Corrections or additions?
This article by Angelina Sciolla was prepared for the May 21, 2003
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
`Blogging’ for Fun & Profit
You’ve heard the word. Perhaps you even know what it
means. If so, then you are one up on Webster’s, since this new
to our 21st century vocabulary hasn’t yet made it onto the pages of
the dictionary. "Blog," according to an editor at the
Company, "is still too young a word to be added, even with the
quick way technologically-oriented words seem to seep into the popular
It’s not too young a word, however, to have made an impact on
media consumers. Over the last few years, the blog — short for
"Web log" — has made media stars out of formerly obscure
writers and has become an alternative online source of news and
for those fatigued and perhaps even soured by the mainstream media.
It has given newspaper reporters second careers as mini-Murdochs who
opine on the news of the day and provide links to every web news
The most famous blogger to date is Matt Drudge, the fedora-wearing
Woody Woodpecker of media personalities credited with breaking the
Clinton-Lewinsky story. While the rumors of the affair were
by word of mouth, Drudge was the first to post them to his site, the
Drudge Report ("Putting the yellow back in journalism"). And
although Drudge’s dirt seeped into Jay Leno’s late-night television
monologues before Drudge fully broke the story, once he did the media
giants followed. Since then the Drudge Report has become the source
of both scandal and breaking news. Political operatives in Washington
ignore him at their peril. Drudge’s blogging success has spun a radio
show as well as every armchair pundit’s fantasy — a book deal.
According to the Washington Post, "Matt Drudge is the buzz of
the media-industrial complex."
So what exactly is blogging? At times the blog takes
on the shape of an online opinion column, or a collection of
daily reflections and observations. The Wall Street Journal runs a
blog, for example, that is quite highly regarded. A blog may also
be the daily diary by the famous and not-so-famous. RuPaul has a blog.
So does Melanie Griffith, who claims it helps her deal with the scars
of her drug addiction (and possibly those of her plastic surgeries).
There are blogs on cooking, technology, fashion — even SARS.
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean will soon launch his
campaign blog. To be sure, his competitors will follow suit and
mud-slinging will soon turn to a 24-hour cycle of mud-blogging. There
are also countless personal blog sites, many of which are exactly
as dull as their author’s lives. As the New York Times Sunday Styles
section reported on May 18, more than 3 million blogs are now active
If you want to find out more about writing for or launching a blog,
you can stop by the Writers Room of Bucks County in Doylestown, on
Wednesday, May 21, when the organization’s writer-in-residence, Brian
O’Connell, leads a workshop he calls "Wag the Blog." The
seminar is designed to familiarize you with the basics of blogging,
give information on how to start your own site, how to set yourself
apart from other bloggers, and how to earn money by posting your
on the web for the world to see.
A former Wall Street bond trader, O’Connell has written 10 books,
including two Book of the Month Club selections. He operates a
practice working on books, corporate copy, and magazine articles.
His byline has appeared in national publications, including the Wall
Street Journal, Newsweek, Philadelphia Magazine, USA Weekend, and
CBS News Market Watch. O’Connell’s most successful books include
401(k)Millionaire" from Random House (a Book of the Month Club
selection) and "CNBC’s Creating Wealth (John Wiley), a book that
sold well in 2001.
"Blogs are a great way to find your feet and get used to the rigor
and discipline of writing," says O’Connell. "A good blog
be like a newspaper column." However, O’Connell notes, there is
a difference between blogging and ranting. "You can’t just spout
off," he warns. "You gotta do it right."
He acknowledges, however, the fine line between the two, a fact that
unnerves some media observers who wonder if journalism itself
by this trend.
"In terms of accuracy and background checks, theoretically you
could do a lot of damage with no one there to check your work,"
O’Connell says. "You need a system of checks and balances."
Yet, as manifest in the New York Times recently, these sorts of
dilemmas are not limited to blogging and, in some cases, are a small
price to pay for access to information that seems be to increasingly
overlooked by the major media players.
