Steve Roberts interviews Scott Rosenberg, co-founder of Salon.com and author of a new book, "Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters."
Steve Roberts: Scott, define blogging!
Scott Rosenberg: A blog is really just a personal website, usually organized with the newest stuff on top and usually with a lot of links. So it has these traits. But it's not like a checklist you have to check off. At this point I think we recognize it when we see it: it's a website that one person (typically) defines and usually with a passion for a particular subject.
Roberts: But this notion of "interactivity" -- of having people comment -- seems to me to be right at the core of what makes this format different from almost any other form we've had in media history.
Rosenberg: Absolutely. But what's interesting is that some of the earliest bloggers still don't have comments on their blog. Their attitude is yes, interactivity is central to what they do, but the interactivity is something that happens among and between blogs. So simply by linking to one another, they're having that conversation.
Roberts: As opposed to allowing for comments at the bottom, which is a very familiar...
Rosenberg: ... comments are a wide-spread standard...
Roberts: ... More and more common?
Rosenberg: Pretty standard.
Roberts: You also mentioned the linking and this seems to be one of the dimensions people outside this world don't fully understand. This is really the currency for a lot of bloggers: how often you're linked to and how you're connected through out this entirely universe in this sort of horizontal system of communication.
Rosenberg: Definitely. A link is sort of a social gesture in blogging, as well as an informational tool. It's the way when you write something on a blog that you support what you're saying. You provide the evidence. People often talk about, "Well, how can I know who I can trust in a blog?" It's an important question. One way you can know is does the person writing it link to sources? You can't do that in print. In print, you have to quote the sources and we have lots of ways of doing that but on the web all you have to do is link and let your readers say, "Are you quoting accurately? Is there any support for what you're saying?"
Roberts: And also links are used -- you say it's a gesture -- as a gesture of approval. "You want to read more? Here's an interesting argument..." It's part of the conversation, this process of going from link to link to link."
Rosenberg: Definitely. It is often used that way. It's also interesting in the part we often overlook: people link to people they disagree with. They're arguing with them. This is something we forget. We hear about bloggers only creating these echo chambers where they're just repeating one another's points of view, or they're recycling a perspective that the reader already has. That absolutely happens. But there's also this element where people will link to stuff they disagree with because they're arguing with it. I think of growing up as a liberal in the '70's and '80's where I would never pick up a copy of the National Review on the newsstand. But when the web came along, somebody might link to an article in there or to a conservative blogger's post. I'll click on the link because I'm curious and want to test my own point of view. I will actually be exposed to more people I disagree with through these links than I might have before.
Roberts: And it's very accessible. You don't have to go to the library to find the National Review or borrow some conservative friend's copy!
Rosenberg: And you don't have to spend money on it which is another whole aspect!....
Roberts: Talk about the evolution of the blog. You write in your book that there's a big debate -- unsolvable -- about who's the first blogger. But you do have a sense of how this phenomenon evolved.
Rosenberg: We have to cast our minds back to ancient times -- to the mid-1990's! Blogging has actually been around under that name for ten years and, really, in some recognizable form for about fifteen years. And you have to remember that in the earliest days of the web, it was a medium full of scholarly papers, research, academic information.
Roberts: It started when Tim Berners-Lee was ...
Rosenberg: ... Exactly. It was designed for that purpose. At a pretty critical, early point in its development there was a college student I write about -- Justin Hall. It was in January 1994 when the first article were written about the web by the mainstream media. Justin learned how to build a website, took a look at the web -- which he'd been introduced to by a friend -- and said, "You know, I know how to build a website. I don't have to have it be academic research. I can have it be all about Me!
Rosenberg: And he did it! And he found people were interested in what he was writing. He was a 19-year-0ld. He had a lot to say about himself, as 19-year-olds often do. The site became popular. The other thing he did was fill it with links to other websites. At the time, the web was sort of in a Big Bang phase. It was very early. There were lots of new sites coming online. And when new sites came online, he would link to them. Right there you really have these two foundations for what we now recognize as blogging -- autobiography and linking. He put these together and established a norm on the web that hadn't existed before which was that a website could be a mirror of yourself. That was really the first key element in the development of blogging. The second important factor was the development of tools that made it easy for lots of people to do what Justin Hall had done. The software developers came on the scene and said, "It's too hard to do this. Let's find ways to make it easier." It took years, but over time -- by the early part of this decade -- it became something that you didn't need any expertise for, you didn't need to know any code, you didn't have to spend any money. You could go to a website...
