Bloggers are the internet's digital story tellers and, uniquely, are now finding themselves capable of rewriting the rulebook when it comes to news communication. For those not in the know, bloggers are everyday folk who use online services to paint an on-going picture of their lives. Blogs take the form of diaried entries, include videos and photos, invite feedback and conversation, and some even have virtual 'tip jars' for chucking in some PayPal pennies if they sufficiently amuse you. They are, in effect, you and me with something to say.
Blogging can go further than that, though. Research released in July from the Pew Internet and American Life study shows that nearly 12 million adult Americans blog, out of a total online audience of 147 million. That's one in 10 people online who blog.
Admittedly, blogs can be interesting. I read blog reports from people caught up in the terror of the 7/7 attacks last year in London, who managed to mix British gallows humor with real seat-of-the-pants reporting. They were where TV cameras and newspaper journalists couldn't get to, and as such provided more rounded coverage of an event than traditional news channels alone. And online journalists can blog quickly in response to breaking news, perhaps posting a more considered news story when the dust settles.
But those, I think, are the exceptions. Not wanting to risk unleashing a digital posse on me, but most blogs are pure noise. If you blog, you'll have to forgive me, but they can be the equivalent of the kind of white static hiss that your TV makes you reach for the off button. According to Pew's research, most bloggers (84 percent) do it as a hobby, and 74 percent do it based on a personal experience. In short, navel gazing.
A lot of the respondents don't post for anyone but themselves as a form of online diary (I prefer to use something called a 'memory'), and most post only every few weeks -- so if you are waiting for an update on which shoes Sarah will be wearing, and why, you might be in for a wait.
Look beyond your personal bubble
Okay, it's easy to be skeptical of bloggers because so many aspire to the title of 'citizen journalist', yet fall short of what reporting means. Sure, your life is interesting. To you, perhaps , but unless you get caught up in the extraordinary, then it's really much like many other people's lives.
Surely an odd stance for an editor who spends his professional life writing about and experiencing the latest in digital trends? True, but bloggers will need to evolve from preening themselves in the mirror if they really are to become a force that rivals newspapers and TV.
News is what a CNN helicopter sees when flying over a shattered landscape -- not the fact that someone on the ground got mud on their shoes. Bloggers have the numbers -- a vast army of opinion formers. If they can now look beyond their personal bubbles, they might just change the world. Now, that really would be news.