Young Mr Klein makes an obvious point. It doesn't matter whether he owns his own URL or whether the WaPo owns it. Because his blog is him, and entirely him, the Post could hardly keep running it without Ezra. So he de facto owns it, and since the WaPo can't own him (since the Emancipation Proclamation), they have to essentially rent his blog. The same is pretty much true of the Dish, since it's so marinated in me and my own sensibility, it would be very hard to imagine it run or written by someone else entirely, even though Patrick and Chris are huge and constant contributors to the ideas, links, photos, videos and research we try to include. So maybe my contract, in which I retain all the rights to my URL and can redirect the traffic automatically to any other site when the contract expires, is superfluous.
But perhaps not for reasons Ezra notes. The Dish over the years has become a bit of an online community, somewhat independent of me. The readers sustain it with your emails, tips, arguments, experiences and dissents. It has a variety of features built over ten years of improvisation, from its awards to its window views and reader threads and mental health breaks.
I don't know where this will lead - and never have for the past decade. But from the beginning, my hope was not just to reach readers directly, but to make a living off it at some point. I chose to piggy-back off bigger media entities - my jump to Time was one of the first - and now make a real living doing what I do. Sometimes, you look back and see the mountain you've climbed. Chris Bowers notes:
It was, really, inevitable. Avant-garde, "outsider" developments which prove to have real support are invariably co-opted by any successful, institutional establishment. At the same time, these avant-garde movements are often willing to be co-opted, since established institutions usually have vastly greater resources than the independent, shoestring distribution networks of the avant-garde. Before I became a blogger, I was an ABD graduate student in English, and I was going to write my dissertation about this phenomenon in 20th century American poetry. I am quite thrilled that instead of writing that dissertation, I was able to participate in a real-life example of it.
Anyway, kudos to Nate Silver, and RIP to the amateur progressive blogosphere. It provided a regular feeling of revolutionary ecstasy while it lasted, but there was no way it could last very long. It was a transitional period into a new media and political paradigm, not a new paradigm unto itself.
This goes too far, I suspect. Because the next generation of journalists will come from the blogosphere, and tomorrow's leaders are only just getting started. I think of the amateur blogosphere as a huge pool of talent to be enjoyed and read and eventually rented. Instead of newspaper editors selecting columnists, they will soon find existing bloggers with existing readerships and rent them and thereby get their readers. This is more meritocratic, depends less on connections and more on raw talent and the ability to create and nurture an audience. In that sense, the professional blogosphere and the amatuer blogosphere are not in tension; they are part of the same process - and the one will continue to feed the other.
But I do think it presents an interesting quandary for media companies who rent such entities. Since the companies don't have editorial control, they are essentially super-brands that sell advertizing. So who in the end is running the new journalism? The old editors and owners or the bloggers and their readers?