Roberts: ... and download this open source software...
Rosenberg: ... And eventually not need to download. Just sign up on a website as you do today and there you were, publishing to potentially anyone around the world.
Roberts: Give me a sense of the scope here. I know the numbers are hard to define, but Technorati, a popular site that tracks these things says there are over a million posts a day.
Rosenberg: That's right. So the best number we have -- and it comes with lots of asterisks -- is 133,000,000 blogs world-wide as of, roughly, a little less than a year ago. Of that number some huge fraction -- perhaps more than 50% -- are no longer active. So right there you have to scale the number way back. But wherever you land, that's tens of millions of people still actively blogging today. That's an extraordinary number.
Roberts: One of the points you make in your book, Scott, is that people know about segments of the blogging world. They might know about the political blogs. They might know about something called "mommy blogs." There's a movie that just came out with perhaps first the first blogger-heroine -- "Julia and Julie." Give us a sense of the range here. Because it's virtually infinite.
Rosenberg: Yes, it is. Once you get a phenomenon on this scale, it reflects the diversity of humanity. It's sort of a mirror of our interests and our passions. And so you have everything from people at one end who are just writing about the events in their daily lives for a small group of readers -- they don't expect a lot of readers and they're not hoping to become a media star, they're simply saying, "Here's an easy, simple tool..."
Roberts: ... Although probably after people watch the movie and saw that Julie Powell became this media star... you know, "Maybe Amy Adams will play me in the movies..."
Rosenberg: So she started her blog at Salon in a program I managed. Starting in 2002, we let everyone come and blog at salon.com and within a month of the launch of that program she was there, cooking her way through Julia Child's cookbook. We linked to it. It started to get some interest. Eventually she got a book deal and now it's a movie ... So that has happened. And there's always a possibility... But the likelihood of that happening to an individual blogger is sort of like winning the lottery. It's not going to happen ...
Roberts: And most people aren't in it for that reason.
Rosenberg: Exactly. So from that end of the spectrum you move forward to people who are using blogs to augment their livelihood in some way. If they're in a particular field, whether it's real estate or marketing or technology -- you name it -- they want to establish a little authority. They want to build a little attention for themselves on the web. They'll start blogging because it's an effective tool for doing that.
Roberts: And what about some bloggers -- there's been a big article about this in the Wall Street Journal recently, a contentious article by Mark Penn, the demographer and pollster. He was saying there are actually now people who make money just from blogging.
Rosenberg: And there are. His numbers were rather inflated and needed to be knocked down a few pegs. But there are people who are able to make money with advertising on their blogs. Again, the numbers are going to be less rewarding than you will be led to believe. It's not a significant source of income for most people. What it is is a way for you to hang out your shingle, for you to tell the world, "Hey, I know this subject! If you want to know about this field of crafts or something, you can get it here."
Roberts: ... One of the important dimensions of the new media is its relationship to the old media.I teach a course at George Washington on this very subject and I thought one of the paradigm moments was this incident, several years ago, when Dan Rather goes on "60 Minutes" and does a report on George Bush's experiences in the National Guard. Within minutes, various bloggers are correcting this report. In the end, after a couple of weeks of denial, CBS had to say, "They were right. We were wrong. We can't stand behind this." Talk about that incident and what it signified in terms of the relationship of the new media and the old media.
Rosenberg: There's a long tug of war that's been taking place between these two forms of news delivery. One crucial difference that people tend to overlook is that on the web, when you make a mistake, you can correct it easily. You simply publish and update and you can actually change the original report. In the print and broadcast world, it's much harder to correct something once it's out there. So in print and broadcast we have these traditions that are very formal about how you correct something. There's also a kind of reflex that often kicks in -- a kind of circle the wagons attitude where when an error gets reported, people get their backs up. There's that old proudly stated refrain: "We stand by our story!" What happened in the Rather case was that the reflex and refrain kicked in very quickly for CBS. And, in fact, they were either wrong or they simply hadn't done the proper work to verify the reports they'd presented. This occurred in a very politically charged moment. It was the middle of the election in 2004 and and a lot of ideological rancor. People on the right really believed Dan Rather was a lefty and they had their guns at the ready. And CBS gave them the opportunity to open fire.
