Is there any such thing as a “professional” blogger?

Is there any such thing as a “professional” blogger?
I think I’m going to be sick. Wired has published a little interview with Martin Nisenholtz, the chief of New York Times Digital, wherein he attempts to explain why blogs come up short.

I’m just saying that even if they don’t develop into a virtuous cycle that enables a professional class to work in blogs, they can live on in a vibrant, amateur context…I haven’t seen anything that could create the scale necessary to engender a professional blogging class in any meaningful way.
Oh, please! This is a profoundly ignorant statement, but one that’s fairly common among traditional media types. The problem is it uses Modernist measurements to proclaim success or failure, the very essence of which are changing as our culture evolves. And for a guy like this to use the word “class” in this context demonstrates condescension gone to seed.

The issue of how bloggers can and will support themselves is a fascinating conversation in and of itself. It’s one of the subjects that will be discussed at next week’s BloggerCon, and it should produce some interesting ideas.

My position is to keep on blogging and let the market — if there is one — lead itself. I don’t want any part of forcing the issue, for this New Media is the essence of bottom-up, citizen journalism — something in which I profoundly believe. The easiest way to kill it is to cater to Nisenholtz’s so-called professional class. Unfortunately, I see a lot of bloggers heading in that direction too. I wince every time I see blogging framed in a Modernist measurement, like the creation of “lists” based on reach/frequency or links. It’s a fine line, granted, but I want to stay as far on this side as I can.

More reading: BloggerCon: Making Blogs Make Money by Jeff Jarvis


  1. I read the linked interview, and I don’t quite understand why you’re ?“upset” [insert your own word for the emotion you feel at Nisenholtz’s comments]. Seems to me you’re in agreement. Blogging isn’t a business. He’s in a business, so if blogging isn’t a business, he and NYT Digital aren’t interested in it. You are interested in it, and are happy it’s not a business.

    Jarvis is attempting to investigate if blogging can become a business. You don’t want any part of that: fine.

    Where’s the problem?

    If blogging is so inherently post modern as you believe, then, no, it will never be overrun by the modernists. Everyone gets what they want.

    But it bothers you that the modernists are trying. Why?

    A second question: if post modernism is so incapble of definition, organization, it’s all about experience and sharing, etc, etc, what is it’s model for sustainability? Clearly, it is not commerce, the supply and demand economics of the modernist world. Look at the author of the interview: “I would not have to work for Wired if…”. Are pomos just waiting for modernism to collapse so the entire world can be constructed like linux?

    Now, I realize that the very question itself is modernist, but what I’m struggling to see is a purely pomo world. Seems that Jarvis has hit upon the need for some model of sustainability, even if he has had to resort to modernist business methods to generate one. also allows a bunch of pomos to create their own experiences, but must have a sustainability model built in: and it’s good old fashioned modernist supply and demand.

    I would appreciate your insights.

  2. I just read this. The author is John Thackara, filmmaker, journalist and former director of the Netherlands Design Institute. He begins by quoting Ivan Illich:

    [“I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action, over a life of consumption. Rather than maintaining a lifestyle which only allows to produce and consume – a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment – the future depends upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action”

    That was Ivan Illich, in 1973. Thirty years ahead of the rest of us, Illich argued for the creation of convivial and productive situations and institutions. A sustainable society, Illich foresaw, has to be a working society, a society of encounter and interaction – not a society for consumption and the passive participation in entertainment.]

    It seems to me that Illich gives a reason for dismantling modernist institutions, something (the provision of a reason) which is essential to the understanding of “post modernism”. I do not believe that seeking a root cause is “just modernist thinking”. And once we understand a root cause, we must be able to extrapolate an end result. Can’t dismiss that as “modernist” either. Every movement has an impetus, even if unarticulated and dispersed.

    So “Post Modernists” of the “build and use the internet” variety (many of who may blog or design games for EA) might well produce new experiences, but they are for a market: therefore for the modernist principals of supply, demand and consumption. This is the rock “pomos” are trying to push uphill: they decry modernism’s structure, but they want modernistic payoffs: consumption.

    Get back to me when post-post modernism arrives. When “experience” really is the impetus.

  3. Good stuff, Katie. You ask a lot of questions that I also ask. Since Postmodernism doesn’t recognize any authority, the question really is, “To whom does one complain?” It ain’t me.

    In my earliest studies on the subject, I came to the comfortable conclusion that there really isn’t any such thing as a pure Pomo. I think we’re all bits and pieces of pre-modernism (everybody needs faith), modernism (everybody needs logic and order), and now postmodernism (everybody wants to experience and participate). The modern era didn’t entirely give up the faith of their fathers any more than the postmodern era will enitrely give up the logic and reason of their fathers.

    As to your initial question, my objection to the commercialization or professionalization of blogs and blogging is this. If you believe that the innovation is an extension of or a (new) part of the traditional press, then you will naturally apply a reach/frequency business model thereto. If, however, you believe that blogging represents something entirely different — for example, a genuine bottom-up method of citizen journalism — then you’re going to want separation from the capitalist/modernist media vortex.

    That’s where I am. I’m all for making money to support ourselves. I just don’t want to see us miss out on something that could be even more important in so doing.

  4. Thank you, Terry. To whom are you “complaining” or with whom are you “conversing” when you blog?

    Blogging strikes me as an adolescent fixation for good reason — it is a “age of awareness” thing. A blogger says “this is who I am, please understand”.

    That’s a different matter to “blogging” as a form of communication, à la this and many other sites which cater to their creator’s up-to-the-minute observations.

    The commercial spin comes in when someone decides the “who” or the thoughts of one blogger are worthy of payment; the thoughts of another are not. But is that not how we treat our artists, anyway? Who decides worth? So we are back at the old internet value standard of “eyeballs”.

    Gee, have we learned nothing, yet? That was what I found inspiring, or at least different, in Nisenholtz’s comments: NYT Digital was reaping revenue from brand awareness advertising, not click throughs.

    It seems that the only way of making money comes back to a new version of the bane of modern consummerism: advertising. I just think that’s hysterically funny, that the commercial sustainability of pomo blogging will come from advertising.

    I suppose I’ll keep looking for something more enlightening, and we’ll all keep talking.

    I’m not beligerent, I just come across that way. Thanks for the convo.

  5. Katie,

    You might enjoy reading this. Cultural context — Behind the explosion of participatory media. It’s a part of the We Media study of participatory journalism.

    Belligerence is fine, if it’s behind a smile.


  6. The smile’s behind the belligerence. Is that OK?

    Thanks for the article.

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