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BPO Journal

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Cult of the Amateur - Really?

Nicholas Carr has a post on the amateur nature of the collective consciousness of the Internet. Its ironic. He points to the slipshod quality of much of Wikipedia to highlight the flaws of the blogosphere including echolalia, tendency to reinforce rather than challenge and superficiality. Carr's argument hinges on the assumption that bloggers are amateurs who opine rather than report and cannot survive as sole proprietors on the Internet because they simply don't have the resources.

Not true. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Economists Join Blogging Frontier, Aug 11 2005) discusses how investors who've had access to the finest economic thinkers via research reports and print and television media are increasingly bookmarking weblogs. Economists - including prominent names from universities and even the Federal Reserve - have started blogging on a variety of economic issues ranging from rise in oil prices to the future of interest rates. Blogs cited by the article, including Econbrowser, Macroblog, Vox Baby are all penned by penned by professors and researchers well respected in their field. No amateurs these.

The real nature of the threat posed by the blogosphere is also reflected in the responses of the leading newspapers. Ethan Zuckerman looks at the link per thousand circulation scores for the leading newspapers in this post. The WSJ is the most anemic in the blogosphere while the New York Times is relatively more actively cited. These papers view this as a threat and are adopting various strategies including putting content behind paid firewalls and charging access to archives. There's not enough reliable data to test hypotheses on the shift in readership and whether blogging works as a complement or substitute to reporting. For research and consulting (e.g. Gartner/ IDC industry reports, stock analyses, etc), it may well become a substitute as thinkers and experienced professionals begin blogging. For the like of newspaper reporting, blogging can serve as a complement. It cannot be a source of objective opinion but its interactive and community focused nature allows for a diversity of opinions and debate. While watching the news one morning, my vehement friend quipped "I don't agree with what this guy says. It's so wrong. I want to there reporting on this too." That, to me, is a big part of the appeal of blogs.

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