Roberts: But it seemed to me that this was a perfect example of an argument that people have made in favor of the blogosphere -- that you had the wisdom of the crowd, you had all of these people who had expertise on the typefaces of typewriters and military terminology...
Rosenberg: ... absolutely!
Roberts: ... and CBS didn't understand what was happening.
Rosenberg: They didn't at all. At that point when that story was unfolding in 2004, I'd been publishing on the web for ten years. I'd spent ten years before that at the San Francisco Examiner, the newspaper. I had sort of gone through this process personally -- of understanding that the web was different and that this world had changed. Really, you have no choice today but to be more open and more receptive to the kinds of feedback that you're inevitably going to get from the public. I think for CBS it was a rude awakening. It was a moment that really showed in vivid and painful relief how much had changed.
Roberts: Another moment I think shows how much it has changed, again, from the positive side, Talking Points Memo, a major blog now, run by Josh Marshall, a person you profile in your book and who is one of the real pioneers here -- they won a major award, the Polk Award for their investigative reporting. There was a story about what had been happening to the US attorneys around the country. This was a story that was happening in different places. Because Marshall could tap into his network around the country, he was able to see a pattern that, say, a journalist sitting in Washington did not see. And it seemed to me another good example of the advantage of tapping into the blogosphere as a source of information.
Rosenberg: That's right -- absolutely. The other thing that's fascinating about that story and the way Talking Points Memo and Josh Marshall operated was the sort of unfolding in real time of the character of the reporting. Where a reporter at a newspaper would spend days and weeks gathering information and then, at the end, after it's been carefully reviewed, pushing it out into the newspaper, a blog lets you deal with the story as it unfolds. It lets you sort of a little bit -- "hey, I've got this lead, I've got this information, I'm checking it out"! -- Josh Marshall happens to have a pretty knowledgeable and in-touch group of readers so he can actually say, "Help me out! What do you know about this?" He gradually builds a story. If you make a mistake or go down a blind alley, you say that, too. You admit it: "That one didn't pan out" or "We were wrong" or "Let's try something else." That's a whole style and approach that wasn't possible before we had this form -- the blog -- that allows it.
Roberts: Although I must say, as a creature of the old media (I'd be the first to admit that I spent the first 25 years at the New York Times, that's where I got my training and my perspective, and while I appreciate what you're saying and teach this in courses), one of the phrases that always brings me up short comes from Jeff Jarvis, a major figure in the blogosphere, who says, "We publish first, edit later." There's something inherently grating to me about that! What is the downside of that? You say that the web can be self-correcting and I think that's absolutely true. But it can also lend itself to a lot of mistakes, a lot of rumors. The whole recent spate of stories about the "death panels" is an example of a rumor that just makes its way through the blogosphere.
Rosenberg: Certainly. And I think "we publish first and edit later" is kind of an oversimplification -- a shorthand... I think Jeff Jarvis, for instance, like most bloggers, edits his own posts before they're published. You write and you read. And then, if you really get out of line in some way, your readers will tell you. There's an editing that actually happens that way. The larger your platform is, the more careful you're going to be as a blogger. I think you'll find that there is editorial intelligence at work in all the best blogs. The difference, though, is that the misinformation problem is not, I believe, limited to the blogosphere. The "death panel" story became a story because it got picked up and amplified by cable news and it was promoted by public figures -- politicians -- who injected it repeatedly into the news cycle. If it were simply something happening in the wilds of the blogosphere, I don't think it would ever have caught on.
Roberts: There's no doubt that there's a very complex interaction at work. You mention the advent of more editorial processes in the blog, the more quality blog. Your old colleague at Salon magazine, Michael Kinsley...
Rosenberg: He was actually at Slate ...
Roberts: Okay, but a companion online magazine... He made the point recently and said, "Look, in the early days of online publishing in the blogosphere, we were such outlanders that we could almost afford to be irresponsible. But we've become so much more important that there has to be more editorial control. There has to be more sense of accuracy and more sense of ethics. Do you agree with that?
