers have made some groundbreaking developments over the years. They’ve exposed government scandal, mainstream media inaccuracies, injustice overseas, and countless other instances where a certain situation was in need of a double check.
In the Independent Media course at Ithaca College, there is a heavy importance placed upon these bloggers, and there should be. Some of the most prominent indy outlets in news started online, and continue to thrive in that space (think OhMyNews, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, etc.). Of course, these outlets have gone from small team basement operations to major names in news, with office buildings and a staff and everything.
In 2017, if those smaller independent bloggers tried to launch their news sites, it would be much, much, much harder. People don’t aspire to being web famous anymore through the news – they aspire to become Twitter-famous, or “insta-famous.” Starting a blog on a traditional web platform has become so common, that it is nearly impossible to create one that gains traction in the same way it might have in 2005.
So why is this?
Well, there are a couple factors. The Internet has expanded to the point where everyone is using it all the time for their own purpose. With the advent of social media, people on the Internet are transformed into content creators, increasing the amount of “noise” that exists in the digital world.
But I think there is another factor to consider, and it all goes back to the misguided Iraq invasion. Back in 2003, the American government claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, prompting the U.S. to invade the nation. The media ran with the narrative, spreading fear and ultimately coercing actions toward war.
Well, fast-forward to when the world realizes the weapons were not actually there. Oops. When this fact came out, the distrust of the mainstream media increased significantly. People were frustrated, and they felt as though they were lied to.
This is where our bloggers thrived. You saw more independent online outlets springing up within the United States and around the world. And since the internet was still relatively fresh at this time, and becoming easier to access, the independent blogosphere soared. This time period really was revolutionary in transforming the media landscape, and providing the public with independent news sources that were accessible, transparent, and accountable.
And then, social media catches on in the late 2000s. This brings us to today. By the second decade of the new millennium, Twitter became the new blog. Sure, people could link back to their own websites through Tweets, but ultimately, people weren’t going straight to the individual blogs – they were flocking to the Twitter pages.
The pace of news changed. The place of news changed. Why search the World Wide Web when everything you needed to know about news could be found on one or two convenient sites?
Now certainly, websites are not dead. People continue to check the homepages of the New York Times, Democracy Now!, The Intercept, and all of their other beloved news sources. But today, it is more typical to access these outlets’ stories via Twitter or Facebook.
And for our bloggers…of course they too are still out there. But they’re out there in a sea of content producers all trying to get noticed. The ones that stand out – those are the indy blogs that will really go far.
So the question has become…what will set those apart?