To blog fans, particularly as the FCC’s proposed deregulation of media
ownership threatens to promote the monopolization of news outlets,
blogging is a welcome alternative to the Big Brother approach to news.
The impact of the blog as a news source was most noticeable during
the war on Iraq when some journalists on the front shared their
online, bypassing the embedded news filters and Centcom briefings.
It even launched a mysterious blogging star — Salam Pax —
an Iraqi who blogged each day from besieged Baghdad and literally
had the world guessing his true identity. As O’Connell says,
is a great way to bypass the media monopolies."
Blogs are more than mere opinion columns or diary entries, however.
They can become valuable news digests in which bloggers link to a
number of news sources, wire services, and to other blog sites. Those
who are well connected draw from their Rolodex of informants, while
supplementing their content with established news sources.
Bloggers build Internet "highways" that lead
readers from one website to the next, offering a dizzying array of
information. Journalists haunt blog sites too in search of trends
or emerging stories. Others just search for gossip and under-the-radar
tidbits to share around the water cooler.
But, like reality television, is blogging just another toy of the
voyeur? A way to peek into the psychological window of some celebrity?
"I don’t agree with the voyeurism aspect," O’Connell says.
"Maybe for some, but again a good blog gives something back to
the reader, something meaningful." One of his recommended sites
is Andrew Sullivan’s online blog (www.AndrewSullivan.com),
a site focusing on the journalist’s special spheres of interest:
faith, politics, culture, people, and most recently the war against
Iraq. Launched in 2000, Sullivan calls his blog "The Daily
and uses it for new commentary as well as a place to collect the
pieces he writes for major publications in the U.S. and Europe.
Clearly a blogging advocate, O’Connell sees the trend as yet another
means to exercise one’s constitutional right to free speech. It’s
also a potential revenue stream.
Generating revenue has been as elusive on blog sites as it has been
on the Internet at large. And in terms of making money, blog sites
work the same way other sites work, relying on banner ads, ad hosting,
with the unusual addition of "begging."
After generating $27,000 in 2001 through online "begging"
("Click here to make a donation"), Andrew Sullivan discovered
just a year ago, that a thinking-person’s book club, combined with
a link to Amazon.com, would give him a percentage on book sales that
adds up to real money.
Key to getting started is the Blogging Network, a company which, for
a small fee, will help you set up your blog and turn it into an
by combining your opinion with E-commerce. In column one you’re
your point of view; in column two you’ve got the latest deals from
Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. As Andrew Sullivan observes, it’s so
easy that "within minutes, you can have a website and post to
the universe any stray, brilliant, or sublimely stupid thought that
comes into your mind."
Not every blog makes money, but there’s a chance your blog might
the attention of one of those big media monsters. Newsweek and CNN
picked up satirist Andy Borowitz’s blog. Now he’s the go-to guy for
pop culture musings.
"Blogging is to the news media what independent film was to the
movie industry in the 1990s," O’Connell observes. (Good analogy.
Michael Moore, the Woody Woodpecker of documentary film, just inked
a deal with Disney.)
"What bloggers do is completely new — and cannot be replicated
on any other medium," enthuses Andrew Sullivan. "It’s
new. And it harnesses the web’s real genius — its ability to
anyone to do what only a few in the past could genuinely pull off.
In that sense, blogging is the first journalistic model that actually
harnesses rather than merely exploits the true democratic nature of
And just as yesterday’s indie film world nurtured today’s Hollywood
top guns, the Internet continues to engender nascent media moguls
as new bloggers pop up every day, waiting to be discovered. O’Connell
is full of encouragement for them.
"Writers have their passions," he says. "I believe there’s
a story in all of us."
— Angelina Sciolla
Avenue, Doylestown, 215-348-1663. Brian O’Connell leads. Non-members
$20. Wednesday, May 21, 7 p.m.
Blogs: Good, Bad, & Dull
with ample hyperlinks to source documents.
alternative news journalism.
Iraq (popular blog during the war).
blog — proof that anybody can do this for any reason.
blog, completely narcissistic.
the title "Dullest Blog in the World."
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.