Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Corporate Blogosphere? Not Likely

Usually, when I disagree with someone, I don't bother qualifying it. If I think you're wrong, and I feel motivated enough to actually write about it, I probably disagree with most of what you say anyway, and there's no love lost between us. In any case, I don't say "I respectfully disagree" unless I really truly respect the person with whom I'm disagreeing and I view our difference of opinion as a minor issue and not as a fundamental disagreement on most issues.

I agree with John Hawkins most of the time.

That having been said, I respectfully disagree with him about the potential for a "corporate takeover of blogs." I think the reasoning is rather sound except for one flawed premise, to which I'll return soon, but let me outline his argument as I understand it. The MSM are paying much more attention to blogs lately and blogs are breaking a lot of stories the MSM won't touch, in some cases (Dan Rather much?) because those stories shed light on the bias and corruption of the MSM itself. Blogs are getting enough attention to be a serious nuisance to the MSM, given their independence; it's almost like, for once, journalism is about the truth, and naturally the MSM wants to quash that right quick. Instead of fighting the blogs, major media outlets could instead offer salaries to popular but independent bloggers, something appealing both to the media corporation paying the blogger (the media corpotation can provide funds to help advertise and get more people to read the blogs they want, drawing attention to the bloggers with views of which they approve), and to the blogger himself (there's almost no money in blogging now and it would give bloggers a chance to eke out a living doing what they enjoy if a corporation could fund them). In this way the major networks need not fight each other and the bloggers, but could instead recruit bloggers to fight in the blogosphere for their interests. Fox would presumably support some conservative bloggers, CNN liberals, and thus the major media corporations could spend money (of which they have no shortage) to make the blogosphere work for rather than against them.

This all sounds fine until you consider that the media corporations are...corporations. They're not going to take a financial loss to further their ideological interests, so the blog takeover will only work if it's cost-effective. Paying salaries to a few dozen bloggers is a good business move if you can sell enough advertising to make up for it...but I seriously doubt that blogs are going to make much money even if big corporations can pump enough money into them to get them started, advertise for them, and build up a stable fan base. How much could a blog make, and could it possibly compensate for the cost of paying the blogger himself to write, paying people to design the site, and so on? I doubt it. The whole idea just reminds me of the 1990's when people were convinced that advertising revenues were going to bring in so much money that, for instance, some internet service providers were actually paying you to surf provided you viewed a certain number of ads.

I'm not saying it won't happen; I just don't think a corporate takeover of blogs will last very long, if it does happen. Corporate sponsorship of blogs will just turn into a big cash sink. Cross-advertising by having blogs, radio programs, and TV programs advertise for each other within one corporate umbrella won't be cost-effective, in my opinion. Even if the corporate media sponsor a few big bloggers (it won't be the twenty that Hawkins predicts), I still think the blogging medium will remain largely independent.


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