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The future of blogging

Steve Gilliard--who, by the way, is simply one of the best bloggers around; I don't think he always gets the credit he deserves--and Juan Cole are talking about advertisements on blogs. Prof. Cole writes:
... blog advertising rates are ridiculously low. Bloggers are essentially offering a front-page panel for what a small classified ad would cost in a small town newspaper, and the circulation rates may be similar ... As I see it, the problem for advertisers is that blogging appears to be a form of narrow-casting. They like broadcasting. You place an ad on even a low-ranking cable television show like Star Trek Enterprise (while it was still limping along) and about 3 million people see it every week. You place an ad on even a popular weblog like MyDD and Blogads says that it has 146,000 page views a week.

...the advertising issue has already been solved by Henry Copeland of Blogads, with the concept of networked ads (which I prefer to call blog-casting). Any group of bloggers can set up a network, as the Liberal blogs have done. Altogether the Liberal Blog Advertising Network can provide an advertiser with a million or so page views a week in one fell swoop. The ads once taken out will appear on all the blogs maintained by members of the network, so they become a form of broadcasting, or blog-casting. Blog readership is demonstrably growing, and pretty soon such networks will be able to compete at least with cable television for ability to reach viewers.

But presumably, the revenue would have to be distributed widely as well, so I don't quite see how this 'solves' the problem (though I could be missing something). It seems like it just makes things easier for advertisers.

This really is a problem, though. Blogging has become an almost vital aspect of political discourse, but most bloggers are not doing it for a living. They blog in their spare time (or sometimes when they're supposed to be working, no doubt), and they do it because they love it, or because they care about the issues they're addressing. But this situation is ripe for burn-outs. Billmon is probably the most prominent blogger to throw in the towel (more or less; he still posts occasionally). Losing voices like his is a real blow.

Good bloggers need to be able to do it for a living. This is especially important for the left, since the blogosphere (or at least the most influential sector of it) seems to tilt toward the right. Everybody says that the left needs to do a better job articulating its ideas, but we're not supporting some of our most articulate advocates. Figuring out a way to make money from advertising is one possible solution to this problem, but I think a more effective and a more likely one would be think-tank style funding for lefty bloggers. Political media don't always make money; even the Weekly Standard has to resort to begging every so often. But their backers aren't in it to make a profit (at least not directly); they want to influence political discourse. They're willing to break even or even lose a bit if it means getting the 'right' ideas heard.

George Soros could easily fund all of the liberal bloggers in the Ecosystem's top 100. This strikes me as a much more feasible way of propping up the left side of the blogosphere than relying on advertising revenue.

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