Defining Blogs in the 21st Century: A moving target.

Posted on February 24, 2011

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What struck me about Chapter two in Journalism Next is how the chapter seemed to be defining a medium that is constantly transforming and difficult to pinpoint.  Some constants Briggs mentioned that, in my experience, hold true across most blogs are:

  • Posts are displayed in chronological order and updated outside of the traditional news cycle
  • Most posts include links or photos
  • Blogs are generally dedicated to a niche audience, and offer room for comments
  • They’re usually written in a conversational tone.

But looking at Technorati’s list of the top 100 blogs on the web, I’m struck by how few of those fit the traditional idea of a blog. The top 10 blogs are mostly what I would consider news or information aggregation sites combined with blogs, not pure old-fashioned post-on-a-topic blogs.  It’s curious, also, that Technorati doesn’t offer an explanation of what constitutes a blog; they only explain the ways in which the gauge which blogs are at the top of the list.

Take Huffington Post, for instance–its main page features links pilfered from sites across the web intermingled with independent reporting and crowdsourced stories.  Although Huffington Post offers readers the opportunity to cycle through different topical sections (Style, College, Politics, etc.) these sites are not as niche as I’d think when I think of traditional blogs.  They’re also not uniformly conversational in tone, as Briggs suggest blogs can be–Huffington Post intermingles hard reporting with chatty side-posts and excerpts from sites across the web.  To make things more confusing, HuffPo has a section for featured bloggers–usually celebrities or public figures that may have expertise on a certain topic–that is completely independent of its main news section.  So can HuffPo be considered a blog these days, or should we just call a spade a spade and move it to the news site category?  As news sites get more into the business of aggregation–check out Times Topics pages, for instance, or Google’s now-defunct “living stories” project–the lines between traditional blog and news aggregation site and hard news site will become fuzzier still.

Who’s a blogger these days, and who’s a journalist? When does a blog become a news site–like Gawker or Huffington Post–and when is it still a blog? What about blogs that are conversational, but still offer unique reporting, like Ezra Klein’s political blog for the Washington Post?

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Posted in: Journalism