The "professional blogging" oxymoron

This week’s printed version of The Economist carries an article on blogging, Oh grow up. Blogging, the article argues, has now become mainstream, and this “looks to its pioneers suspiciously like death”.

While I agree that blogging has become mainstream, I am skeptical that it “is no longer what it was”. As an explanation of the change The Economist quotes CalacanisOfficial announcement regarding my retirement from blogging:

“Blogging is simply too big, too impersonal, and lacks the intimacy that drew me to it,” he offered by way of explanation. It was, he said, “the pressure” of staying on the A-list—ie, of keeping his blog so big and impersonal—that got him. Only a few years ago, so few people blogged that being a blogosphere celebrity required little more than showing up. Now it takes hard work. And vitriol. “Today the blogosphere is so charged, so polarised, and so filled with haters hating that it’s simply not worth it,” Mr Calacanis lamented.

The term blog is a contraction of “web log”, and was originally used to describe a personal website where the author maintained an informal record of events, musings, rants, photos and etcetera. What The Economist calls “professional blogs” are simply online media outlets with comments; they are the opinion columns (and, sometimes, newspapers) of the twenty-first century.

The pressure that Calacanis talked about only exists for those who are interested in reaching a massive audience, those that are trying hard to become “internet famous” or to make money directly from their blog. But those aren’t bloggers in the traditional sense; “online columnists” might be a better suited term.

The Economist is conveniently missing some facts suggesting that Calacanis hasn’t retired at all from his online posting activity:

To quote Dave Winer:

Now if you ask me – there never was such a thing as a pro blogger. It’s a contradiction in terms. It’s like calling someone a professional amateur. It’s like salty orange juice, a drink whose taste is derived from its acidity. Blogging is an amateur activity. It’s users writing about what they do, not professionals writing about what users do.