Rosenberg: I don't think there's ever an excuse for irresponsibility. I think we have to think differently about reputation and trust. If you're talking about a blog network or a company of professional bloggers who are trying to create media institutions, then the editorial values of of the old media still apply. If you want people to trust you, you're probably going to have some editorial safeguards. The publishing cycle may be faster ...
Roberts: ... that the Huffington Post, for instance, has put in ...
Rosenberg: Yes. The editorial cycle may be faster, things may be a little more informal, but still things are going to look relatively like they used to look. The difference is that there are millions of bloggers today who are not in that world at all. They're doing it personally. They're doing it in an amateur way. For them, reputation isn't an institutional by-product. It doesn't come because you're affiliated with the New York Times or the Huffington Post or wherever. It comes based on your record and on how much you let your readers know about who you are and how much you know about the subject. How reliable you are is then simply something your readers can find out by looking at the record you've created. It's a different way of thinking about how your reputation is formed.
Roberts: Well, and also another issue of considerable discussion is the issue of resources -- particularly as mainstream journalism is shrinking. Many news organizations are reducing their staff at foreign posts and other places. The blogosphere is, to some extent, filling that vacuum by producing information. But one of the arguments is that, if you have a New York Times, or Wall Street Journal, or National Public Radio for that matter, and you can afford to invest in a full-time correspondent in Beijing or can afford to invest in a three-person investigative team and spend six months uncovering misdoing, that no blogger can invest that kind of time and probably doesn't have that kind of expertise. There remain parts of this media universe that mainstream media still has to be counted on for doing. Is that a fair account? Do you agree?
Rosenberg: I think we have to be careful. There are two different trends taking place here. One is the long-term decline of newspaper publishing. There was something called the newspaper "preservation act" that Congress passed in the 1960's. So this has been going on for 50 years. It's accelerated lately. That's completely independent of the rise of the blogs. Newspapers are in decline. Most bloggers don't claim that they can somehow replace what's going away. That's a cry that you don't hear except maybe from a very small handful of extreme idealists. So the question is: newspapers are going away, blogs do represent a kind of petri dish of experiments. It's cheap to start a blog. It's easy to get going. It's an easy way to begin to look at different models for the future. Which we have no choice but to do at this point. The question about expertise is more complicated and maybe one where I do disagree with you. In an awful lot of cases, you find that a blogger who has built some authority in his realm -- economics or foreign affairs or health care reform -- the blogger often has considerably more expertise than the beat reporter who just took on that beat six months ago and is trying to get up to speed, or even the beat reporter who's done it for a number of years but who doesn't have a background in it. There's a lot of expertise online among the leading bloggers that is enhancing all of these huge and important public debates that we're having today.
Roberts: Go back to the Dan Rather case. A perfect example where there was expertise that was tapped by the blogosphere -- as we mentioned earlier -- in the typefaces and the military terminology that maybe the reporter for CBS didn't understand. At the same time, to be able to spend six months on that story and get paid by CBS -- that's an investment of manpower that's very hard for the blogosphere to duplicate. So there are ways in which, I guess, the argument still holds, but there are ways in which it doesn't.
Rosenberg: The support for that kind of investigative journalism sadly has been in decline for years also. You have less and less of that in the old media, too.
Roberts: One more point, and then I'm going to get to all of our callers... In this rapidly changing universe, blogging almost sounds old-fashioned compared to twittering or social networks like Facebook. How do you see the relationship of blogging -- which you say has been around for 15 years in some form or another -- to these newer, emerging networks and forms of communication?
Rosenberg: One of the reasons I wrote "Say Everything" is that I thought the experiences people had had in the early days of blogging -- what happens when you tell the world so much about your own life and all of the perils these people encountered like getting fired for something they posted on their blog and things like that. Those stories and experiences had more and more relevance because more and more people are putting so much of their lives online. So first of all I just see in the story of blogging this great value to all of us as we twitter and move our lives onto Facebook, all the social networking that's so popular today. The other thing that's happening is that blogging from early on was attacked or criticized as being "trivial." Who cares what you had for lunch today? I don't want to read about that -- that was the common line. Today what's happening is that people who want to express that or share that are doing it more on Twitter or on Facebook and it makes more sense to do it there. Those forms are better for that purpose. Blogs are becoming more and more substantial. They're the place where you have something significant you want to say. You want to tell a story about your life. You want to argue with...
