A good working definition of a blog is simply a journal or newsletter that is frequently updated and intended for the timely reading. It often provides opportunities for unfiltered and immediate feedback, sports an informal or even partisan attitude, and is written in a more personal style than traditional press outlets. Blogs come in all shapes and subjects, from the maunderings of troubled teen souls to displays of classical photography to breaking news and commentary.
They can be online journals, locked with a password shared by a few trusted friends, or they can be page after page of source code, sharing useful and free computer programs with the world. A blog may be an online journal tangential to a company’s main business, where users of a company’s products give feedback and ask for help. Blogs can be hosted by single individuals, shared by teams, or produced by entire companies. They may be hosted on a dedicated blog server using fancy templates or lovingly hand-crafted in HTML on a page that resembles a bulletin board. But a blog is not simply a syndicated column or a newspaper that is online.
Many news outlets feature their content online and even allow readers to respond to stories. However, the newspaper’s business does not change just because it has a new medium. Editors and writers still do the same jobs they did before the advent of online distribution; the newspaper does not view itself as any different from what it always was. And perhaps therein lies the difference: attitude.
The newspaper sees itself as presenting all the news that’s fit to print, written by objective professionals, while the blogger sees himself as presenting a piece of his own world and his own expertise from his own perspective. As blogs become more popular, more columnists are becoming bloggers and more bloggers are becoming professional in what they write. Perhaps in a few years, the distinction between the Old Media and the New will be irrelevant in the mind of writers; for many readers today, it already is.
The number of individual blogs has topped 20 million and readership is exploding. In fact, the trade magazine Ad Age reports that during 2005 alone, American workers will spend the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs, rumor sheets, and online diaries. Hundreds of millions of readers worldwide get their news and entertainment from these independent sources, supporting their favorite bloggers through donations, link usage, and purchase of blog-related memorabilia.