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ROD Strikes Again

Replacement Obsessiveness Disorder (ROD) struck again today. There seems to be a continuing base need for blogs to replace something – and for us to be subjected to news based on replacement theories. And so we have today the stunning news that… are you ready for it… Blogs haven’t displaced media. What, they needed a study to figure that out?

Then we have: "The study dispels the notion that blogs are replacing traditional media
as the public’s primary source of information, said Michael Cornfield,
a senior research consultant at Pew." So, let me get this straight – you form a ludicrous notion, prove it with some "interesting" research and bingo, you’ve got news that warrants reporting. Spare me.

And this. "Bloggers follow buzz as much as they make it," said Cornfield. "Our
research uncovered a complicated dynamic in which a hot topic of
conversation could originate with the blogs or it could originate with
the media or it could originate with the campaigns." Ok – so anything could originate anywhere. That is complicated? (And why couldn’t the use of "blogs" in either of these remarks be replaced by "media".)

Did this study actually reveal anything that merits reporting or is it simply fuel for a defensive and skeptical media machine on what must have been a slow news day?

Oh, then we have:   The study also found bloggers act as guides for the mainstream media to the rest of the Internet … Echoing that finding, a University of Connecticut poll released on Monday showed eight in 10 journalists read blogs.

So blogs aren’t influential then – or only in influencing he influencers? This would seem to counter the prior comments in the report.

Blogs are part of a new Cascade of Influence – they influence dialog and set the agenda. And the sphere of influence is just getting started. "The Report" would appear to give no credence to the power of the Blogosphere as an echo chamber of sorts in which media comment is amplified and dissected – and the power of that dialog to influence communities of interest. Or, as said well at Pennie Wallie

The blogs are clearly a product of “emergent behavior”. When a non-trivial number of people start posting and cross posting stories on the Internet, the phenomena that arises is infinitely more than the sum of the individual components. As the number of participants in the blogs increases, the resulting phenomena assumes properties that were not forseen. The blogs are a self-correcting, multi-tasking, multi-threaded, massively multi-participant, online, real-time application…

What really gets me though is the notion that one form of media must die for another to rise – it is flawed and tiresome. First, it assumes that’s what we want and that’s why blogs are important. Wrong on both counts. Second, it assumes that’s what happens. It doesn’t. TV didn’t kill Radio. Radio didn’t kill newspapers. Each technology inflection point drove a new form of communication. We’re simply at that point. Can’t we revel in the richness of this rather that engaging in another day of ROD?

Dan has an interesting perspective on this.

2 Responses

  1. By jonathan carson on May 23rd, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for your comments on the study that we released with Pew last week. It is an experimental methodology, and so we are anxious to get feedback – the good and the bad – so that we can integrate new ideas into future iterations.

    To clarify one issue – we certainly did not approach this project with an attempt at showing whether or not blogs were replacing mass media. In fact, we specifically conducted the research as a cross-media analysis, b/c our goal is to develop a framework with which information can be tracked as it spreads throughout and between channels. We felt that there were a million and one theories floating around as to the role and effect of bloggers, but limited formal research being done to demonstrate the the role of blogs in the overall media landscape. That is what we were trying to get at with this work.


    Jonathan Carson

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