That’s It, In a Nutshell

Per Slate’s In Other Magazines, Reason‘s Matt Welch writes that the big media companies are jumping on the blogwagon because they’re

“history’s cheapest publishing system in the world’s cheapest distribution system.”

Not magic, just cheap and simple. That’s what I was trying to say several years ago when I more actively took up the “what’s special about blogging” question.

Unfortunately I couldn’t put it into just one sentence, but you can see my point:

What’s key here is that with both an on-line newspaper and a weblog there is a mechanism that makes it easy to update, edit and add new content.

And when you put it that way, blogging doesn’t seem so exciting, or different. But there’s an important distinction — one that has been pretty well identified by nearly every commentator: blogs let anybody do it. A blog lets you be your own little New York Times, Chicago Tribune or Associated Press. They make it easy by giving you a version of the same tools that previously only such big on-line news sources (or good database programmers) had.

Cheap and easy means a low price of entry — it doesn’t give the same advantages to big powerful players that complex and expensive does.

That doesn’t mean the media giants don’t still have massive advantages. These advantages just don’t buy as much in the cheap and easy realm.

Writers, columnists and commentators don’t necessarily do their best work in the blog format, and doing a good, useful blog isn’t necessarily as easy as it looks. A shitty blog is a shitty blog, whether it’s Jane Blow or Larry King who does it. It may be cheap, but it’s also cheaper for an independent to do it better, though she might not yet have the resources to attract the big audience right away… or ever.

But the potential to reach thousands or millions is there much moreso than with other media.

I may only reach an average of 190 readers a day, but that’s more than I would reach otherwise, using any other medium, for the price it costs me to “distribute” mediageek. I’ll take it.