71: Hurry Up and Blog Me

"Blog culture, particularly in relation to videogames, is special in that it crystallizes the internet in an ideal form: Millions of people are able to communicate with one another, more or less free of regulation or cost. Developing an intricate network, blogs almost endlessly rely on each other for content. You could own the least-visited site ever, only to see your bandwidth explode when someone links to someone who links to you and, say, Joystiq sees it. A simple innocuous message can be seized upon and delivered to tens of thousands of readers in a single day."

Hitchhiker throws the weight of his journalistic prowess at the topic of blogs, which are simultaneously threatening to destroy all for which he has fought, and suffered.

Hurry Up and Blog Me

From the article:

If anything, blogs already exert more influence over the buying habits of gamers than the printed press, particularly the professional ones such as Joystiq, Demonoid et al. In the U.K., Official PlayStation 2 sells around 100,000 copies per month, and GamesMaster sells around 50,000. Kotaku records around 85,000 visits per day, has a constant online archive of its content being picked up by search engines and has the ability to revise its position on anything at a moment's notice.

These two things -- U.K. magazine circulations and worldwide hits at Kotaku -- aren't directly comparable. A more appropriate comparison would be worldwide video game magazine circulation, including PSM, OXM, and the venerable Nintendo Power, just to get things started. Even this comparison will still underreport magazine readership while overreporting Kotaku readership; print magazines go to libraries or dentists' offices to be read by a number of people, while some of those daily Kotaku hits are the same people visiting the site multiple times. For example, I might swing by the Escapist frontpage 2-5 times in one day to check for updates, as I'm going through my cycle of news sites. Even if you filter Kotaku's hit numbers for unique visitors, it's still something of an apple-to-oranges comparison.

I wouldn't say that I disagree with the thrust of the author's point, but this particular comparison isn't very strong support for it.

Joe edit: Blogging is fine, but this isn't a trackback form.

Bloggers aren't journalists.

Bloggers are to journalism what your grandmother is to medicine. That is, like your gramma, bloggers can provide remedies to some typical problems you might have. Gramma knows what to do when you have a cold or a sore throat. Bloggers are good at telling us how many people are in line for a PS3 or why they think the latest Gears of War review is unfair. But bloggers, like grandmothers, are not professionals at what they do and lack the required amount of training to do the job a professional would do. Gramma can't treat you after you fall down the stairs or come down with pneumonia. Just like we shouldn't do away with doctors, we shouldn't do away with trained journalists just because a bunch of people have started keeping online diaries.

The big problem with game journalism is that 90% of it is editorial and only about 10% is actually journalism. Anyone can write. A smaller amount of people can write prose that's worth reading. But only those with journalism training approach writing with the skill set that separates what you find in a newspaper from what you find on a blog. Bloggers aren't objective. Bloggers don't do interviews. Bloggers don't do research. Bloggers simply report their own opinions. And usually they're doing it in response to what other real journalists are reporting after they've done interviews and research and followed the professional training guidelines that governs how they present the news.

There is a place for this. I'm not saying bloggers should disappear. But anyone who thinks they should take the place of trained journalists is someone who will be as disappointed in the world that would result as someone who goes to their grandmother for a cure for cancer.

There's nothing right or wrong with game journalism or traditional journalism for that matter. There is just very little of either in this culture. Entertainment and sensationalism is all that people care about. We live fairly fat and happy existences compared to the rest of the world, yet remain dissatisfied because we have basically boring uneventful lives. Most of us are not test pilots or professional wrestlers. Thus, we need to live alternate lives either through tabloids, video games, or watching the horrors on the news, thinking to ourselves, "thank god that is not me! Can you imagine!" Good journalism is out there. Yet, very few people actually seek it out. Until they do, you will see very little improvement in the current state of affairs.

If anything, the rise of the blog will sound the death knell of print journalism as it should be, just as cable news killed TV journalism. Thanks CNN! Up-to-the-minute reporting/blogging does not give people the true in-depth longitudinal knowledge to be truly informed. yet, who today has the patience to sit down for an hour or two to hear all the pertinent information and nuances of something that "broke" months ago?

If blogging ever supplants journalism, it will be because journalism can't find a sustainable business model. Blogs cannot compete with conventional journalism on quality. Blogs are editorial spaces, and damned good ones at that, and they're useful for blowing open suppressed stories or ones that the "real" journalists couldn't find, but they have no guarantee of objectivity, no hierarchy to encourage accuracy, no attempts to at least hide biases and agendas. In fact, I'd say the biggest reason that blogs are so effective at cutting into the news' market share is either A) journalism is showing a lot of the same amateurish flaws that blogs show, or B) people are losing their trust in the mainstream media.

There's more to it, as well. The Internet, and especially gamers, are very tech-oriented. It takes a long time to clearly understand anything tech-related. Mainstream journalists, even the ones who don't just immediately decide the flavor of a story as soon as they hear it, can't expend the time needed to get the basic details right. Blogs, on the other hand, can do exactly that. A blog can cater to a niche audience, and due to the Internet's ease of distribution, can even make money doing so.

This, of course, has its own unique drawbacks, but we already know about the difficulties of growing a market into virgin, clueless demographics.


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