Our Blogging Future, Ctd.

Against my blog semi-triumphalism, Reihan offers a a qualified defense of non-blog forms of web journalism:

... to the extent the Slates and NROs and TNRs and Salons of the world serve as curators and gardeners, trimming, pruning, and shaping, I think they'll continue to serve a valuable and valued function.

... Consider The New Republic under Andrew Sullivan, much maligned by liberals today and celebrated at the time. As a collection of strange personalities, the magazine was peerless: it is no coincidence that the best of our bloggers, Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan (our mutually antagonistic bloggers), are alums of that era of TNR. But you also had unlikely dispatches from unlikely writers, which reflected this cultivated collective personality. A hive mind is better than a single mind. And what's a really great magazine if not a hive mind?

I don't think - and I certainly don't hope - that magazines as we know them will go the way of the dodo in the internet age. I think that certain kinds of magazines don't work as well anymore (Time and Newsweek, for instance, and maybe some of the opinion journals), and will either have to change or die - but in the same way that I don't see books becoming electronic anytime soon, I tend to think that the magazine-as-object will still exist in 2025 and beyond. People like the glossy photographs, they like the hive-mind quality that Reihan identifies, they like getting something book-like in the mail. Circulation will doubtless drop, but the magazine market will still exist, and you'll still see the newsstands with their endless plane and train-reading options. (At least, I think you will.)

Similarly, I don't think that individual blogs will displace web magazines, which will go on serving what Reihan calls the curator function; I just think that what they're curating will increasingly be, well, blogs. So if I were the editor of Slate, for instance, I would keep on with the kind of one-off freelance pieces and recurring features (Book Clubs and so forth), but I would turn a lot of the regulars into bloggers, and use the top of the homepage to advertise their better posts. So Fred Kaplan's War Stories would be a blog; so would Jack Shafer's Press Box and Will Saletan's Human Nature and Tim Noah's Chatterbox (all of which are advertised as blogs on the left of the page but don't function as such, since you can't click on a single "Chatterbox" link and find all of Tim Noah running down the page); so would Troy Patterson's TV column and Dana Stevens' movie reviews. Before he left for New York, David Edelstein was already doing this, supplementing his reviews with a bloggier film diary called "Reel Time" - and you know what? It was a damn good idea. True, a bloggier web magazine would inevitably be a less edited web magazine (you could have editors for the bloggers who need it and leave the ones who don't alone, but that's a thorny path), but in the long run I think the declining of editing on short-form pieces is a trade-off that readers and publishers will be willing to accept. (Or maybe it's just a really good thing that I'm not the editor of Slate!)

The other thing I didn't venture an opinion on in my earlier post was the impact of blogs on reported journalism, because I think the picture is much murkier there. In the first wave of blog triumphalism, there was a sense that the Army of Davids could just sweep in and replace the poor, fusty, out-of-touch MSM, which was of course ridiculous, and now there's a greater awareness that bloggers are essentially parasitic on the kind of reporting that's sustained by the great powers of the media world. However, you're also seeing a slow flowering of the blogger-as-reporter type, whether it's our own Marc Ambinder, the Michael Tottens and Michael Yons roaming the Middle East, or the guys at TPMuckraker. And it's just too soon to tell where this will go, particularly given the uncertain future of the newspaper industry in general. I could imagine the Bob Woodward of 2025 being a highly-paid, ace-reporter blogger for Washpost.com - or not.