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Blogging is on the brink of a new phase

Washington-based Pew Research Centre has published a 160,000 word report on “the health and status of American journalism.” Although it is US-based much of it is relevant worldwide, particularly in the online realm; in fact, among the publications covered are bbc.co.uk and The Economist.  

Much food for thought here. The online business model remains uncertain; the report suggests that advertising is not enough and speculates that:

…news providers [will] charge Internet providers and aggregators licensing fees for content.

which strikes me as highly speculative; I don’t see ISPs wanting to pay for online content though I suppose aggregators might. The report doesn’t say how well the subscription model is working for sites like nytimes.com. I am sure subscription works well in niche areas like high-end business reports, but is it ever going to be a major source of funding for general news?

As for blogging, the report says that blog creation has peaked but that blog readership is growing – see Steve Rubel’s summary to get the picture. Blogs are an increasingly tempting target for PR and vulnerable to manipulation. Here’s an interesting comment:

Blogging is on the brink of a new phase that will probably include scandal, profitability for some, and a splintering into elites and non-elites over standards and ethics. The use of blogs by political campaigns in the mid-term elections of 2006 is already intensifying in the approach to the presidential election of 2008. Corporate public-relations efforts are beginning to use blogs as well, often covertly. What gives blogging its authenticity and momentum ā€” its open access ā€” also makes it vulnerable to being used and manipulated. At the same time, some of the most popular bloggers are already becoming businesses or being assimilated by establishment media. All this is likely to cause blogging to lose some of its patina as citizen media. To protect themselves, some of the best-known bloggers are already forming associations, with ethics codes, standards of conduct and more. The paradox of professionalizing the medium to preserve its integrity as an independent citizen platform is the start of a complicated new era in the evolution of the blogosphere.

The highlighting is mine. I reckon this is spot-on.