Roberts: ... and you have more than 140 characters! ...
Rosenberg: More than 140 characters and you have the confidence that what you're writing is going to stick around.
Roberts: Directly on this point, I have an email here from Lisa  and she writes: "I've been a mommy blogger for almost two years. It began as a way for out-of-town family to keep up with our growing children. Quickly it became a type of therapy for me as a work-at-home mother. The comments I receive from stories I post are not always what I want to hear. But the community of readers I have is always honest and the connections I feel with people I've never met is priceless."
Rosenberg: That's wonderful to hear. That experience is much more common and widespread than a lot of the coverage of blogging would indicate. There's a condescension that creeps into the conversation about blogging where people just say, "Who cares about your life!" And the truth is that millions of people may not care about your life but some number do. It's not as though when you blog about your own life you're crowding out the discussion of someone else's life. There's an infinite amount of space on the web.
Roberts: Unlike the old media where there was always a limit in time and space.
Roberts: Linda  writes to us from Hobe Sound in Florida. "Please ask your guest to comment on the differences and similarities between sites like Facebook and a true blog."
Rosenberg: One of the differences between Facebook, Twitter, and all social networking, and blogging, is that when you're on a social network, everything you express occurs in the context of everyone else. It's a social milieu. That's why we call it "social networking." Blogs are partly social and partly individual. They're right on the cusp or the liminal point the crowd and the individual. That's a unique place. There's nothing else quite like that on the web where you can be yourself and yet have a connection to other people that you can sort of dial up or dial down at will.
Roberts: ... I've got an email from Tony ... who says, "With 133 million blogs, how do we find the one or ones that we want to read? Is there an index, a dictionary, a yellow pages of blogs to help out those of us who want to find an interesting blog?"
Rosenberg: It's a tough question to answer because each of us is going to need a different avenue in. The best advice I give people is to ask a friend. Find someone you know who is more immersed in this world than you are and ask, "What do you read?" For me, for political blogs, I could say Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. For technology blogs, you might start with David Pogue at the New York Times. Then follow the links. Click on things that interest you and before you know it you'll have more than enough. You'll be pulling your hair out and saying, "How do I stop!"
Roberts: One of the things you just mentioned -- here's Josh Marshall, the classic paradigm of the independent guy who created Talking Points Memo and there's David Pogue at the New York Times and one of the things that's happened (talk about the differences between the blogosphere and the mainstream media!) is that mainstream media has coopted the blogs in some ways, or at least tried to have a share in it. Every mainstream media site has numerous blogs of its own now.
Rosenberg: The form just makes sense, you know? When we first landed on the web -- we who came from print media -- we couldn't see that this form where you just put the new stuff at the top -- made sense. It was created by people who came from the technology world mostly and they just said, "Well, this is the way to organize it." It's taken years, but finally I think it's generally understood that, "Oh, this is a good way to organize stuff!" So the New York Times now has 70 or 80 blogs and that's great. What they're still working on and getting better about is openness to the rest of the web, the willingness to link out and to say, "We're not trying to keep you hostage on our own website."
Roberts: Yes, but that becomes a financial question to some extent, right?
Rosenberg: It does. But the "let's hold readers hostage" -- the thought was that this was a good financial strategy but it really wasn't. It doesn't really work that way.
Roberts: And also, if you link to other people, you have the reciprocity where people link to you. So if you try to put up a wall, it also keeps people out. Let's turn to some of our callers here. We've got several folks who are blogging themselves. Nathan in Tulsa, OK:
Nathan: ... I'm a minister and a young pastor in a denomination that doesn't have many young pastors. I started a blog when I was in my last year of seminary and have kept it for the past five years or so. I've found it a great tool to connect with other folks in my kind of context. I've also found it a very effective tool -- I've been serving rural churches since I started the ministry -- and one thing that it's very efficient for is helping rural churches where there's a technology gap, helping them get on the web and have a presence on the web. So the two churches I've served since seminary -- we started a blog at both churches for them to share what they're doing. It's got quite a bit of hits and a lot of traffic there! I think one reason blogs are so efficient and effective for these contexts is because if you can do an email, you can do a blog. It doesn't take any more technical knowhow than that.
