Blogs and the settling of the Wild West

Mike Arrington has a lengthy post at TechCrunch about the evolution of the blogosphere — a topic he launches into with a roundup of some of the financing rumours that are swirling around properties like Silicon Alley Insider and PaidContent, both of which are reportedly looking for several million dollars. Both of those sites are also excellent examples of blog evolution in action: started with Rafat Ali and has become a media entity that I would argue rivals any business magazine (be sure to read Rafat’s response to Mike), and Silicon Alley began with Henry “I used to be a famous Wall Street analyst” Blodget and has also become a force to be reckoned with.

I think PaidContent and Silicon Alley have set themselves apart primarily by writing excellent content, and focusing their efforts instead of trying to be all things to all people. Although Mike doesn’t mention Gawker (likely because he despises founder Nick Denton, who is the Darth Vader to Mike’s Obi-wan Kenobi), blogs like, Engadget — and yes, even Valleywag — have become success stories by doing the same thing, although in their case it’s more of a tabloid-style approach that takes advantage of controversy just as much as it does good content.

Mike makes the point that the blogs that are raising money now might be making a mistake, in part because the good old days of being able to build a blog empire with nothing but a few computers and some writing ability are largely gone — now, writers want to be paid a decent salary (imagine!) and then there’s the whole VC snakepit to navigate. And he also mentions how competitive and political the blogosphere has become, with pitched battles and people taking sides, and describes how he has tried to help B-list and C-list bloggers (including yours truly) by linking.

I appreciate Mike’s take on things, and the fact that he sees me as one of the “non-crazy influencers” (although I have criticized his point of view before, as many people know, and am more than willing to do so in the future if I think he is wrong on something). And as much as I would like to pretend that it isn’t a competitive game, there’s no question that it is. Are the good old days gone forever? Are we now where the Wild West was when the developers and the settlers and the banks took over and the gunslingers were put out to pasture? Perhaps.

Towards the end of his post, Mike suggests that he has a bigger picture in mind when he advises some of the other bloggers not to take investment money — he talks about how he would like to see the creation of a blogging “Dream Team” that could take on CNET (not really that difficult a task, I would argue). I for one would like to see that happen, mostly because I think it could be a lot of fun to watch, or even to take part in. It sounds like Henry Blodget just might be up for it as well, judging from his post. And if it comes to that, I want to be Magic Johnson 🙂

22 thoughts on “Blogs and the settling of the Wild West

  1. Hey, Mathew, if Silicon Alley Insider can raise $3 million, so can you. Go for it! You're worth every penny…

  2. I don't really get Michaels argument. Isn' t the blogosphere as a whole and especially with Techmeme (and other memetrackers) as its frontpage already the 'CNET-killer'? Why change from a market approach to a more hierarchical approach? It seems counterintuitive to me.
    Or am I missing something here? (not rethorical. real question)

    • That's a fair point, Marcel — and from a strictly media-consumption
      standpoint, I think you're probably right. I think Mike is looking at
      it from a business perspective, in terms of aggregation and ad-network
      play, etc.

      On Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 10:03 AM, Disqus

      • Ok, that makes sense. Still begs the question wether this aggregated supposed-to-be juggernaut would be more effective than a lot of small entities that have to keep it up against each other.

        It could make you saturated and slow and being strong with the combined forces get you into thinking that no one will ever be able to take your place anyway. We all know what happens to organizations that think that way. Especially on the web. 😉

  3. No links allowed in a comment? Here's the part that disappeared: “Michael Arrington is a blind man; the blogosphere is an elephant”. (Which implies that I may be just as blind.)

    • I don't share Mike's views about the politics completely, Blogcosm. I think there is a lot of sturm und drang in the blogosphere, and that that drives pageviews in some cases, but I like to pretend that it's really about the quality of the content 🙂

  4. HMMM you're one of few that straddle both worlds. Your professional job as a journalist, and your “job” as a blogger (I don't know if you get paid for blogging, I see a couple of ads is all). If I'm wrong let me know but it seems your Globe articles are more researched, your blog is more editorial/op ed. This is how I divide the blogging world, in general, in my mind, and I'd like to see it stay that way because each plays a vital role.

    Do you put on a different thinking mentality, or approach, to writing your blog posts vs. your globe articles? I'd be willing to bet you do. Journalism articles are less frequent, less emotional, usually more researched, but leave little room for opinion and such (leaving out all the dramaz, which to me is all a big turn off).

    Antje “can't decide if she's agreeing or disagreeing with Mathew on this one” Wilsch

    • Don't feel bad, Antje — I don't know if I agree either 🙂

      As for the question about blog posts vs. Globe articles, there's no
      question I approach a newspaper piece differently, in part because I
      think the audience is looking for different things, or wants them in a
      different way (although I could be wrong).

      But I wouldn't say they are that different, really. Much of what I
      write for the Globe is opinion, which means it is just as well (or as
      poorly) researched as my blog posts, although I take a bit more time
      with a newspaper column or analysis piece than I do a typical blog
      post. I often think of blog posts as column or article “seeds” in a

      Not sure if that helps or not.

      On Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 2:03 PM, Disqus

  5. well, you're entitled to your opinion. i read everything i can get my hands on and i use techmeme to catch up in the am. not sure why you snark on cnet. i think it's a fine site. each site picks its niches and goes about doing what it does best. but whatever. for obvious competitive reasons, arrington's got an obsession there. but beyond that, i think the slowing in vc investments in web 2.0-ish startups puts a big question mark out there if you're publishing a blog. you damned well want to get paid. but with the global markets being what they are today, that sort of startup dough ain't easy to come by

  6. I think you are more in the category of Larry Byrd, which is none to shabby, btw.

    As to Mike making it with only a couple of computers and just good writing, I call bullshit. There is no way in hell you can get that big just by bootstrapping it –unles you're rich to begin with.

    And about your status, WTF is his problem? Writing for The Globe and Mail is not good enough?


  7. What is the difference between Valleywag and Duncan Riley? What is the difference between bustups between TechCruch -v- Calacanis or Scoble and Valleywag. It is show, mud wrestling, blah, blah! Luckily TechCrunch has great stories as well. One serious critique. They are posting so many stories per day that half way through the afternoon the earliest ones have fallen off the main page! Take a tip from Ars or Om IMHO (headline/ summary/ read more). The CNET hate leaves me totally cold by the way. How many seasons are they planning to run this crap?

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