I actually laughed out loud reading that.
I realize I have given advice that was semi-skeptical about blogging nowadays. Right now, I’m even more skeptical than ever before: the market looks over-saturated to me, and while I love the amount of choice I have as a reader, I can see the struggles people are going through to get started and get an audience.
You can pull off having a blog with really solid traffic: if you have multiple authors, stay current, update several times a day and promote like crazy, you have a chance. And some of you may need to take this chance – I blog because I know that even people I respect and admire aren’t doing enough to make sure as many people as possible share in real learning and the questions which attend that enterprise. But I can safely tell you that for most of you, this isn’t worth it, and the key is in seeing how wrong Drezner is in the quote above.
For the earlier generations of bloggers and content creators on the web, few or no people were doing what they were doing. By being first, they established themselves firmly – without even trying – in search engines, web culture, even among mainstream media. It didn’t matter if they were boring or derivative: what matters is that they were first, and time has made them that much bigger and decreased the odds of the rest of us having that sort of success.
In a deep way, they’ve shaped the audience we have on the web, and made that audience frightfully limited in its capacity. The gulf between content creators and people who post in forums or hang out on places like Digg seems to me to be vast: one set of people is usually actively looking for better stuff online, better personalities, experimenting with different resources and strategies to see what might appeal to people or make better content. The other set links to whatever makes their point, at best: usually, they’re here because they can be heard, and that’s all that matters. You can kinda see how this came about when you ask “hey, how many longtime readers of one of the first blogs established something successful and noteworthy?” I’m sure plentiful examples exist, but I can guarantee they’re not saying anything “insightful” or “shrewd.” Their “success” is coming about because the online audience is conditioned a certain way: all this talking, and truth be told, there isn’t very much online that’s actually unique.
Anyway, while I think Drezner is wrong, I’m actually ranting to set up a question: Am I correct about the significance of being “first,” or is this incoherent? If I’m not correct, are there other reasons why Drezner may be wrong? Or is he ultimately right? After all, I’m reading and linking to a number of things I like online: I don’t hate it here. I do think there’s an enormous amount of redundancy, though, and that’s indicating something about the web: it isn’t about “insight” or “shrewdness” usually – it’s about catering to an audience and affirming them, rather than challenging them.