Rosenberg: Blogs are just a great way to create a hub of information for any community and to create a community out of people who didn't even necessarily know they were a community. So if you have this group of congregations or churches that weren't able to share information, suddenly they can. That's important to realize. Again, our conversation about blogging tends to be shaped by the concerns of people in the media who are covering the phenomenon. People in the media have been affected hugely by blogs. But the impact of this tool is so much wider and it's happening in so many more places and communities like Nathan's.
Roberts: But we do have an email from someone who says her experience is that when there are a lot of insults and rudeness and that "the anonymity that online nicknames provides has turned people ugly! Sometimes I reply to a rude blog by asking, 'Would you talk like that to the person's face?' I believe any ethical blogger should use his or her real name and make every effort to adhere to a conduct of civility when online..."
Rosenberg: Well, it's definitely been an issue. In the earliest days of blogging there were some who maintained that the principle of free speech meant that you shouldn't delete someone's comment on your blog. We've moved beyond that, I think. Most bloggers now accept that part of their role is to be a host and a moderator for the comments on their blogs. And most bloggers I know will say, "Hey, if you're going to be uncivil you're outta here!" As your blog grows it can be something that takes a lot of time. But it's sort of like maintaining your own front porch. You're going to keep the atmosphere on your blog how you want it to be. What happens over time is that people model their behavior on what they see. If you're on a blog and you see lots of other people posting rude comments, you may think, "Oh, that's acceptable here." There are lots of parts of the blog world where you find groups enormously supportive and civil. The mommy blogging world is one. There's a community called "Open Salon" -- email@example.com --that are just enormously nice to each other.
Roberts: I've noticed that certainly in a lot of the mainstream media blogs, they have a very specific caveat saying, "We have the right to delete anything. We expect people to be civil." Part of what you're saying is that it's in your interest, as a blogger, to keep things civil because otherwise people have the exact reaction of our emailers: "I don't want an ugly conversation!"
Rosenberg: That's right. The problem that some newspapers get into is they reserve that right but then don't do the work of actually moderating the forums. And there is sometimes some latent hostility in their community to them. Or there's a sense that they're not a responsive institution. So in some ways it's much harder for institutions to do this than for individuals.
Roberts: Interesting point. Let's turn to Gerald in Fort Walton Beach, FL.
Gerald: I enjoy blogging because of the validation that it offers. I blog on movies but I can see people from around world who have the same opinions that I do, you know? I like that! I like the feedback. I also have a current affairs blog where I blog on a particular subject and use some of the principles I've learned in, say, economics, to evaluate a particular situation. Like for instance the president's economic plan as it deals with education. I'll say, "Well, okay. Economics principle of supply-and-demand says the more of something there is, the less value it has. So if you increase the number you have in education, does that reduce the value of the education people have?"
Roberts: Thank you, Gerald, very much for your comment. What Gerald is bringing up is yet another dimension. The threshhold of entry has been eliminated in terms of cost. The old adage, "You've got to have a printing press to have a voice," is no longer true. Your reaction to Gerald's comments?
Rosenberg: There's a basic human need that's filled by seeing that other people appreciate what you're saying and agree with you. That's an experience I think a lot of people find. The other thing that happens is that simply writing your thoughts in public is something that, until recently, was not an option for most people who are not professional journalists or writers. Suddenly that opportunity is there and it's a different experience. When you have to compose your thoughts for public exposure, it forces you to think more clearly and carefully about issues. And even if you don't have a huge readership, that experience is valuable.
Roberts: The word he used was "validation."
Roberts: Let's talk to Chas in St. Louis, MO.
Chas: I'm a left-leaning independent voter so I'm stuck in the middle. I don't feel anyone has a voice out there saying what I want to hear. So I'm interesting in starting a blog but I'm sort of a Luddite. I don't know much about the web. What does it cost? Where do you go? Don't you have to know Dreamweaver or something in order to build a website?
Rosenberg: That was true years ago. The amazing thing I can tell you is that no, you don't really need to know too much of anything technical today. If you have a connection to the web, you can go to any number of sites -- blogger.com, wordpress.com, open.salon.com -- any of these sites and simply give them your email address, give them your name, fill out of form, click a button, and you're starting.
Roberts: They do all the work for you.
