2/23/2005

Will Blog 4 Food?

Guardian Newsblogger Jane Perrone alerts us that A-list bloggers Jason Kottke and Chris Locke are turning their writing passions into full-time and/or paid gigs. Though the circumstances are dissimilar, these hobby-to-job shifts demonstrate the power of voice in an era of ubiquitous publishing – and suggest that prominent bloggers may be the columnists of new media publishing models.

Kottke is a web designer whose quirky and eclectic blog has, among other virtues, the enviable attraction of fine organization and navigation. Locke is a co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto, the epigrams-turned-book that PR guru John Dvorak has called cultish but which nevertheless makes shrewd observations about how the Web changes markets and companies.

Kottke recently wrote a lovely essayexplaining why he quit his web design job and how he hopes to make “one third to one half of my former yearly salary” by turning kottke.org into his full-time jpb. He rejects advertising as a model, however. “There are currently two parties involved with kottke.org: me and the collective you. Advertising introduces a third party. In my experience, the third wheel of advertising often works to unbalance the relationship.” Instead, Kottke would like to adapt the concept of artistic patronage to the Internet era, enabling many small givers to support causes of interest. He poses this micropatronage as an alternative to "waiting around for the MacArthur Foundation or Cosimo de Medici to do it.”

Locke, a professional self-promoter (and I mean that in an admiring way) writes that he has become chief blogging officer for a search site called Highbeam. He is the mascot or the magnet meant to draw independent writers to Highbeam where, they may discover as did I, that they can register for free searches of Highbeam’s database of articles and other sources, but get far more for paid subscriptions of $20 per month or $100 per year.

The unifying factor in these two cases is the assumption, which I hope proves correct, that voice is king (or queen) at least in the word branch of new media. We are in the midst of a giant experiment in intellectual cross-pollinization. Getting attention is a prerequisite to getting ideas picked up and disseminated. Given that people are busy bees, the concise phrase may be the pheromone of the Web.

This is nothing new. Newspapers used voice to build audiences when they advanced Jimmy Breslin or Mike Royko or Herb Caen to speak to and for their cities. Syndication allowed some of these columnists to expand beyond the confines of their towns. In the post-paper world, the prime province isn’t the city but the community of interested folk. Crossover columnists like humorist Dave Barry – and non-traditional voices like Kottke and Locke -- are showing us all how to find audiences in a webbed world.

Tom Abate MiniMediaGuy “Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media.”

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