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: PaidContent.org 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 Gawker.com, 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 :-)