Rosenberg: Yes. Now if you want to customize it, you can get technical beyond that if you choose to or want to. But to do the basics -- to start a blog, to have your writing appear on the web in a blog form -- that's really it. Doesn't cost a cent.
Chas: One more question. How do you get people to know you have a blog out there? How do you get people to actually discover it?
Rosenberg: That's a bigger and tougher question for sure! Start with people you know, whoever's in your email address book, someone you know who's got a blog. Let them know that you're doing it. Link to them, maybe they'll link to you. If you're lucky and persistent, it can snowball.
Roberts: This is emblematic of what we've been talking about -- that with millions of blogs, not everybody is going to become famous! But part of it is, do you have something to say? And will people notice it?
Rosenberg: Yes, if you're saying something new or interesting or you're saying it in an interesting way, you can get it out there and I'm still pretty confident that people will link to you and you will be found!
Roberts: Claudia in Miami, FL, has an interesting take on this.
Claudia: I'm a frustrated writer. It has been an incredible tool for my business -- I'm a makeup artist and have been a professional makeup artist in film and TV for 20 years. I'm always asked for makeup tips. So I started a blog to help my customers learn about makeup and what utensils I use, what cosmetics I use. And it's helped me a lot.
Roberts: Helped you in terms of getting more customers? or in terms of informing your customers? How has it helped?
Claudia: Just informing my customers -- about makeup and what things are out there. That makes me more accessible because a lot of people think that, as a makeup artist in film and TV, you use very expensive things. That's not necessarily true. So I give a lot of tips.
Roberts: Thank you, Claudia. This is another example of the business world in blogging.
Rosenberg: They're saying that blogs have become the new resume, right? If you want to establish yourself in your field, what better way than to start showing your expertise in public.
Roberts: Let's turn to Sonny, in Grand Rapids, MI:
Sonny: My wife is a dynamic, incredible person who decided to stay home with our three children while they're young. The blog has become her lifeline, her connection to the outside world. It makes her life bigger than the walls that surround her -- and the screaming kids that can sometimes drive her crazy! In fact, she's gotten so into it and has connected with so many other moms like herself that she even started a website to help people design the templates and everything to make their blog an expression of who they are. It's a way to put yourself out in the world and connect in ways you can't otherwise.
Roberts: Thank you so much! This is yet another dimension. The community in cyberspace -- the old community was the neighborhood or was the social club. Now it can be world-wide.
Rosenberg: We hear the complaint that people spend too much time on the web, retreating from the rest of the world. We sometimes forget about the people whose lives...
Roberts: ... and that's not an entirely unfair argument!
Rosenberg: Absolutely. It can happen. The flip side of it is that there are people whose lives, for whatever reason -- either because they're raising three small children or they have some problem that keeps them home -- they need a way to connect with other people through this form. And they can.
Roberts: You also look into the future -- where this is going. Blogging, you say, is kind of a mature form and you don't see blogging itself changing very much. But there are new forms developing all the time. You mention Twitter and Facebook. But you also talk about the role of video in blogging.
Rosenberg: Well, there's this movement of people who are really recording their lives -- audio and video -- and streaming it all out on the web. It's called "life-logging" and it's fascinating! It's a whole nother dimension of self-exposure. I see blogging as being much more traditional than that. When you blog, you're actually crystalizing moments from your life and writing about them and putting them out there. You're being selective. The life-logging phenomenon is much more about just letting it all ... putting everything out in public, not being selective. So, again, if that becomes more common, as I think it will, it will leave blogs as more of this kind story-telling form, a way of telling our history, putting our history together on the web so that people in the future can look at it and say, "Wow! That's what it was like to live in 2009?"
Roberts: This is such an interesting point. People bemoan the advent of the web, destroying letter writing, destroying diaries. All of the fabric of history. I've done this in several books, borrowing heavily from letters. So does my wife. What you're saying is that there is a form being created that's not a hand-written letter but is a documentary record that will be there for future historians.
Rosenberg: There are more people writing about their lives today than ever before in history. How can that be a bad thing for future historians? Their problem is going to be, "How do we organize all this stuff?"
Roberts: How do you save it?
Rosenberg: Stuff that's digital today is saved. In the internet archive, I was able to find basically all of the blog posts I needed to find from 1995 on. Once something is in digital form, it rarely disappears.
Roberts: For good or bad!