Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Usually the lack of posts all day means that I've had nothing to say. But today I've actually been away from my room, attending a couple of the sessions at BloggerCon, a conference of bloggers (I know, that sounds soooo dorky) hosted by the Berkman Center here at Harvard. It was free -- otherwise it would have really been a Blogger Con -- and I didn't pre-register, so I didn't get a cool nametag that labeled me as being a person who decided to spend a bit this beautiful Saturday sitting in classrooms listening to people talk about how weblogs are transforming the universe.

But I got to meet a few people I hadn't met before (if I was trying to be slick, I would link each word of 'a few people' to the site of a different person I met, but I'm not, so I won't). Including Scheherazade, who I've linked to a bunch and is even cooler in person that on her site. And TPB, a divorce lawyer from New Jersey, who I've never linked to before, but who was also nice to meet. I also met a couple of other people, but no one else whose sites I've ever read, so they don't get links. :) Although I'm probably going to browse through the list of attendees on the BloggerCon site (I'm not there -- in case you're looking -- because I didn't register) and see if the people who came off during the conference sessions as articulate and interesting also come off that way on their weblogs -- and -- of course -- the inverse. Which is more fun. I'll link to anything particularly amusing I find.

What struck me overall about the conference was how weighted the audience was toward adults. I say adults because I think of myself as a 12-year-old, but I mean people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s. And people who don't do what I do -- who don't just write some stuff about their lives and hope it's interesting and try to build up a readership. It was people on the technology end of things -- using blogs in their workplaces, programming new blog tools, making new blog applications, selling blog ads, aggregating blogs into communities of blogosphomy (I'm making up that word, but I like it), and people (trying to be) on the business end of things -- wanting to either "use" blogs in their businesses to help achieve some other goal, like more sales, or more customer feedback. Or people who want to make money as a full-time blogger, who want to sell ads on their blog, and sell subscriptions, and migrate their blogs to paying hosts. Basically, people who saw blogs certainly not as just a cool thing to do, and not even just as a means to an end (like the magic wish that a writer for the Daily Show will stumble on my site and hire me to write for them), but as an industry that they wanted to make their business.

I don't think I buy this.

And here's why. It's very clear to me why having a weblog is rewarding. It's very clear to me why someone might want to make money with one. But to jump from there directly to trying to form a trade organization (which was one idea that got a bunch of talk), or trying to standardize ad sizes, or counters, or get group health insurance -- it seems to ignore the crucial question. What are blogs providing that people would legitimately want to pay for? In business, I imagine they're a hindrance more than a help. Reading and writing takes time. As a replacement for an internal message board, fine. As a new consumer helpline, fine. But these aren't new paradigms, they're just a new form for old stuff and not providing any huge new killer value. Not in business, it's a substitute, in most cases, for specialized magazines and newspapers. There was talk in one session about "competing" with old media, like the New York Times and ABC News. Come on. Those organizations have infrastructure, have capital, and -- I think most important -- have credibility. Blogs -- not even the biggest ones -- aren't competing with the New York Times. They're competing with fringe magazines and journals for people's "extra" attention -- maybe. Like I might read some weblogs instead of reading the Utne Reader (I have never read the Utne Reader, but my 11th grade English teacher did, and so I assume it's some high-brow literary publication -- if it's not, and if it's offensive in some way to anyone, I apologize, and please sub in "The Weekly Standard" instead, which may actually be offensive to more people), if I find weblogs that are good enough. Maybe. Maybe that's the attention base. Maybe I'd pay $30 a year total to have access to every weblog I read. Not if I was paying for Internet access in the first place though. is not replacing the New York Times. is not replacing Consumer Reports. At least not now. And not unless people start their thinking at the level of making killer content instead of coming up with killer ways to make money with Amazon's referrer program and ad clickthroughs.

At least I don't think so. Then again, when I was 12 I predicted computers would never last. So what do I know.

I love the New York Times. The New York Times has survived radio, TV, and the Internet. Instapundit is not replacing the New York Times anytime soon.

I'll have more on the conference later -- especially if anyone links to this post and responds. In the meantime, I'm off to the Jewish Law Students Boat Cruise, which I'll also post about later. Nice day for it, at least.